Croatian Tragedies, Facebook Haters, Agents of Change: Which Croat are You?

By 6 November 2018

November 6, 2018 - Croatians like to complain and protest in various ways, from lamenting Croatian tragedies over coffee and venting on social media, while a tiny few try to make change. Which type of Croat are you?

A couple of years ago, I was contacted by someone working in the private tourism sector who I respect very much and invited to come to a meeting in Zagreb. Several like-minded tourism professionals who wanted to make concrete positive change had the idea to come together and brainstorm for ways to improve tourism in Croatia. 

There were three of us at the pub in Zagreb, and a fourth who could not make it. It was a really enjoyable evening, and I felt energised by the enthusiasm they had for their own businesses, as well as a desire to improve things in their country. There were, as there always are in these discussions, examples of the inefficiency of the system and the incompetence of the uhljebby public officials, whose family connections far outweigh their competence to perform the task they are employed to do. 

"So how was it last night? What did you guys discuss?" asked the absent fourth member in our Facebook group the next day. 

"It was a great night, full of Croatian tragedies," came the reply. 

Croatian tragedies - A set of typical circumstances in Croatia that are irritating but can be turned into humour. It is a part of the way of life here, and there is a very popular Croatian tragedies Facebook page for any Croatian speakers.

It is a part of the humour I have come to appreciate a lot here over the years, as locals laugh at the absurdity of life here, have their little vent over a coffee and finish with:

"Croatian tragedies." And a shrug of the shoulder. 

I remember that Croatian tragedies Facebook reply for one particular reason, for it told me a little about how much energy the person who said it was really interested in investing in making a change. Not much. And that is not a criticism, as effecting any positive change in this country requires Herculean efforts. For my side, I put a little effort into the initiative for a couple of months, but it soon descended into an initiative which discussed more Croatian tragedies than concrete proposals to get something done. And I repeat, this is not a criticism - it is just the way things are here. 

A lot of people comment on how they are surprised about how positive I am about Croatia having lived here for 16 years. Part of the reason for that, I reply, is that I did not know how Croatia really worked until I started Total Croatia News. Ignorance was definitely bliss, and life changed forever when I discovered the cult of uhljeb. I have my days of despair here, just like everyone else, when a good venting over a beer about Croatian tragedies and the unfairness of the system can take over, but I try and limit these conversations as much as possible these days, as they are self-serving and - apart from providing a little humour - they don't tend to lead anywhere and only contribute to the spiral of negativity. 

I understand why Croatian tragedies are so popular. Having been brought up in the system that is the reality of daily life in The Beautiful Croatia (note to tourists - it is a GREAT place for a 2-week holiday), as people are so pessimistic about being able to change the system after perhaps trying that it is easier to laugh at the absurdity of life here rather than expending lots of energy in futile attempts to change things. 

I get a lot of messages and emails from Croatian readers, mostly abusive, for as we have all learned by now, a foreigner cannot have an opinion in Croatia.  But there are a growing number of people who contact me, as they see TCN as an outlet where they can voice their opinions about life here. It is nice to have that increasing engagement, especially from abroad, where second and third generation diaspora are enjoying a new channel of information and opinion about the homeland. 

That contact includes a lot of Croatian tragedies, and a lot of Croats who have given up on the country and emigrated, but have a fascination with a foreigner's experience of moving in the opposite direction. If only that culture of Croatian tragedies could be channelled into something more positive.

Working online and writing about Croatia brings me into contact with one of the most vocal groups of Croats - the Facebook haters. I am genuinely admiring their dedication, as well as wondering where they get the time and energy from to get up the pace of their negativity and hatred. It is really impressive. Perhaps less impressive is that I doubt that one opinion online has been changed by the torrent of negativity by the Facebook haters, but I have a constructive suggestion for them if they want to continue filling social media with their hatred, while loving their country. For every hater comment posted on Facebook, pick up a piece of trash from one of Croatia's beaches - we could have the entire coast and 1,244 islands perfectly clean before Christmas. 

The third type of Croat is in a very small minority, but a group which I am realising is growing slowly, oh so slowly, but one which represents some hope - the agents of change. 

Typically entrepreneurs, these agents of change are people who have come to accept the situation they have been born into, understand that making big change is unlikely to happen soon, and have decided to focus on the achievable in their field. Often this means working outside of the system and bypassing official bodies which only bog things down. This for me is one of the most exciting parts about living in Croatia today - watching these fearless young entrepreneurs navigating their own way and succeeding with minimal contact with the State. And while Croatian tragedies do come up over a beer from time to time, the focus is on trying to be positive and move things forward. 

These agents of change need to be supported, and if they start to succeed and win bigger battles, maybe more people will swap the comfort of chatting about Croatian tragedies to get involved in helping make more changes. And with the Facebook haters keeping the beaches spotless, what a country The Beautiful Croatia could be then.