Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Return from Germany: Croatian Returnee Starts Up Business in Slavonia

January the 31st, 2023 - While we seem to hear little else about Croatia's demographic crisis than people abandoning parts of Croatia, particularly the east, to head off elsewhere in Western Europe in search of work, the opposite is also true. One Croatian returnee has moved home from Germany, bringing an innovative business idea with him - to Slavonia.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/VL/Branimir Bradaric writes, for a great many years now, Slavonia was the place from which people emigrated to other parts of Croatia or abroad and never returned. However, there are already an increasing number of cases where people have returned to their rural towns or villages and started a business of their own.

An excellent example of precisely this is the Zivkovic family, who after seven years of living and working in Germany, decided to return home to Vinkovci and start a business there. Jasmina and Petar opened their business, into which they transferred their rich experience gained from working in Germany.

In Germany, Croatian returnee Petar Zivkovic worked in precision welding at Siemens plants, and now he has started a business in Vinkovci manufacturing steel structures and industrial furniture. In starting the business, he also used 170,000 kuna in government grants, and he was given space at a preferential price in the Vinkovac Business Incubator.

"The conditions were certainly the main trigger for our return, although we'd been dreaming about it for some time. I also saw that there's a need for this kind of work and craftsmanship here. There's a lot of interest in industrial furniture, so there is no shortage of work. I took advantage of the government grants, bought the necessary equipment and combined all of that with my experience and knowledge. I'm very satisfied with my decision,'' stated Petar Zivkovic.

He is currently the only employee in his trade, but he says that given the volume of work and needs in the future, there will certainly be a need for expansion and the employment of new people. He has equipped his business premises with high quality products, so, among other things, he also owns a locksmith's 3D table, which is currently the only one of its kind in all of Croatia.

Meanwhile, his wife Jasmina opened her own business in Vinkovci, and at the end of February, the Vinkovci Business Incubator will celebrate three years of existence. With 12 offices and 5 production spaces now filled, more space is being sought, especially when it comes to production capacities. The director of the Vinkovci Technology Park, Josip Gilja, said that they started filling the incubators at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, but also that regardless of the problems which followed as a result of that unprecedented public health crisis, they still managed to fill all of their units.

"Today it's completely full. So far, 24 companies have passed through our premises, and they currently employ 40 people. Over the last three years alone, about a dozen companies have "outgrown" the Incubator, they've increased the scope of their work and their number of employees and have gone their separate ways. And that's our goal," said Gilja.

Croatian returnee Petar Zivkovic's workshop was also visited by the mayor of Vinkovci, Ivan Bosancic/

"These people have returned home and started businesses here and I hope that this will become a pattern that will encourage everyone who wants to return at some point, to do so, and to bring experience with them to create more business opportunities in Vinkovci,'' said Bosancic.

There is a great need for business spaces, and since the Incubator is full, the design and completion of the Zaluzje Zone will begin at some point during the year.

"The new zone spanning 130 hectares will be aimed at entrepreneurs, we want to have bigger companies operating here. We expect that other returnees will also bring their experiences with them home to Vinkovci, and hopefully also their salaries," said Bosancic.

For more, make sure to check out our business section.

Monday, 23 January 2023

Croatian Radio New York Launches Podcast Called Study in Croatia

January the 23rd, 2023 - Something new for the diaspora across the pond in the United States of America which aims to keep them connected to the homeland of their parents or grandparents. Croatian Radio New York's new podcast is likely to attract many.

Croatian Radio New York launches a podcast ‘Study in Croatia’. The aim of this podcast is to inform high school students, their parents, relatives and friends about the possibilities and admission processes for studying at the Croatian universities and colleges. During the first two podcasts, six higher education institutions were presented. Podcasts were hosted by Joseph Bogovic, senior at Townsend Harris High School in Queens, Srecko Mavrek, Croatian Radio NY host, Sara Skoda, college counselor at Townsend Harris High School in Queens, and Petra Pesa, Croatian Radio NY president and host. Boris Vilic, dean of the School of Professional Studies at Albright College in Pennsylvania, gave his introductory and final remarks to the podcast participants. He also introduced his voluntary work as a chair of the charitable foundation of the Association of Croatian American Professionals, ACAP, through which he led the creation of the Domovina Birthright Summer Program and several collaborations with institutions in higher education in Croatia.

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Studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology Croatia (RIT Croatia) was presented by dean Don Hudspeth, a Canadian that has been with RIT Croatia since the beginning and lives with his family in Dubrovnik, and Ivan Smoljan, Recruitment and Enrollment Specialist. Valentina Vucenik, RIT Croatia freshmen, described her experience and student’s life in Zagreb.

Izabela Oletic Tusek, Head of International Department at the Faculty of Organization and Informatics (FOI) in Varazdin, and prof dr. sc. Violeta Vidacek Hains, Head of Student Research Symposium in collaboration with Universities in USA and College Professor, introduced studying options at the FOI. Students Jerry John Antolos and Erik Duranec described their views and excitement about studying at the FOI in Varazdin.

Dean Dr. Sc. Mato Njavro introduced the Zagreb School of Economics and Management (Croatian: Zagrebačka škola ekonomije i managementa, abbreviated as ZŠEM), which is a private business school located in Zagreb. Founded in 2002, ZSEM provides undergraduate and graduate education in economics, management, finance, marketing, and accounting. ZSEM has been voted the best business school in Croatia for five consecutive years, most recently in 2012, and is Croatia's largest private institution of higher education. In 2013, the Zagreb School of Economics and Management became the first business school in Croatia to receive AACSB accreditation. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, also known as AACSB International, is an American professional organization. It was founded as the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business in 1916 to provide accreditation to schools of business, and was later known as the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business and as the International Association for Management Education. Ruzica Lipovac, student at ZSEM, was born and raised in New York. She moved to Zagreb and followed in her older brother’s footsteps to enroll in the Zagreb School of Economics & Management. As a former International Baccalaureate student, with all her studies being in English, she wanted to continue having a global learning experience. The knowledge obtained has given her the expertise to help run businesses in the US and Croatia.  

Lovre Kolega, ZSEM alumni, is from the USA, specifically Florida. He moved to Croatia in 2013 to attend high school and continued studies at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management - completing the undergraduate program in Economics and Management. During studies at ZSEM, with the support of ZSEM's Career Center he got an internship at Rimac Technology, where he was immediately hired after graduating and where he is currently continuing his career path as a Project Coordinator.

The University of Rijeka is in the City of Rijeka, the third largest city in Croatia and the main Croatian port. As one of the largest universities in the region, it comprises 12 Faculties and 4 Departments, which offer more than 172 accredited study programs. University of Rijeka welcomes international students through student mobility stays, degree study programs or research/guest activities. To support mobility, the University has signed more than 600 bilateral Erasmus agreements with 30 countries and takes part in various bilateral and multilateral ventures in higher education. Students who wish to enroll in full degree study programs at University of Rijeka have the possibility of choosing study programs in English and Croatian language, attainable on undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate study level. Podcast speakers from the University of Rijeka were:

Prof Dr. Sc. Marta Zuvic, vice-rector for studies, students and quality assurance University of Rijeka

Marija Spoljaric  - Student International Business at Business College at University of Rijeka, student ambassador on the Ambassador Platform

Tyler Zanki – alumni born and raised in New Jersey to Croatian Parents. Graduated with a Bachelor's in Chemical Engineering in May of 2020. A year ago, he moved to Croatia, and now is studying at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology at the University of Zagreb. 

Aspira University College is a private college and a nonprofit institution, which organizes and conducts professional studies of Sport Management, Computer Science – Program Engineering, International Management in Hospitality and Tourism and Hospitality and Tourism Management. Aspira was presented by the following speakers:

Petra Mandac – Assistant Dean of International Cooperation

Josip Radic – International Relations Coordinator

Laura Mishevska - student

Algebra University College offers to the next generation of its students a possibility to study in English on validated bachelor study programs in the fields of computing, design and management and a unique chance to receive a Dual Degree from AUC and Goldsmiths, University of London. Algebra University College is the flagship of largest private educational organization in Republic of Croatia and the region (Algebra group), present today in more than 20 cities across Croatia. Founded in 1998, they currently have more than 150 full-time employees and more than 600 associated experts and higher educational faculties employed also in industry. Algebra is located in historic CUC campus in the heart of Croatian capital Zagreb, while adult education and training programs are conducted also in: Osijek, Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split, Varazdin and Dubrovnik, as well as in more than ten other smaller cities. Algebra University College was presented by:

Hrvoje Josip Balen – President of the Board of Trustees at Algebra University College   and

Lidija Šimrak - Head of the International Office at Algebra University College.

“It was a great pleasure to moderate this informative podcast together with Joseph, who is such talented young man. Valentina was also a great contributor to discussions. I strongly believe in a big potential of the young people. My hope is that studying in Croatia will strengthen the ties between Croatia and Croatian communities around the world and develop solidarity among Croatian youth from many diaspora communities and homeland”, said Mavrek.

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For more on the Croatian diaspora, follow our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Croatian Returnee Stories: Paula Pintaric, From Amsterdam to Koprivnica

January 3, 2023 - Whisper it quietly, but more and more people are relocating to Croatia from the diaspora. In a new TCN series, we meet them to find out how they are faring and what advice they have for others thinking of making the switch. Next up is Paula Pintaric, who moved back from Amsterdam to sunny Koprivnica.

Hi! My name is Paula. I am a 30-year-old product designer born in Croatia who decided to move abroad in search for a better life just to find out that life in Croatia is pretty damn amazing. :)

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1. You made the switch to Croatia. Tell us a little about the decision process and how long it took for you to get on the plane.

Being pretty disappointed with Croatia, I moved to Amsterdam right after finishing my faculty. I lived there for around 4,5 years - I spent a lot of time exploring the country, traveling, dancing, going to parties, and hanging out with friends. I quite enjoyed it - it was a valuable experience for me. When Covid hit, Croatia opened up quite quickly in comparison to the Netherlands, so I used the opportunity to spend some time with my family and friends back in Croatia while working remotely. I was quickly reminded of the warmth of Croatian people, endless coffees, and a much easier tempo of living. After a few months, I flew back to Amsterdam, but I didn’t feel anymore that I want to live there. I kept thinking of great memories created back in Croatia, so pretty quickly after that, I found a job back in Croatia and moved. It all happened in a few weeks - I applied for a job, got it, went back to pack my stuff, and said bye to Amsterdam!

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2. What did your family and community back home think of your decision at the time?

My parents were in disbelief for a few months, but I felt quite supported by my friends and family in Croatia, even though most of them were surprised by my decision. I still quite often get asked WHY would I move back to Croatia after living in Amsterdam. I usually say my time there was amazing, but I wouldn’t repeat it. 

3. Think back to the time before you arrived. What were your perceptions about Croatia, and how were they different from the reality you encountered?

I lived in Croatia until I was 24, so I was aware of most of the realities and the things people in Croatia usually complain about. By living abroad, my perspective changed quite a bit, and I saw my country in a completely different light when I was moving back. I feel there is this culture of collective dissatisfaction that is quite strong in Croatia - western countries are often idolized, and we often take for granted the beautiful way of living we have. We’re forgetting that we’re quite connected to each other; we easily open up, spend a lot of time hanging out, and at the end of the day, this is priceless to me :)

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4. What were you most nervous about making the switch? What was your biggest fear, and how was the reality of what you found?

I didn’t really have any fears about coming back. I was actually pleasantly surprised because I got a feeling a lot of things progressed over the 4 years I was away. I was a bit worried about the bureaucracy and paperwork I need to do, but people working in the tax office actually helped me a lot, so everything went smoothly. 

5. You are still here, so obviously, the pros outweigh the cons. Tell us about some of the things that you love about being in Croatia, as well as some of the things you don't like. 

I love the way of living - endless coffees, hanging outs, pretty much everything about the community, better work/life balance, and a slower pace of living. Next to that, we really have beautiful nature, a great climate, food, and a lot of sunshine. I even love a bit of the Balkan craziness that comes with living here. I think this is a country with a lot of potential, and I would love if we could see it that way and start putting more effort as individuals in order to make it better economically. I don’t like that we see the current economical state here as the sole responsibility of a few people/government. I think we all have a say in it, but we need to stop complaining and do something about it.

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6. What advice do you have for others thinking about making a move from the diaspora?

I think the key to a painless move is patience and gathering as much information as possible. Everything can be solved, and people are quite willing to help out, even when it comes to complicated bureaucracy stuff. After you cross that hurdle, there is a lovely country full of possibilities on the other side. :) 

7. How do you think Croatia can better assist those who are looking to return to the Homeland?

I didn’t need much assistance, so it’s difficult for me to say how it could have been done better. I’m not sure what it would look like if I grew up in another country or made a permanent move to the Netherlands for a longer period of time. Coming back after up to 5 years of living abroad is quite painless.

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Thanks, Paula, and enjoy your time in Croatia.

You can follow the TCN Croatian Returnees series here.

If you would like  to contribute your returnee story, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Returnees

You can subscribe to the Paul Bradbury Croatia Expert YouTube channel here.

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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Monday, 2 January 2023

My home in Croatia: A Portrait of Frano Donjerković, an Artist from Korčula

January 2, 2023 - The TCN inbox is full of surprises. Not all, but many of them are good. To start the new year off right, let us share a recent one that came in all the way from Australia. A Portrait of Frano Donjerković, an Artist from Blato, Korčula. 

The nostalgic, warm, ultimately feel-good read was sent to us by the author of the text originally published in Melbourne in Hrvatski Vjesnik (Croatian Herald), the largest circulating Croatian language (with English insert) weekly newspaper in the global Croatian diaspora. It runs about 7,000 copies and has a digital presence, too, including Facebook. The story features Frano Donjerković, a Croatian Australian living in Melbourne. Read on to feel like you want to return to your home in Croatia, even if it was never there.

The oasis of islands on the Croatian coast has been called “extreme magic,” an awake dream by Truman Capote.

Frano Donjerković left his village of Blato, on Korčula at the doughty and courageous age of 27, in search of a better life in freedom and economic prosperity, reaching the shores of Australia in 1986.  Leaving his home, family and community was a painful and sorrowful experience, and the memories of his youth, family and place have followed him all his life in Australia. Croatia has always been his home as he built a new life in Australia. He lives and works in Melbourne, married to Marien with a daughter Daniela and son Anthony.

Korčula is a magnificent island of artificers, stone masons, wood masters, smiths, shipwrights, sculptors and farmers, wine and olive oil masters and fishermen. Above all else, they are sailors; everyone can sail a boat, but on Blato most can turn to and make one. Korčula also has one of the best water polo teams in the world and many Olympic players. Korčula played a significant role in shipbuilding and maritime affairs in the history of Croatia because of its strategic geographical location and industry of its population.  The great sea powers of Europe wanted to control the narrow channel between Korčula and the Pelješac peninsula, especially on the route between Dubrovnik and Venice.

Blato was once the largest village in the country, boasting more than 12,000 residents in the mid-1920s after an economic boom. Frano Donjerković also recalls vivid stories of hardship and departure from his childhood. He remembers an event that affected Blato significantly, that in one afternoon in the early post-war period 1,200 residents left in search of a better life. Blato’s population today is significantly lower and there are an estimated three-time more people from Blato throughout the world, many in Australia.  

There are many things in Frano's life that are typical of the immigrant experience, from the pursuit of freedom and economic property, to raising a family in a place where everything seems foreign and unintelligible in a completely new language and idioms of speech and cultural habits. That has not stopped Frano Donjerković from being a valued, engaged, and leading member of the Croatian community and his broader Australian community. He is President of the Croatian Social Club Zlinje/Blato, a local Melbourne community organisation that nurtures the culture and identity of people from Zlinje and Blato, which marked its thirtieth anniversary in 2021. His passion for fishing and recreational boating brought him into the Hobson Bay Sport and Game Fishing Club, where today he serves as vice president.

Korčula is famous for many things, and today it thrives as a haven for tourists. It is known as the Marco Polo Isle, the birthplace of that intrepid traveller and prolific storyteller. Frano’s journey took him further south on the other side of the world to Australia, where he tells the stories of his home, family, and community through artistic renditions of miniature boats, ships, and buildings, all from memory.

Korčula is one of the largest islands on the Adriatic surrounded by a crystal limpid water in the glittering arc of Canaletto-blue sea. It is a beautiful and verdant island, and life can be traced back tens of thousands of years. Its statute or governing constitution was enacted in 1214 and defines limits to power through a popular assembly, and spells out the roles of dukes, the grand council, small council, curia, and ensures the provision of utility services and sanitation. The statute is a “unique normative crossword puzzle” of medieval institutions, special freedoms, and layered jurisdictions, representing a genuine constitution. It predates the Statute of Dubrovnik (1272) and the Statute of the Principality of Poljica (1440), two republican poleis serving as pinpricks of freedom in the Adriatic.

Strabo, that intrepid travel writer born in 64 B.C., was the first to distinguish Korčula from Corfu: both were named Korkyra in ancient Greece. Strabo added “Melania” (“dark black”) and coined Korkyra Melaina to denote Korčula because it was so densely wooded. Korčula has been described as glorious and enchanting, one of the isles on which many would welcome shipwreck, but that would not last long because of its proximity to the mainland and its strategic location along the bridges of islands that croisette southern Croatia’s coast. The name Blato is literally “Mud,” a name taken after the fertile plains that link the village to the Vela Luka (the Grand Port). The literal translation is not accurate, however, and “blato” in early Croatian refers to a large body of water. The village received its name from a lake that existed in the valley between the village and port Vele Luka. This lake was drained in the early twentieth century by a four-kilometre tunnel to drain the water into the sea. The village shimmers in the iridescent light of its fortified stone structures and narrow lanes. The linden tree alley “Zlinje” was planted and stretches from one side of the village to the other. It partitions Blato into two and is all but impenetrable, with the additional marquis of arbutus, sage, lavender and rosemary, whose combined heady scents dazzle. All these, plus pine, cypress, and holm oak, which has been used by local shipwrights for a millennium, make Korčula one of the most aromatic and thickly vegetated villages in the Adriatic.

Frano Donjerković and his recreations

Frano’s creations are a freeze-frame of a time and experience lodged in his memory. His home in Blato was the third house built in the village, and its one,-metre-thick walls have not changed much since the first stone was laid. Frano has been creating his boats, houses, and other artifacts about 30 years ago in his studio that also poses as a garage. He works exclusively from memory, and doesn't use plans, sketches, or photographs. All the images are in his mind, etched into his experience and memory of childhood growing up in the enchanting, industrious, and idyllic village of Blato.

Frano has exhibited twice at the Joel Gallery. In 2022 his exhibition was called “My Home in Croatia,” and in 2018, “Creations.” He has also displayed his creations at Croatian community centres in the past and plans to do more in the future. Photo courtesy of Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre

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Frano’s family home held by generations since it was founded. As the third house built in Blato since the village was founded, with one-meter-thick walls, it has withstood the vastitudes of time and calamities of centuries.

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Frano Donjerković remembers the soothing and inviting sound of church bells in Blato. The bell tower was built in the eighteenth century, and its loopholes in the walls suggest that it was also used for defensive purposes. The parish church is situated with a spacious loggia or square. The Our Lady of the Field church has Roman floors that place its beginnings in the fourth century. The remnants of a Roman agricultural estate (Junianum) and other artifacts dating back prehistoric and Illyrian times. 

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Fishing schooners, boats and ships of cargo are etched in Frano’s memory. The boats are named after family members. The biggest boat took him a year to craft.

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Frano’s family are also masters of winemaking. The first piece of creativity inspired by memories of his home in Croatia is the wine press that his grandfather acquired. This was Frano’s first creation from memory.

Kumpanija: the sword dance of heroes and romantics

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Frano Donjerković performing the “Kumpanija,” a traditional sword dance celebrated in Blato and Vele Luka. As a young man, Frano joined the Knights’ Society Kumpanija (Companions), established as an ensemble in 1927, and is the pride of Blato. The ensemble keeps traditional dances and customs representing a chivalrous confrontation between two armies, with highlights of a sword dance that is accompanied with a menacing drum and harrowing bagpipe. The dance “Kumpanija” or “sword dance” celebrates the success of local armed formations to protect the village and port from pirates and would-be conquerors, which did not have traditional defensive fortifications or walls like many other coastal cities in Croatia’s coastal waters. The dance is wrought with intensity with high-impact sword duels. The “Kumpanija” dancers must have considerable agility, talent, and stamina.

The knights are divided into classes; (barjaktar, captain, kapural, srzetin, buzdonahar) and different parts of the dance (spuz, mostra, tanac, etc). Apart from the sparks flying from the swords, a particularly attractive role is demonstrated by the “alfir” (flag-bearer) and his large Croatian standard, which ends with a dance with the local ladies, called the “tanac.” The sword dance “Kumpanija” takes place in the square (plokata) in front of the Church of All Saints. The main performance takes place on 28 April every year to mark the Day of Blato, which is also the Feast of Saint Vincenca, and on 15 August, feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The “Kumpanija” also frequently performs across Croatia and Europe and can be seen during the height of the tourist season as a regular attraction.

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Stand Here, Captain! 

By Mirjana Mrkela (story) and Niko Barun (illustrations)

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The Blato Public Library and Knights’ Society Kumpanija, Blato in 2019 published a book on the sword dance by Mirjana Mrkela (story) and Niko Barun (illustrations). The book was published in both Croatian and English, with considerable detail on the story of each stage of the dance, including 36 beautifully illustrated pages under the title “Stand Here Captain! Information about acquiring the illustrated book can be obtained by writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Croatian Diaspora section.

Thursday, 17 November 2022

Croatian Returnee Stories: Tonci Petric, from Stuttgart to Zagreb

November 17, 2022 - Whisper it quietly, but more and more people are relocating to Croatia from the diaspora. In a new TCN series, we meet them to find out how they are faring and what advice they have for others thinking of making the switch. Next up is Tonci Petric, who moved from Stuttgart to Zagreb.

Hi! My name is Tonči Petrić. I am a returnee from Germany. I was born in Stuttgart, the capital of the automotive industry in Germany and the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Originally, I am from the island of Hvar, where my roots and my family came from. I have now been living in my new home in Zagreb fo 6 years. I am working as a journalist, blogger and news anchor for the national broadcasting company HRT, presenting international news in the German language. In my free time, I produce the podcast Green Deal Hrvatska.

My motto is: “Fill your life with adventure, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.”

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1. You made the switch to Croatia. Tell us a little about the decision process and how long it took for you to get on the plane.

It took me quite a long time to take the plunge and move to Croatia, although I've always wanted to live in Croatia. This decision-making process took place in stages (see below). I was already considering moving to Croatia after high school, but then I said to myself that I would like to complete my university education in Germany. After my bachelor's degree, I did internships in Germany and Croatia. After that, I decided to finish my studies in Germany.

At the same time, I also wanted to see the world after my studies. So, I went to New Zealand and Australia for half a year, and I travelled to other countries in the region. After HRT offered me an interesting job vacancy, I said to myself; I'll try Croatia now. There is never a perfect time for such kind of decision, but you have to act according to your own gut feeling.

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2. What did your family and community back home think of your decision at the time?

I think they supported me. Nobody was against my decision. They had known that I somehow always wanted to go back to Croatia. So, I think they were not so surprised by my decision. I think a lot of my friends or people who know me could understand my decision and see me somewhere else, but not in Stuttgart or Germany.

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3. Where did you get your information about the realities of Croatia prior to coming?

I took part in n European pilot project called „ENAIP „between Croatia and Germany, where I was used to learning „Business-Croatian“, and I did a one-month internship in Zagreb. This gave me my first real experiences and ideas of life in Croatia. A few years later, I got a one-year scholarship from the Croatian government for the "CROATICUM" program, and I could improve my Croatian language skills at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb but also catch more contacts and experience in Croatia. After this one year, I did a second internship in Zagreb. I worked for several months for the Croatian-German chamber of commerce and gain more professional experience in Croatia.

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4. What were you most nervous about making the switch? What was your biggest fear, and what was the reality of what you found?

Would I find a proper job in my job field? Would I be happy with the salary, and could I survive financially? What are the possibilities later if I would like to change my career maybe? The more you are proactive, entrepreneurial, flexible or creative the more you will be successful and happy in Croatia.

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5. Think back to the time before you arrived. What were your perceptions about Croatia, and how were they different from the reality you encountered?

Time before I arrived: Nice lifestyle in Croatia, being home, sunny and warm. Nice people, in many things not well-developed and corrupt but also high potential. Uncertainty in the matter of finding a proper and good job and having a regular good income

The reality today: more flexible and possibilities for myself than I thought - I can live in Zagreb as well as in Hvar. It's possible to find a good job in Croatia - you have only to be more proactive and entrepreneurial. I have got more of a sense of freedom and satisfaction as well as that I think that I really do what I love. Higher life quality than I thought.

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6. You are still here, so obviously, the pros outweigh the cons. Tell us about some of the things that you love about being in Croatia, as well as some of the things you don't like. 

I appreciate the feeling of being really at home in my country, surrounded by a similar mentality and people like yourself.

I love to go for Coffee whenever and wherever I want with friends to hang around and communicate with people or go alone and read newspapers (nobody will look at you like a stranger for that!)

What I also appreciate is the fact that everything is close and reachable for me in Croatia: The sea, the mountains, and the interior are not so far from Zagreb or other European capitals, and I can do my work as a journalist but also can go for a couple of days to Hvar to pick some olives for example.

From a German perspective, everything is far away. In Germany, I always had the feeling that I was like a bird in a gold cage. I didn't miss anything, but everything was over-restricted and less possible. In Croatia, meanwhile, I am feeling like a bird flying in freedom.

The point I really don't like is the passiveness of the people in Croatia. Things in Croatia can be better if we struggle for it or try to change it or show our dissatisfaction as citizens than just sitting in coffee bars and complaining and doing nothing. 

Another negative thing is the bureaucracy in Croatia, or I would better say the unmotivated and incompetent people who are working in administrative departments or agencies. You have to deal with them, knowing that it will be frustrating, and in the end, you have to do their job.

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7. What advice do you have for others thinking about making a move from the diaspora?

Be open and flexible. Be aware that you maybe will not work in your specific field and that you were used to working in your host country. But in my opinion, Croatia offers a lot of potentials where everybody could find a niche for himself. If you know German, this is a big plus in Croatia. It is useful in each segment of the job market in Croatia.

Try to inform yourself before you go to live in Croatia. At best, try to get your information on the ground, try to contact people in Croatia and go for a coffee with them, Be socially able and spread out your network and connection. Go for a coffee, go for a coffee, go for a coffee...

In my view, everybody with a good school education and knowledge of the German language can find a proper job in Zagreb. You have to be more proactive and have initiative and rely less on the state and society.

With new internet technologies, you have far more possibilities to work on something and earn a salary. You can live nowadays as a digital nomad. Find an employer other than the internet in Germany, but live your life in Croatia.

And the end, no risk – no fun. Just try it. If it’s not worked out for you, you can later say I tried at least, and you will not regret it.

 

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8. How do you think Croatia can better assist those who are looking to return to the Homeland?

Provide better and adequate information about Croatia and the job opportunities for somebody who is willing to return to the homeland. Reduce uncertainty. Try to make this move for them easier and more comfortable. More practical information, for example: How to deal with health insurance in Croatia?

The CROATiCUM institute should not only be a language centre, but it should also be an information point with practical advice and help for returnees as well. As it could be a cultural centre in the world for promoting Croatian culture in general, similar to Goethe Institute in Germany.

Maybe get a special adviser from the city of Zagreb or from some Croatian ministry to give assistance to returnees.

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Thanks, Tonci, and good luck with https://glashrvatske.hrt.hr/de/blog/ruckkehr-nach-kroatien

https://greendealhr.podbean.eu/

https://glashrvatske.hrt.hr/de

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You can follow the TCN Croatian Returnees series here.

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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Saturday, 29 October 2022

Croatian Returnee Stories: Denis Vlahovac, from Vancouver CA to Daruvar

October 29, 2022 - Whisper it quietly, but more and more people are relocating to Croatia from the diaspora. In a new TCN series, we meet them to find out how they are faring and what advice they have for others thinking of making the switch. Next up is Denis Vlahovac, who moved from Vancouver CA to Daruvar.

My name is Denis Vlahovac, and I am a bar consultant and cocktail event manager. I own a company called Cocktail Empire that focuses on improving hospitality standards in Croatia through education and events. I promote the usage of locally grown products, connecting local producers with cafes and restaurants, and I am trying to implement new creative ways to use existing products in cocktails while lowering costs and making the business sustainable. I grew up in Daruvar, Croatia. After I finished University in Opatija in 2014, I moved to New York, and I lived abroad until the pandemic started in 2020. I visited 61 countries and lived in 5 countries.

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1. You made the switch to Croatia. Tell us a little about the decision process and how long it took for you to get on the plane.

Ever since I moved out of the country 8 years ago, I thought about what it would be like to actually go back to Croatia and work there. Did something change? Money was not the main reason I left (even though it was an important factor), but actually, the situation itself was with my university diploma, I actually had to know people to get a good job. Your skills didn’t matter much. When I moved out, I actually saw that if I worked hard, I could go places. And I worked hard and learned along the way. The decision to come back home was pretty much straightforward. I was forced to return to Croatia because of the pandemic. My Canadian visa expired, and I was unable to renew it. I barely managed to leave the country because I was on vacation in Alaska when it was decided that the border between Canada and the US was about to close the following day, so I rushed to the airport to return to Canada before it happened. The restaurant I worked at closed permanently the same week, so there was no other option but to go back to Croatia for, what I thought at that moment would be, six months.

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2. What did your family and community back home think of your decision at the time?

My family always wanted me to come back and to be closer to them, even though they supported me in my travels. They were always here for me when I needed them. I haven’t seen my parents or my friends back in Croatia for 2 or 3 years sometimes. When it was time to come back, neither they nor I knew it was going to be for good. And we all thought the pandemic was going to end in a couple of months and everything would be back to normal. The day of the flight, I had 2 flight cancellations and barely managed to get out of Vancouver to Montreal and from there to Brussels, only to realize that there was a huge earthquake in Zagreb that same morning. We managed to get there the same day, and my parents left a car for me at the airport, and I drove back home to Daruvar to self-isolate for 2 weeks.

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3. Where did you get your information about the realities of Croatia prior to coming?

I was reading Croatian media wherever I lived in the world. Most of the time, I was grateful I didn’t live there. But when you start reading the news about the country you live in, you realize that the news is the same everywhere. In Croatia, there’s a problem in the past with previous regimes but so is in Canada or New Zealand.

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4. What were you most nervous about making the switch? What was your biggest fear, and what was the reality of what you found?

It was hard for me to think about Croatia when I made all the other places my home. I lived in New York for 3 years, and the hardest decision I made in my life was to leave New York. I had lots of friends and a great job. But I needed a change. I wanted to travel the world. At that time, I never imagined myself living back in Croatia. But things change, and people change. Now when I am in my thirties, I can see Croatia as a wonderful place to live in. And I try to hang out with people who think alike and really want to work on making this place even better.

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5. Think back to the time before you arrived. What were your perceptions about Croatia, and how were they different from the reality you encountered?

I knew what Croatia was like in 2014, and I didn’t want to live there at that time. The people were great, but the situation was hard. I do not come from a wealthy family, nor do I live on the seaside where opportunities to get better-paying jobs are abundant. But after 6 years abroad, I started to think about Croatia more. I wondered if the situation has changed. After 6 months of being in Croatia in 2020. I realized that covid was not going to go away quickly, so I started looking for a job as a bartender. I thought salaries must be much higher now than they were in 2014. After a few job interviews, I was left speechless. The sheer disappointment I felt at that moment as I was walking away from a cocktail bar in Zagreb I just had an interview made me think about moving away again. But this time, it was impossible for me to leave. All my savings were melting away fast, and I had to think hard about what I wanted to do with my life. I saw the opportunity to start my own business and apply all the things I learned abroad to the Croatian hospitality scene in order to improve it. I decided to stay in Croatia for good this time.

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6. You are still here, so obviously, the pros outweigh the cons. Tell us about some of the things that you love about being in Croatia, as well as some of the things you don't like. 

What I love about Croatia is that it is really beautiful, people are easy-going, and it’s easy to make new friends there is a big potential for business growth, especially if you have something unique to offer to the market. Every part of Croatia has something unique to offer in regard to food and sights. It’s awesome to go to places like Baranja and Istria, Zagorje, and Dalmatia and experience great food and meet friendly people. I like the way of life here and being close to my family and friends. I do feel it is getting more and more westernized with a fast lifestyle and the constant run for the money, but it still has some of that chill vibe. Especially in smaller towns. What I don’t like is that it is a relatively small market, so unless you have something original or are extremely good at what you do, you will have a hard time succeeding. Another thing I find interesting is that Croatians always think of themselves as really hard-working, but I don’t see that in Croatia that much. Of course, there are hard-working people here, but not in the amount we like to tell ourselves. Bureaucracy is a constant problem, but it is getting better. The thing I feel is the most annoying in Croatia is that you need to know people to get good jobs and that people think and talk about other people's lives too much. Related to my love of traveling, what I hate in Croatia is the lack of railroad infrastructure and the lack of long-haul flights from Croatian airports. Especially in the winter.

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7. What advice do you have for others thinking about making a move from the diaspora?

If you need a relaxed lifestyle and are thinking about moving to a slower-paced country that has great food, good people, and a high potential for business growth, Croatia is an excellent choice. Especially if you are a high earner, you will find that Croatia has everything you need. You can go hiking, play different sports, enjoy the sun and visit 1000 islands, drink the finest wine, eat quality local food and hang out with friendly people. It is extremely safe and well-connected with the rest of Europe.

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8. How do you think Croatia can better assist those who are looking to return to the Homeland?

I think the Croatian government missed the opportunity to keep Croatians that returned to Croatia during the pandemic in the country. Now it is hard for them to come back. I am one of the rare ones who decided to stay and build my life here. I think we should work on “stopping” the people from leaving Croatia permanently in the first place. It’s great for people to go abroad to study there or to get some work experience, and we should offer those people some benefits to come back to Croatia to use that knowledge to improve the local economy. Corruption is, unfortunately, still a big problem in Croatia, and we should all work together to get rid of it as much as possible. That is probably the main reason Croatians are leaving Croatia.

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Thanks, Denis, and good luck with www.cocktailempire.hr

https://www.facebook.com/cocktailempireDV

https://www.instagram.com/cocktail.empire

https://www.instagram.com/denis.vlahovac

 

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You can follow the TCN Croatian Returnees series here.

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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Wednesday, 19 October 2022

Croatian Returnee Stories: Ida Hamer, from Northampton UK to Zagreb

October 19, 2022 - Whisper it quietly, but more and more people are relocating to Croatia from the diaspora. In a new TCN series, we meet them to find out how they are faring and what advice they have for others thinking of making the switch. Next up is Ida Hamer, who moved from Northampton UK to Zagreb.

Unlike most of the returnees in this new TCN series who lived abroad for decades, my journey as a foreigner was much shorter but extremely valuable to me. Today I’m a television reporter and a journalist – but almost 10 years ago, I was a girl with a dream to study abroad. I was born in the capital of Croatia, Zagreb. I had only just turned 19 when I finished high school and moved to the UK to study Multimedia Journalism at the University of Northampton. All by myself, without knowing a single person there, that “adventure” was exciting and frightening at the same time. The life experience I gained there is something I would never obtain or experienced if I had stayed in Croatia, and it is something I will always appreciate. However, after graduation, my heart said – it was time to get back home.

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1. You made the switch to Croatia. Tell us a little about the decision process and how long it took for you to get on the plane.

When I decided to return home, it was also a time when many of my peers in Croatia decided to move to another country. So, my decision wasn’t quite popular and was surprising to many. It took me a bit of thinking whether “should I stay or should I go.” But when I graduated, the decision came naturally to me. I was ready to pack my UK experiences and memories in my luggage and start a new chapter at home.

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2. What did your family and community back home think of your decision at the time?

My family was supportive. They knew this decision was mine to make. However, there were those who were surprised. Some thought it was a great decision; some thought that I must be, well, crazy. Many expected I would continue my life overseas since I finished University abroad. And even though that seemed a bit discouraging, given the atmosphere in the country at the time, I did understand where this questioning was coming from.

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3. Where did you get your information about the realities of Croatia prior to coming?

I knew mostly everything because I lived in Croatia prior to moving to the UK, however, now I saw things from a different perspective. I understood that some things at home might be a struggle, but I also felt that anything is possible for a person who is willing to work hard. When I was leaving Croatia, even as a teenager, I was frustrated with corruption, nepotism, bureaucracy, and, in general, the bad atmosphere in the country. But living in the UK also made me realize all the positives that Croatia has. I missed the sun and the seaside, Zagreb’s city center, coffee culture and our humor, and all those little things that make life here nice. So, when I moved back here, at first, I saw everything through rose-colored glasses, which also wasn’t good.

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4. What were you most nervous about making the switch? What was your biggest fear, and what was the reality of what you found?

My biggest fear was – what if I ever regret moving back to Croatia? Up until now, I still haven’t.

5. Think back to the time before you arrived. What were your perceptions about Croatia, and how were they different from the reality you encountered?

At first, my perception was colored pink. Now, I look at everything much more realistically.

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6. You are still here, so obviously, the pros outweigh the cons. Tell us about some of the things that you love about being in Croatia, as well as some of the things you don't like. 

I love that people here socialize, spend time with each other, talk, and laugh. I appreciate that I feel safe on the streets of my city. I love the life I built for myself here since I returned. I like that I can be at the seaside in two hours if I wish and can also visit all the neighboring countries in a couple of hours too if I decide to make a quick weekend getaway. On the other hand, and like most young people here, I dislike nepotism and corruption. I dislike how slowly things are changing for the better around here. For example, population decline has been one of the hot topics here for many years now, yet we do not see a systematic effort to tackle this challenge. There is definitely not enough effort put into getting young people to stay here. And while the population is facing a decline, the number of people living in poverty is increasing. This is a sad reality for a state with so much potential.

7. What advice do you have for others thinking about making a move from the diaspora?

Connect with people online and talk! There are so many different pages where people who went through similar experiences will happily share it with others and answer all the questions.

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8. How do you think Croatia can better assist those who are looking to return to the Homeland?

Firstly, I have to say I applaud all the people behind websites that are offering advice and resources to foreigners and the diaspora on how to live and work in Croatia. They are untangling many Croatian bureaucratic entanglements that are foreign not only to foreigners or the diaspora but also to Croatians who live here. These people are taking a lot of burden off the government, as people are finding the right answers on those pages rather than contacting and asking these questions the relevant government offices. However, I do hope that one day the Croatian government will have a similar page where all the resources will be in one place and where it will be clearly outlined what services the country provides and where. I really hope the government will make the bureaucratic procedures simpler and that most things will be able to be done digitally. Until that beautiful, sunny day happens, if moving to Croatia, arm yourself with patience and humor.

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Thanks, Ida, and good luck with https://idahamer.com/ 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ida-hamer-026461111/

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You can follow the TCN Croatian Returnees series here.

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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Friday, 7 October 2022

Croatian Returnee Reflections: Zeljka Tomljenovic, from London to Zagreb

October 8, 2022 - Whisper it quietly, but more and more people are relocating to Croatia from the diaspora. In a new TCN series, we meet them to find out how they are faring and what advice they have for others thinking of making the switch. Next up is Zeljka Tomljenovic, who moved from London to Zagreb. 

I was born in Slavonski Brod, where I went to primary school then I went to secondary school in Bosanski Brod. I completed the rest of my formal education at the University of Novi Sad. This variety of places where I lived in Former Yugoslavia seems to set me up for my future of travel in the years to come. Then my life brought me to London, where I lived and worked for the next twenty-six years where I experienced the life that only metropolitan cities can provide. My work there was in the event management industry, and also I volunteered for the charity organization, The British-Croatian Society. 

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1. You made the switch to Croatia. Tell us a little about the decision process and how long it took for you to get on the plane.

Funny to say, but it was not a decision at all. It was rather an accidental step that had happened swiftly without my consideration that brought me to Croatia. When I realized that the Paddington area, where I worked, as well as the whole of London, was getting emptier by day to day due to the Covid-19 closure, I had to pack up my stuff and secure one of the last seats on a plane to Zagreb. 

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2. What did your family and community back home think of your decision at the time? 

When I arrived in Zagreb, the situation and outcome of the Covid-19 crisis were very uncertain, so my return at that particular moment seemed a logical step regarding the circumstances. At that time, I started working from home, believing that it would be just a temporary solution. I felt very supported by my family and friends. As the whole world around me was closing down, coming back to Croatia was a move in the right direction and at the right moment.  The funniest reactions on my return I am still receiving from those people that have never lived abroad. They normally look me in the eye with a bit of pity, asking me whether I am really aware of what I've done :-). 

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3. Where did you get your information about the realities of Croatia prior to coming?

My touch with Croatia and its reality was continuous through the years I lived in the UK. Also, through my activities with The British-Croatian Society, the charity organization that promotes links between HR & UK for many years, I kept my relations with both countries widely open.  

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4. What were you most nervous about making the switch? What was your biggest fear, and what was the reality of what you found?

It was a very big decision. No doubt about that. My life and work were set up in London, I was always on the go, I had a lot of friends and colleagues there, and I had a busy social life. I was not surprised by anything I found here as I was coming to Croatia quite frequently, and I was fully aware of its reality.

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5. Think back to the time before you arrived. What were your perceptions about Croatia, and how were they different from the reality you encountered?

Life is not always greener on the other side. Once you make a permanent living in a place, it is not going to be the same as the one you remember from going on holiday. In my own experience, I have gained by this move that the freedom to do with my time what I like and not somebody else is the most valuable asset of mine. I have my free time on my hands, and I can do with it whatever I like. I could not dream about that in my previous life in London, where I knew my agenda months ahead, and most of my time I was spending just working.

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6. You are still here, so obviously, the pros outweigh the cons. Tell us about some of the things that you love about being in Croatia, as well as some of the things you don't like.

The best thing about my accidental return to Croatia is the more free time I have here. The pace of life is much slower here than in London. There's always the possibility to find time for a coffee with family and friends, personal interests and hobbies, or whatever your interests are. However, dealing with the unavoidable bureaucracy in Croatia is a tough matter, and that's an understatement. Be prepared to visit many government offices in order to get one single document. The same document in the UK you would get by simply pushing the button on your computer.  Croats are not very good at respecting the rules of queuing. Getting in and out of public transport is very often a nightmare, and the best sample of that.  Another thing that I hate in Zagreb is the rundown gray facades of beautiful former palaces mostly covered by ugly graffiti, which are actually nothing more than pure vandalism. Then permitted smoking in most coffee shops, widely spread corruption, poverty among a huge number of the population ... that's just to get me started.  

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7. What advice do you have for others thinking about making a move from the diaspora?

I would advise everybody considering the possibility of moving to Croatia to get informed as much as possible about the Croatian reality through different sources. They must be ready for a different lifestyle, habits, and mentality completely different from the one they have used to. Nothing is 100% perfect neither is everything so bad. There's no perfect recipe for success - everyone should have their own experience. Let them step out of their comfort zone with open eyes and open minds seeking the positive sides of Croatia. Let them enjoy new opportunities in life that Croatia offers.

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8. How do you think Croatia can better assist those who are looking to return to the Homeland?

It has to be the government's decision to support and stimulate people to settle in Croatia enforced by its real action giving them reasons why they should live in Croatia. They would help those willing to learn the language and integrate into society. They would make the bureaucratic procedures simpler; they would establish centers for language learning, give advice on how to find a place to live, etc.

A brilliant sample of individual initiatives opposite of slow government-run organizations is the project Digital Nomads, set up by Mr. Jan de Jong. What a wonderful project that made a huge difference in terms of the contribution of qualified foreign workers moving into Croatia. 

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Thanks, Zeljka, and good luck with https://www.britishcroatiansociety.com/

You can follow more stories in the Croatian Returnee Reflections series in our dedicated TCN section.

Would you like your returnee story - positive or negative - to be featured in this series? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Returnee.

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What's it like living in Croatia, and where can you get the best survival tips? TCN CEO Paul Bradbury and TCN Editor Lauren Simmonds have teamed up to publish Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

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Sunday, 2 October 2022

Croatian Returnee Reflections: Katarina Bucic, from Toronto to Zadar

October 3, 2022 - Whisper it quietly, but more and more people are relocating to Croatia from the diaspora. In a new TCN series, we meet them to find out how they are faring and what advice they have for others thinking of making the switch. Next up is Katarina Bucic, who moved from Toronto to Zadar. 

My name is Katarina Bučić; I was born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area. I lived in Canada with my parents, who moved to Toronto 30+ years ago from Posušje, Hercegovina, and my 4 brothers for 27 years. I worked as a Registered Massage Therapist in the city and was starting to grow tired of its fast-paced and high-stress energy. After I got married to my husband Josip Bučić in 2016, we decided to move out of the city to slow down life a bit and take our first trip to Croatia together as a married couple, my first time visiting in 12 years. I was so eager to revisit my family and soak in my heritage as I was always raised to be a proud Croatian in a multicultural country and to be connected to my roots.

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1. You made the switch to Croatia. Tell us a little about the decision process and how long it took for you to get on the plane.

The summer vacation my husband and I took together in 2017 was the catalyst for us returning to Croatia one day. My husband's family is from Zadar, and so we spent most of our time there. It did not take me long to fall head over heels in love with Zadar as a city! The beauty, the ancient walls, and the cobblestone streets. The beaches, the sunrises, and the sunsets on the water. The fresh air, fresh food, and moments are created around the dinner table. The slow pace, the laid-back attitude, and the social culture. I can go on for ages about the magic I felt that summer. The entire trip, my husband and I spoke about the Croatian lifestyle and how different it was from our lives back in Canada. We fell in love with Zadar so much that I said if I were ever to have a daughter, we would name her Zara.

When we arrived back in Canada, we both fell into a sort of funk. We really tried to hold onto the energy and vibe of Croatia once we returned to Canada, but it just wasn’t the same. For years following that trip we talked about our dream of moving back to Croatia someday. There were many game plans, pros and cons lists, and bouncing ideas off of our family and friends. Many people didn’t think too much of our conversations because they always assumed it was just a ” one-day” type of dream, but they didn’t know how we felt that summer in Croatia and how we craved that feeling ever since we left. One evening during pillow talk with my husband Josip, having our 1000th conversation about dreaming to move to Croatia, I had finally had enough. ”You know what?! I am tired of talking about this over and over again. Are we going to do this or what?! Let’s decide right now, you and I, should we chase this dream of ours?” Josip looked over at me with a big smile and said,” Let’s do it!!!”. The next day when he returned from work, I said,” Guess what, babe? I bought us one-way tickets. We are moving to Croatia in 2 weeks.” He nearly fell to the floor. Just like that, Josip, my daughter Zara and I were heading on a new adventure!

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2. What did your family and community back home think of your decision at the time?

As I had mentioned earlier, our family and friends have heard us dream about moving back for years, but I don’t think anyone thought we would actually do it. Once everyone found out that we had actually purchased one-way tickets, the support had an undertone of sadness. Some people thought what we were doing was the most exciting and inspiring act, others thought we were complete morons and doomed, and those closest to us we so happy for us but sad that we were leaving. In all honesty, I feel like many of our friends in the Croatian community have always dreamt about moving back but had self-limiting beliefs. I think they were hoping for us to fail so that they could reassure themselves that their dream is not attainable. It was quite discouraging to hear comments like ”I’ll see you back here in a year” or ”What are you going to do over there? You know there is no work, right? Even if you find work, nobody will pay you reliably” and the most popular from the women ”You know they treat women poorly there right? Josip will change, and your marriage will suffer”.

3. Where did you get your information about the realities of Croatia prior to coming?

I supposed we did not do too much research. We did not know any people close to us who have made a move as well, so we didn’t have anyone to ask for their personal experiences. We knew that we would be applying for residency and citizenship upon arrival, so we came prepared with all of our Canadian documents and had them certified and translated. The rest of our perception of reality in Croatia was based on our summer there in 2017. Josip and I were on the same page about what we wanted out of life and what we wanted our lifestyle to look like, and we were both sure that Croatia could provide that for us.

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4. What were you most nervous about making the switch? What was your biggest fear, and what was the reality of what you found?

We made a move so quickly that it didn’t leave us much time to worry, but rather get things done! As a lovely add-on to the major life change we were about to encounter, 4 days before we left, I found out I was pregnant with my second child, surprise! I immediately began worrying about obtaining health care and what the hospitals are like in Croatia, and what my birthing experience would be like. After arriving in Croatia, I realized that my fear would soon become a reality. When I think about the bureaucracy here and having to get any sort of government paperwork done, the first word that comes to mind is NIGHTMARE. As I continue to meet other expats and even locals, I would say that is easily the biggest problem in Croatia. I cannot tell you how many times I stood in line pregnant and holding Zara for 3+ hours only to be told that they can’t help me and that some completely random and illogical paperwork or process was missing. I had so much anxiety every time I walked into a government building because I never knew what I would hear. That I missed a step in the process and can be issued a fine, that they will kick me out of the country if I don’t get my papers sorted before the deadline, or that I will not obtain public health care before I go into labor with my son. I quickly learned that Croatia is a very ”it’s all about who you know” kind of place. I got practically nowhere to obtain residency and health care on my own. Luckily my husband has many aunts, uncles, and cousins here that were willing to help. They showed up to the meetings with me, spoke on my behalf, showered the government workers with homemade olive oil and chocolates, name-dropped a few people, and VOILA, I was finally getting somewhere. As grateful I was to have those connections and finally have some progress, I was utterly shocked that this is how the system operated and felt deeply sad for the people moving here who didn’t have those connections.

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5. Think back to the time before you arrived. What were your perceptions about Croatia, and how were they different from the reality you encountered?

Naively, I had the perception that our return to the motherland would be celebrated by the locals. With the economy in Croatia suffering and many young people choosing to live and work elsewhere, I thought our young family coming to lay roots and contribute to Croatia would have been embraced. I must say there were some wonderful locals who were very proud of us, but the overall judgment, resentment, and outright mocking from the locals really shocked me. Just like many of the people back home, there were Croatian locals who were also laughing about us failing and returning home with our tails between our legs. Luckily for us, we have that stubborn Croatian blood and used that stubbornness to propel us into creating the reality we dreamed of!

6. You are still here, so obviously, the pros outweigh the cons. Tell us about some of the things that you love about being in Croatia, as well as some of the things you don't like.

The people of Croatia, just like the rest of the world, have been sold the ”American dream”. When they scratch their heads in question about why we would leave the ”land of opportunity” to move to a poor economic country, I would reassure them that their perception of North America is warped. Do not get me wrong; I am so grateful I was raised in Canada and was exposed to such an open-minded and multicultural environment. Although the Canada my parents moved to in the 80s and the Canada I lived in before leaving were two very different places. Josip and I grew tired of the 4 hours on the road everyday commuting, on dangerous winter roads, I might add, the ”it's never enough” greed that was sweeping our culture, the constant arguing over religion and politics, the unhealthy lifestyles we were leading, and the lack of social life. I was starting to feel ourselves, along with everyone else around us, turn into robots. We only had time for work, sleep, and repetition, and there was no spontaneity left in our lives. Paying your bills and keeping up with the Jones’ was taking over like a plague, and we were sick of it! Since moving to Croatia, our days feel longer, our lives sunnier, and our future brighter. They say Zadar has 300 sunny days a year, and that is exactly how I would describe our life here, sunny! Fewer hours a day spent in Toronto traffic means more time to cook a fresh homemade dinner, stop by a neighbor's house for a coffee, or our nightly walks through the stunning city of Zadar. People are so much more at the moment here; they smell the air, notice the wind, and indulge in the people in front of them. I have yet to be with someone and have them have their face on their cell phone or be in a daze worrying about work the next day. The magic of living in the moment is so evident here and is truly what Josip and I value the most.

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7. What advice do you have for others thinking about making a move from the diaspora?

I would first like to say that I believe true happiness comes from within. Whether where you are is ”heaven” or ”hell” is all based on your perception. If you have an open mind, a determined spirit, and a passion and love for Croatia, you can do it! There is a massive expat community here that is beyond welcoming and helpful and is a great support system for one another. Our dream of moving here was nagging at us for years, and finally answering the call for change has been the best decision we have ever made for our family. If you are seriously thinking of moving to Croatia, then there is clearly something pulling you to shake up your life a bit! There will definitely be moments where you might, in fact, feeling shaken. I have had moments of frustration and have felt homesick. In those moments, my husband, my children, and I go for a walk in Zadar, watching the most beautiful sunset in the world while the sea organs play and laughter and a sense of calm fill the air, and I immediately feel at peace again. My perception of my life in Croatia with my family is truly my idea of ”heaven on earth”.

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8. How do you think Croatia can better assist those who are looking to return to the Homeland?

People all around the world are discovering Croatia and understanding its beauty and the appeal of living here. I have no doubt that the expat community will continue to grow rapidly, and I would love to see them be more embraced here. The problem with the bureaucracy is not one I know how to fix, but it is by far the biggest hurdle people encounter when moving here. Perhaps more information and English-speaking assistance for newcomers would be a good start. As for the tainted mind of the locals and their hesitancy towards expats, I wish for them to understand that we love their country so much that we decided to give everything up to live there! I would love for them to receive us as a compliment and not as a threat. Croatia is a growing and quickly evolving country. I think we can find the balance of respecting its untouched and rooted energy while accepting the open-minded and positive energy we expats bring. Croatia is abundant, and there is enough of her beauty to sustain us all.

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The sun is hot on our faces,
our skin becoming kissed.
The sound of birds, dogs and children,
I pinch myself to be sure I exist.
A woman is singing,
she plucks the strings of her guitar.

The old man in the hat watches her
as he smokes his cigar.
These walls have history,
many tales of victories and defeat.
My daughter dances on its ruins,
my son explores the cobblestone in his bare feet.
A castle that was fit for kings and queens
is surely fit for you and me.
Zadar as the backdrop of our story,
the cleansing from the deep blue sea.
My heart belongs to this city,
my family breathes its air.
I wouldn’t have it any other way,
God has answered my prayer.


- Katarina Bučić

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Thanks, Katarina!

You can follow more stories in the Croatian Returnee Reflections series in our dedicated TCN section.

Would you like your returnee story - positive or negative - to be featured in this series? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Returnee.

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What's it like living in Croatia, and where can you get the best survival tips? TCN CEO Paul Bradbury and TCN Editor Lauren Simmonds have teamed up to publish Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

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Friday, 30 September 2022

Croatian Returnee Reflections: Andrian Juric, from Sydney to Zagreb

October 1, 2022 - Whisper it quietly, but more and more people are relocating to Croatia from the diaspora. In a new TCN series, we meet them to find out how they are faring and what advice they have for others thinking of making the switch. Next up is Andrian Juric, who moved from Sydney to Zagreb.

My family is from Škabrnja, a town known for its agriculture and classic Dalmatian attitude; you know the one: slow to anger, reasonable in debates, respectful of road rules, and a healthy dose of sarcasm. I was born in Sydney, Australia, and like my father before me, I left the country of my birth for a better life. I've been living in Croatia since the World Cup of 2018. I live in Zagreb, where I work for OptimoRoute, a Silicon Valley software company. If you live in a major English-speaking city and ordered something online, chances are you are indirectly using our software.

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1. You made the switch to Croatia. Tell us a little about the decision process and how long it took for you to get on the plane.

Back in 2012, I visited my godparents in the town of Nin. After an amazing home-cooked meal (My godmother reads this, this will make her day), my godbrother and I enjoyed a night of partying with the locals. Eventually, we ended up listening to a live band playing acoustic versions of Dalmatian hits. His family was all there, late into the night, at a bar that overlooked the beaches of Nin, and all I could think was, "This is a Tuesday for them"

It was then that I realized that his family has something no one in Sydney will ever have. If they could have this life, why couldn't I do the same?

I then started looking for other returnees to Croatia who came from Australia. The ones with the best lives were all working remotely for Australian companies. An Australian salary with a Croatian cost of living was the dream. I spent 2 years learning relevant skills, built up a network of contacts in Sydney for remote work, and made this dream a reality.

The Russian World Cup in 2018 was the perfect opportunity to visit Croatia. I saved up a lot of vacation time and left on a reconnaissance trip. In-between matches, I looked up rental properties, interviewed with local tech companies, networking with business owners, everything that I would need to thrive. It was a crash course in living in Croatia.

Not many people have that moment where they know exactly where they need to be. I had this in 2018. I didn't want to be anywhere else, and I'd do whatever it took to stay.

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2. What did your family and community back home think of your decision at the time?

Besides my family, I didn't tell anyone I was going. My rationale was that people who had never made this choice before would only fill me with doubt. I only really opened up to people who were already living in Croatia and a few people that had come back. My family was cautiously optimistic at the time but today are very supportive now that they know that all it takes to make it is to not make too many stupid decisions, be a bit creative with how you earn a living, and a lot of hard work (like it's any different elsewhere?).

3. Where did you get your information about the realities of Croatia prior to coming?

I researched tech companies in Croatia and became optimistic. I made a bet that there would be at least one company with a need for my skill set. It took a while to get to that coffee with the right CEO, but it paid off. The reality is that it's difficult to know anything about Croatia without actually living here. If you associate yourself with the right people, ambitious and positive people, you'll make it.

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4. What were you most nervous about making the switch? What was your biggest fear, and what was the reality of what you found?

I came to Zagreb in the winter of 2018/2019 from Australia, a place whose winter is considered beach weather in 90% of the rest of the world. It was cold, my Croatian was terrible, and my bank account turned into a countdown to homelessness.

I acted on the one piece of advice trusted people had given to me in Australia: "it's who you know that counts". So what do you do when you know absolutely no one in Zagreb? You start doing what Croatians do best, go out for coffee.

Before long, my coffees took me all around the country, and it taught me a very valuable lesson: to get value, you must give value. This 18-month caffeine binge lead me to one of the best job interviews I ever had and resulted in a job with a world-class tech company.

What's the reality of coming here? With the right group of people, you can really live your dream life. After 4 years, I've discovered that if you talk to 1,000 returnees, you'll learn 1,000 different ways to "make it" in Croatia. But the people who didn't make it all tended to make the same two mistakes: stubbornness and isolation. If you're serious about returning, avoid the following:

  1. Don't brag about who your parents or relatives are. It never ends well.
  2. Don't flash cash from your savings account. It won't last long.
  3. Never ever talk about how you're going to "save" Croatia. Every month there's a returnee who tries to pull this stunt.

Put your head down, work, be friendly, and very quickly, you'll see support coming from everyone around you. That's the reality, be humble and help people. There are very good people here; they just need to be sure you're genuine.

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5. Think back to the time before you arrived. What were your perceptions about Croatia, and how were they different from the reality you encountered?

This is no longer pre-war Croatia; it's not 1991 Croatia, it's not even 2008 Croatia. This is 2022 Croatia, an EU member state with a passionate but informal entrepreneurial culture. Those on the outside only see the headlines or what's shown on TV. What they don't see are the networking events, the tech start-ups, and the company parties. Croatians are very quickly learning how to make high incomes, and their work ethic can be world-class. The people I'm describing are currently a minority, but they love the fact that the world underestimates them. They are constantly looking for like-minded professionals to build new connections with.

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6. You are still here, so obviously, the pros outweigh the cons. Tell us about some of the things that you love about being in Croatia, as well as some of the things you don't like. 

Things that make me love Croatia::

  • The nightlife and work opportunities
  • Hiking in the mountains, going to secluded beaches
  • Other Croatians

Things that give me a headache in Croatia:

  • The bureaucracy
  • People who drive a BMW in Zagreb
  • Other Croatians

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7. What advice do you have for others thinking about making a move from the diaspora?

Talk to other returnees before you make your decision. We all have an online presence, and someone will be able to connect you to someone that can advise you properly. There is no single solution to living here, find someone who came from a similar situation and ask them what they did. The rest is fairly straightforward: get your citizenship in order, be in a profession that can work remotely or be a tradesman, and be ready to rebuild your network from the ground up.

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8. How do you think Croatia can better assist those who are looking to return to the Homeland?

We currently live in a sweet spot of Croatian history. Moving to Croatia is perceived to be so difficult that only the people that really want to come to do so. None of the returnees have a boring backstory. If you want to return to Croatia, now is the time you'll get the most support from other returnees. Purchasing that one-way ticket gets you at least one coffee with absolutely everyone.

But, if we wanted to make this process easier:

  1. Make it easier for the Croatian diaspora to obtain their citizenship or at least make it easier for them to live here for several years legally
  2. Make it well known what services the country has to offer. There is a lot of information freely available online that most people don't know about.
  3. Give Croatian companies better incentives to network with foreign companies, thus exposing more potential returnees to our economy
  4. Instill a sense of security in returnee families by publishing and committing to long-term city planning. Let people know where new schools, medical centers, transport links, and housing will be built

There are a million ways to make Croatia better. What's the worst that can happen in moving here? For me, it was living again in Sydney, a winning lottery ticket for most of the world. I had nothing to lose.

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Thanks, Andrian!

You can follow more stories in the Croatian Returnee Reflections series in our dedicated TCN section.

Would you like your returnee story - positive or negative - to be featured in this series? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Returnee.

****

What's it like living in Croatia, and where can you get the best survival tips? TCN CEO Paul Bradbury and TCN Editor Lauren Simmonds have teamed up to publish Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

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