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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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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Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Croatian Returnee Stories: Jakelina Listes, from Vancouver to Split

November 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 Jakelina Listes, who moved from Vancouver CA to Split.

Jakelina Listes originally born and raised in Split, Croatia (back in the day, 1971, part of former Yugoslavia). I immigrated to Canada in 2000, came back to Croatia for about a year and a half, and then back to Canada in 2003. I am currently still living in the British Columbia province of Canada, on Vancouver Island’s main city of Victoria, and I am in the process of getting ready for my return to Croatia. I have a degree in social work, and I am currently employed working for the federal government and have a small business making upcycled fashion and jewellery that I do on the side (also on Instagam). I lived in several provinces in Canada and have been involved in the local non-profit sector focusing on immigrants and other inter-cultural issues. 

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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.

I suppose the idea of me returning back to Croatia was present in my mind forever, as I was homesick for a long time and did not quite find my place in Canada. Despite being here for 20 years, and having a decent life ( in economic terms) and valuable experiences, there was a big part of my life that was missing. It would take a novel to list here all the nuances that make someone's life great and that, when not fulfilled, leaves a gnawing feeling of missing out, longing, and emptiness. 

 My husband, who is Canadian, and I have been talking for a few years now about the possibility of buying some property in Croatia so that we can have a place to retire, thinking it will take years to accomplish this as we are in our early fifties. As time went by, my desire to return back was growing, and so did the search for real estate in Split. 

In my case, the important part of this decision is the fact that Canadian society has changed a lot since I came here, especially during the pandemic years. It has gradually become a society that emphasizes many worldviews that are not compatible with my own values. I think I am simply too tired of trying to find my place here, and I told myself, hey you spent years here and gave it a good shot, but it is time to move on. 

The final decision was made this September after my return from a 4-month-long visit to Split.

During that time, I bought a property in Kastela and settled in instantly, feeling this is it, it feels like home home. Coming back to Canada was hard, especially after being there for months, and something shifted in my mind, and I asked myself, why wait for retirement, why don’t we do what we want sooner while we are still relatively young.

So, here we are, selling our house in Canada and preparing to leave in a few months

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

 Many people here in Canada are a bit surprised by our decision but ultimately see it as something most of them would like to do. Meaning, retire early, still have some good years to enjoy life, and fulfill some of the things we all put aside and never get to it, as life is not that long. My family and friends in Croatia are generally understanding why we want to do this, and are welcoming our return. There are some cautious remarks here and there in the sense that people in Croatia find it strange that my Canadian husband wants to move there just like that.  

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

As I am from Croatia and have been coming for a visit almost every year for the last 20 years, and I extensively follow what is happening in Croatia via media, social media, and talking to people, I am well aware of the Croatian reality. Unlike some people who were born and raised outside of Croatia and have not lived there, I don’t have illusions about the state of affairs there, and I know what to expect. In other words, the Croatian mentality is very familiar to me.

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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 are very excited actually. I anticipate we will have some headaches dealing with Croatian bureaucracy, but being employed by the biggest ministry in the Canadian government, I can testify that bureaucracy is terrible wherever you go. I have family and friends to help if thighs get stuck, so I don't really have a lot of concerns.  

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?

Living abroad for many years gives you a unique perspective on your own homeland. I don’t look at the Croatian reality only from the lenses of someone from there, but also from someone who is coming from quite a different socio-economic and political milieu. This can be very interesting at times and leads to a lot of comparisons where Croatia gets the advantage in certain key elements like, in my case, having family and friends, feeling of belonging, familiarity with the place and culture, mentality, habits, food, etc. On the other side, there are some areas that would benefit from some of the attitudes that are more prevalent in Canada. 

At this stage in life, the Croatian lifestyle suits me better.

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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. 

Croatia for people like me is very different than it would be for my husband or for those Croats born and raised outside of Croatia. I have a strong connection to my hometown and think it is a great place to live (even though, realistically there are a lot of things that are not great). For me, it is truly coming back home. I like that when I walk around Split, I have memories of places and people, I know its locations and history, and it means something.  As I mentioned before, I know what to expect and how to go about it, which is what some other returnees who never lived in Croatia before often struggle with. 

What I don’t like is what is wrong with many other parts of the world, incompetent and corrupt ruling class, exploitative economy, environmental degradation, and the overall decline in basic human decency. I also do not enjoy the chaotic tourism industry that Split succumbs to and the total lack of vision and planning for the city so that it can thrive for 12 months a year, not just in summer. 

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

To leave the expectations that things in Croatia are or are supposed to be the same or similar to wherever you are returning from. To remind yourself why you decided to move there in the first place, and set what your priorities are. To adapt to local culture and embrace it as that is the only way to adjust to a new reality and meet people and ultimately feel like it is a place you can call home.  

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

There is for sure a need for people to get more easily accessible information on what needs to be done for getting medical care, residency, driving licence, etc. Also, an agency or center that would serve immigrants to Croatia, regardless of where they come from, would be a logical move, as there are more foreigners coming to live and work in Croatia. I think tools such as Paul’s new book that speaks about just that- survival for foreigners in Croatia are also great assets. Another thing that any immigrant, even a returnee from the diaspora, can use is to observe people and their surroundings and be curious and ask, engage, show interest. That is a fantastic way to learn your way around a new culture. And let’s be honest, coming to Croatia from the diaspora is basically coming to a new culture. 

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Thanks, Jakelina, and good luck with stonethreadsjewellery.com

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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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Tuesday, 18 October 2022

Croatian Returnee Stories: Australia's Oldest Married Couple from Vrgorac

October 17, 2022 - Did you know that Australia's oldest married couple (82 years) hailed from Vrgorac? The fascinating TCN returnee inbox contributions continue. And the returnees keep on returning. 

The TCN inbox has never been dull, but since I posted an offer of a free interview to any returnee who wanted to share their experience of moving back to the Homeland, things have been very interesting indeed. 

The TCN series, Croatian Returnee Reflections has been a big hit - check out the stories so far here.  If you want to share your returnee story, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Returnee

That led to the first TCN/AVG Returnee Drinks Night in Zagreb, which was attended by more than 50 people. This will become a regular monthly event.

That in turn led to the formation of the TCN/AVG Croatian Returnee Networking Facebook Group. All welcome.

And the inbox keeps on giving with more stories of those returning or planning to return, including Michael, whose relative was part of the longest marriage in Australian history!

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Hello Paul

I'm enjoying the articles very much on those Croats who have relocated to Croatia through their descendants and parentage

I am of Croat heritage (born in Western Australia) through all my descendants on both sides of my family (Tolj-Turkic i Ajduk) who relocated from Vrgorac in the early 1920s and started the wine industry in Western Australia. Of particular interest is my great uncle Joze Zekulic who died at 108 having been married for over 80 years to my great Aunt Ruze Zekulic (nee Beus), Australia's oldest living married couple at the time, and 12th oldest in the world. Now sadly both passed on.

I have applied for my citizenship with a view to retirement, and I'm sure others of my age group would like to follow the story and share theirs.

I asked Michael to send me some details. 

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Hi Paul

Thanks for your response

Insofar as your thread for the website is about relocation and acquiring Croat citizenship my experience is noted below (tried to keep it as brief as possible, but its beaurocracy right?) so here goes:

Croats in Western Australia:

I am the grandson of two great WA Croat families: On my mother's side Ajduk & Beus, and on my father's side, Tolj-Turkich, later upon arrival in Australia, just Turkich, both families originally located im Zavojane (Ajduk) and Stilja (Turkic) with my great grandmother's family (Ante i Antica Beus) just "down the hill" in Podgora.

Having now lodged my application for Hrvat citizenship here in Sydney through my paternal grandmother: Ruza Turkich (nee Turic) as the other records no longer existed, I suspect due to war, fires, dislocations, and other loss-inducing events.

Both Andrija Ajduk (maternal grandfather) and Joze Tolj-Turkic left Croatia in the early 1920s, their wives and families following 4-5 years later. Andrija Ajduk was also a personal bodyguard to the late King Peter Georgevic.

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Andrija's wife (Mara Zekulic) passed away after complications from childbirth, leaving their infant son Tonko, in the care of his maternal grandmother while his father sought a better life in Australia than that which could be provided in Croatia after WW1.

Andrija was one of 5 siblings: Ivan, Ruza, Jure, Mate, all using the name AJDUK except for MATE who migrated to the USA in 1919, changing his name to MATTHEW HYDEK. Jure and Ivan stayed in Zavojane, and I am close to them to this day, having just returned from summer there in Makarska, which is the closest port town to Zavojane and Stilja

Andrija upon arrival to Perth in Western Australia quickly made his way to Kalgoorlie, the most productive and richest plot of gold in the world at that time. As he was a toolmaker, his skill set was in demand in the mines.

He met and married his second wife DIANA BEUS soon after, then brought his son Tonko to Australia. Now 12 years old, this boy arrived with no English, a father he hadn't seen in 10 years, and a new mother he never met before. Can you imagine? He is still with us in Perth aged 98.

Joe Turkich arrived around the same time to Perth on the SS Orsova with his wife Ruza and daughter Matija and son Mate arriving 5 years letter once they had all been granted citizenship. And we complain about beaurocracy today!!

He was a teamster and had horses haul timber to mills in South West WA prior to making the move to the famous SWAN VALLEY outside of Perth and beginning planting grape vines.

At the same time, Joze Zekulich migrated to Australia, married Diana Beus' older sister Ruze and they lived to become Australia's oldest living married couple and 12th oldest in the world. Wow! Ruza (Rose) passed at 98 years of age, Joe at 108. He was also inducted into the WA Agrivcultural Hall of Fame for his skills in blending and breeding grape stock that was resistant to Phylloxera and other funguses and pests associated with viticulture.

Other Croats in the valley also growing grapes, winemaking, running orchards and market gardens were in no particular order: Talijancich, Pasalic, Saric (Ralph the inventor of the Orbital Engine), Pervan, Boksich, Botica, and others.

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, 12 October 2022

Next Stop Zadar! 50+ Attendees at TCN/AVG Returnee Reflections Night

October 12, 2022 - The inaugural TCN/AVG Croatian Returnee Reflections night took place in Zagreb last night. It will be the first of many. 

Things are changing.

Slowly. 

But I can feel it.

It is still a trickle, but the diaspora is starting to return to the Homeland.

A younger generation, not blinded by politics and Communism conspiracy theories, but rather enthused with love of their roots and with an entrepreneurial spirit. 

And this whole thing escalated VERY quickly. 

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One month ago, I posted a status on Facebook and LinkedIn. I have always had lots of email from the Croatian diaspora over the years, but it has increased considerably this year. My haters still send in their abuse and occasional death threats, but less so. I do miss their love though - does anyone have a better epitaph on their tombstone than me? 'Tito cock-sucking British Jew writing fluff to humanise mass murderers in the Jewish style when socially engineering a people for ruin.'

But the increased email activity is coming from returnees, both actual and wannabes. More and more people are getting in touch to tell me about their experiences returning to the Homeland and giving it a try. And even more telling me how they would like to return but there is so little information. 

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And so a month ago, I posted that I would be happy to do interviews with any returnee who wanted to share their experiences. I was stunned by what happened next. No less than 63 returnees contacted me, all wanting to share their story. Not all were positive experiences, but I agreed to publish them all, good and bad, to give those thinking of returning a better overall picture. The Croatian Returnee Reflections series has been the most interesting thing on TCN in recent weeks, and you can follow it in the dedicated section here

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A few days ago, another returnee called Marija Franic contacted me on LinkedIn to ask if we could organise a returnee event, so that people could meet, exchange experiences, and network. I tested the idea on social media and invited those who had done interviews for the series and lived in Zagreb. The response was very positive, and Sime Lisica from Bibinje via Sydney also got involved. And so the concept of TCN/AVG Croatian Returnee Reflections Nights was born, the first of which took place at the fabulous Swanky Monkey Garden in Zagreb last night. 

Am very grateful to our named speakers for sharing their stories - Eugene Brcic Jones, Andrian Juric, Maria Pokrivka, and Sime Lisica - as well as about 10 others who stood up to share their stories. 

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I think many were surprised at just how many returnees showed up, and I also think that people are slowly beginning to see that there are a growing number of returnees bringing their positive mindset. 

It is time to connect them, to tell their stories, and to show those thinking of making the move that - as flawed as Croatia undoubtedly is - the benefits outweigh the problems. Not for everyone, as Croatia full-time is most certainly not for everyone, but for many. 

It was a wonderful evening of new connections, heartwarming stories, and lots of laughs, and one which we agreed we would repeat soon. 

Sime has agreed to work with me on this, and we will start to organise regular TCN/AVG Croatian Returnee Reflections Nights all over the country in the coming 12 months. We will do one more in Zagreb next month, then Zadar is next on the list, as there seems to be a growing returnee community there. We plan to do this in December when I visit Zadar for the book promotion event for Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners, which is out now on Amazon.

I will create a TCN/AVG Returnee Networking Facebook Group in the coming days to see if we can find ways to better connect and get the story out. Additionally, with the imminent relaunch of TCN, the online magazine with news, we will have a big section on How to Return. This will be full of practical advice as well as real experiences. If anyone wants to help me with this, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Returnee Help. 

Thanks to all who came last night. I think we took the first step in what could be an incredibly interesting journey. 

If you would like to share your returnee experience, 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 - out now on Amazon.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

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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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Wednesday, 5 October 2022

Croatian Returnee Reflections: Mike Simundic, from British Columbia to Dalmatia

October 5, 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 Mike Simundic from British Columbia, Canada to Dalmatia (Editor's note: being a Dalmatian, Mike is going slow with the full move, but has been building up to it with longer stays over the last two years). 

My name is Mike (Marijan) Šimundić; I was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada, and am the son of Croatian emigrants. My work is in the technology sector, but my exact job is hard to explain; not even my parents fully understand what I do. The best explanation I've read so far is "Mike does mysterious things that nobody can fully understand. He just pushes a few buttons, makes a few phone calls, and bam, things get done".

As the son of Croatian emigrants from Split-Dalmatia County and as a foreign-born Croatian I have three parallel identities. I am a Croatian, a Dalmatian, and as my family is from a small village that is part of the Imotski area, I’m also an Imoćanin. From what I’ve seen and been told, there’s always someone from that area, and I’m fortunate to be among them. 

My parents left during the SFRJ times to start a family in a more stable environment, which ended up being Canada, and I'm very grateful to my parents for making the choices they did so I could grow up to write this piece. However, I often wonder what my life would be like had I been born in and grew up in Croatia, if only for a little while. Fortunately, over the last 10 years, my affinity for Croatia has intensified, and I've experienced that intangible feeling of 'home' every time I visit, which I rarely feel anywhere else.

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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.

Since 2012 I started having idle thoughts about making the move to Croatia as I slowly felt more like I was not where I belong. In 2012 I submitted my citizenship application as I saw potential with Croatia’s ascension to the EU and imagined what I could do with my life. During a work trip to Ottawa in 2013, I was able to visit the beautiful Croatian consulate thanks largely to a family friend Zvonimir Aničić, who is the Vice President of Croats Abroad, which is an advisory board for the Croatian Government. Serendipitously, while speaking to the Ambassador to Canada, one of the consular officers asked me to repeat my name as I introduced myself using my Croatian name to keep me thinking in Croatian. This time, I stated my legal name, and as if by magic, she produced my ‘rješenje’, and the few consular officials that were present congratulated me as from that moment on, I was a Croatian citizen. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Switching countries is no easy task. I'm a planner, and as a planner, I need to think through as many aspects of what I'm trying to do before making decisions that I cannot unmake. For context, what started as idle thoughts in 2012, turned into soul searching in 2020, and now in 2022, there is no alternative for me, only progression towards my goal. I've mostly figured out what options I have on where I can live vs. where I want to live, what jobs I can do vs. what jobs I want to do, etc., however, the part that I'm missing and still struggling with is finding a job in the technology industry in Croatia that is a fit for me. I'm not going to give up, as it’s a matter of time.

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

Generally speaking, my family in Canada and Croatia admire my tenacity to make my dream a reality. Although, I'm sure they quietly question why I would make such a move. It's unusual, but not uncommon for someone who was born and raised in a western country (with an Eastern European upbringing) to want to return home, where things won't be so easy and as a non-native speaker of the language, there will much I won't understand, but I'll have to learn. I've subconsciously regarded my trips to Croatia over the years as pilgrimages that I considered essential and nourishing, which collectively (re)built my very strong sense of 'home' as soon as I get off the plane in Zagreb or Split. 

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

I've been visiting Croatia on and off between 1994 and 2013, then more consistently since 2013 for vacations to see family and learn more about how things 'worked' in Croatia, and I always left feeling a little smarter. I was also fortunate to spend a total of 9 months over the last two years in Croatia, specifically in Split, which gave me lots of perspective on day-to-day life and allowed me to pretend to live in Croatia while tending to family matters. It wasn't easy as my work schedule went from 15:00 to 01:00 most days, sometimes later, to fulfill my commitments to my current company, which was kind enough to allow me to work internationally for a period of time I was in Croatia tending to family matters. Living in Croatia is more different than it is the same. However, I was impressed by some of the modernization of payments and services, especially through the e-Građani portal. However, I also learned that renting a flat was not straightforward, nor was it easy, and I was very fortunate during my last trip, that my aunt knew someone, that knew someone who had an empty apartment that fit my needs precisely, otherwise, I would not have been able to visit like I did. Proof that relationships are an essential part of daily life 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?

Starting over is never easy, and fortunately, I had to do that recently, so I have some experience. However, starting over in another country will be different. I've spent years and decades forming solid relationships with friends, professionals, and the like, which allowed me to have a solution/contact for any problem that came up. When I'm able to make the move, I'll have to start over again and seek out new friends (some of which I've already made, thankfully) and professionals to support me when I need help with something that is not in my 'wheelhouse'. I wouldn't say I have any fears about doing this, but I'm not excited about leaning on other people's connections when I need to as I prefer to make my own. However, to learn how to find the right people, you have to start with good people around you, and that's something I'm looking forward to. I will have to un-learn to be stubborn and do things the hard way and instead not be apprehensive about asking for help from others when they're more than willing to help you at a moment's notice.

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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?

When I first remember visiting Croatia as an adult, my knowledge of Croatian wasn't the greatest; I didn't know where I was going exactly, how I was getting there, etc. Someone came to pick me up, I stayed with family, didn't eat anywhere but with family, and was transported everywhere, which was nice but didn't give me much exposure to how things really were. This reality was rather jarring as my perception was based on spotty childhood memories in the village, and I didn't know exactly how everything worked and how different it was from Canada. After getting some exposure, staying on my own when visiting, and improving the language skills I learned: always bring cash, don't just nod your head and pretend to understand what people are saying, and always assume the people you're talking to know something you don't.

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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 I love about Croatia:

  • The food
  • Bura
  • Other Croatians

Things that don't excite me about Croatia

  • Tourist season because of the crowds and crazy prices
  • Always having to carry cash
  • Showering in a bathtub 

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

Try not to overthink it and talk yourself out of doing it. Pretend like it's your only option and really consider all options with the guiding principle of 'what do I want vs. what can I live with'. It won't be perfect; it's not meant to be. You'll need to learn to do more with less, but in the long run, it'll teach you to be more minimalistic, which I don't think is a bad thing. There are lots of groups on different platforms that contain tons of helpful people that want to help. Join these groups and use them to plan your departure from your current country, and I promise you'll meet some great people who may even turn into close friends. Don't downplay the value of learning the language if you're like a native English speaker and me. You'll likely speak Croatian with an accent, but don't let that discourage you. Persevere, and you will enjoy the pleasure of speaking the language which you can use to help yourself and others. 

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

Generally, I think Croatia is doing ok in assisting those who are looking to return home. I would personally like to see the citizenship verification process sped up through the consulates if at all possible and continue to digitize processes and procedures both domestically and abroad. More language options for non-native speakers through consulates or options at universities in the major cities would likely be warmly welcomed as well. I personally would attend these to strengthen my foundational knowledge and unlearn certain words like 'fonat' and 'povakumat', which everyone gets a good laugh over when I accidentally use in a sentence.  Finally, job placement/opportunities are an area in which I would love to see some improvement, selfishly, however, I know there can't be an improvement if there are minimal job openings in the first place. Perhaps more incentives for companies to open up shop in Croatia would stimulate job postings and in turn, applicants, or a cultural shift in how jobs are posted and salary transparency. Times are tough all over, and knowing if you can afford to apply for and be accepted to a job in advance is becoming crucial in people's job searches, especially with the rising prices of the basics in Croatia. 

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Thanks, Mike!

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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Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Croatian Returnee Reflections: Phil Vrankovich, from California to Hvar

October 4, 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 Phil Vrankovich, who moved from California to Hvar. 

My name is Philip Vrankovich, and I am presently retired after 30 years in the IT side of the energy business. I was born in Oakland, California. My connection to Croatia is through my paternal grandparents, Antun Vranković and Bona Dobrosić, both from the village of Svirće on the island of Hvar. They immigrated to America at the turn of the 1900s.

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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.

I had always talked about going to Croatia, starting in the 1980s, but didn’t actually make it there until 2000. In July, 2000, we made a family trip to Hvar to meet family members I had only heard about. We arrived at the Stari Grad port to our cousins waving Croatian and American flags in the parking lot. It still gives me chills recalling that experience. My wife, Vicki, and I returned in 2001 to purchase property in Vrboska, with the intent of retiring on the island. In 2006, we made that dream come true, when we purchased a house in the now UNESCO-protected town of Stari Grad. I also became a Croatian citizen in 2010. We’ve made Hvar our home for 6 months out of the year, spending the rest of the time in California and now Connecticut.

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

Family and friends have been very supportive of our decision to make Hvar our second home, and of course, many have come to visit over the years.

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

Since I had family who came from Dalmatia, I had resources in America who helped to tell us about what to expect; however, that was no replacement for actually being here - in reality, it was so much more beautiful than I had imagined!

My godmother and her two daughters helped us arrange to meet family members, as well as their families, on our first trip in July 2000.

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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?

Really, we had no reservations about making a switch to living on Hvar. We had family here, made some friends, both domestic and expatriate, and felt welcomed. Initially, I thought the language difference would be an issue, but we found many people spoke English and those that didn’t, we were able to use our limited Hrvatski, sign language and pantomime in order to communicate

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?

My parents and sister visited Hvar in the mid-1970s, and of course, it was much more primitive then. I remember my father saying there was no air conditioning, few autos and that you couldn’t get ice at a bar. He questioned why we would want to live there… of course, when we arrived, it was decades later, and things had changed here. I recall asking, “why did my grandparents ever leave, this place is so beautiful!” However, life in the late 1800s was very different here. When they married, it was two brothers who married 2 sisters, and there were not enough resources for both pairs to stay there. So my grandparents made the move to America.

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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.

We love the island life, “polako,” the family and friends we have met here, and of course, the culture, food, history, and environment (sea, mountains, and the climate). It’s difficult to put into words the feeling of visiting the house my grandmother was born in or planting grape vines in a field where my great-grandfather once toiled… it’s very special!

For the cons, the bureaucracy of getting anything done here is frustrating, and trying to learn Hrvatski is difficult (grandmother and father always spoke to me in English… I guess they never conceived any of us ever going back), especially with so many people here speaking English, and missing immediate family and the variety of food available back in America.

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

Follow your dreams! Visit, and live in one place for a period of time to experience the community. See if it really fits your lifestyle. Don’t be disappointed and frustrated when things don’t turn out exactly as you expected, instead embrace the differences and go with the flow.

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

Make becoming a Croatian citizen a streamlined process, and afford all family members of returning Croatians the same level of respect under the law. For example, during Covid, my Croatian passport expired in 2020, and my wife’s residency card expired in 2021, yet they allowed me to renew my passport but told her she must start the entire process all over again! Why is it that my wife can’t become a citizen simply by the fact that she is married to a Croatian? Instead, she must go through the process of being a temporary resident for many years.

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Thanks, Phil!

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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