Wednesday, 25 January 2023

The Ups and Downs of Life in Croatia - Comparison is the Thief of Joy

January the 25th, 2023 - When it comes to life in Croatia, especially for a foreigner, there are many ups and downs that you won't be remotely acquainted with. The special little quirks of life in Croatia (be they good or bad) are the spice of life. Sometimes those spices are invigorating, and other times they just give you diarrhoea.

One trap you will naturally end up falling into, whether you express it or not, is comparing Croatia to your home country. This is something that is absolutely unavoidable and we all do it. Anyone who tells you that they don’t do it is lying. Perhaps they don’t do it anymore, but they are certainly guilty of having done it in the past. It’s completely natural to compare, no matter how often some ‘woke’ yoga instructing faith healer has told you not to on Instagram. No offence to yoga instructing faith healers at all, but you know the type of person I’m referring to, and it’s time we stop trying to pretend human nature can be controlled, because to some extent - it can’t. Comparing things to other things is part of perfectly normal human cognition, and while it isn’t always helpful, there’s little you can do to stop it. The key is to not let it affect you, and for that you need time.

Croatia shocks in many subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. If you’re not used to a country so bizarrely obsessed with paperwork, documents, copies of documents and flashes of ID cards at every semi-official turn, this will more than likely be your first surprise. Many (but not all) countries have moved on from this, and Croatia is also progressing and has been since the coronavirus pandemic forced it to. There are now many more things available to obtain from the comfort of your own home and online, but it would be a lie to say that the country isn’t still clinging on to queues, clerks and pieces of paper. 

While you might find what should be a very simple task to be an arduous, laborious venture full of unhelpful government officials and clerks, you’re also just as likely to find what should be an arduous, laborious venture easy and with a lot of help along the way. Croatia is as much of a country of balance as it is paradoxes. I can’t count how many situations I’ve had that should have been easy turn into ridiculous wild goose chases, and in the same breath, I also can’t count the amount of difficult problems I’ve had made so much more simple. Life in Croatia is a balancing act of sorts, to say the least.

Here’s a funny example for you; I once had to get a certain tax document. I went to the main tax office in Zagreb and a large, burly security guard told me that they don’t do that here. I insisted on speaking to the woman sitting behind the glass like some sort of museum piece for a second opinion. She, annoyed at me having disturbed her game of Angry Birds (and in fairness she was on a high level), confirmed what the aforementioned large, burly security guard had said. I eventually got the document I needed, although nobody from two institutions who should know, the tax office and the finance ministry, seemed to know who was supposed to give it to me (or even what it was). An argument even broke out between three women in one room at another tax office who couldn’t agree on what the document was and who was supposed to provide this document while I just stood there twiddling my thumbs. Explaining everything in Croatian had zero effect.

You’d think the tax office might be able to give you a pretty run of the mill tax document. More fool me, I suppose.

A few weeks later, I had to go to MUP for something which needed quite the explanation, and I had mentally prepared myself for the waiting, the random children running around in circles in an attempt to cure their terminal case of boredom, the clerks getting irritated at people for forgetting documents and the vending machine which, quite like the infamous McDonald’s ice cream machine, appears eternally out of order. 

I entered the building, bypassing the policeman by the door who is paid to stand and do, well, not a lot, taking a number and sitting down. One random circle-running child appeared from behind a pair of jean-clad legs, but I wasn’t made dizzy watching them spin around and around in their boredom for long. Up came my number, I handed over what I had, I was given what I needed, and the clerk barely even looked at me, let alone spoke. I was in and out in ten minutes. No questions (even the ones which should have been) were asked.

I have several such stories. For every bad one, I have a good one. Sometimes two.

I could have let myself get hung up on the whole tax document ordeal and compared it to the UK, where, honestly, not only would you never need to get such a document, but I’m not sure it even exists there. I would be lying if I said that in the throes of my frustration at the time, I didn’t think about how utterly ridiculous this entire quest was, how it was taking up my whole day, how incompetent every person I’d spoken to was, and how this would never happen in Eng… and then I stopped myself. No, that wouldn’t happen, but something else equally as absurd likely could and would.

The administrative bodies in Croatia, even in Zagreb, need a lot of work. Nobody can deny that. There is far too much paperwork, far too many things which require you to show up in person and take time out of your day to do so, and honestly, far, far too many people employed to do next to nothing but enjoy weird little power trips. Think of it like the meme about how many meetings could just be emails, that’s Croatian administrative bodies down to a tee.

For as much as expats complain about how such and such is not like that in their country in a negative sense, there is also such and such which is not like that in their country in a positive sense. Sure, you might be asked to obtain a tax document which not only does the tax office not produce, but apparently nobody has ever heard of. But you might also be pleasantly surprised by a MUP clerk who just wants to get home and who asks you nothing and couldn’t care less about the rules even when you’ve come armed with papers (and copies of said papers) and detailed explanations.

It takes time, a hefty dose of patience and a long exposure to the realities of life in Croatia before you can truly reach Nirvana, which is where you simply accept it for what it is, you pick your battles, and you realise that two realities can co-exist and don’t need to be compared to each other. Dealing with incompetent clerks and difficult-to-navigate rules is a headache wherever you might find yourself, but when you’re enjoying an ice cold cheap beer, looking over the glorious Adriatic to the rugged mountains and watching what Alfred Hitchcock once described as the most beautiful sunset in the entire world, it all seems worth it.

We all live our lives in a kind of process. Things are peeled away gradually, and different ‘levels’ are reached along the way. What we found difficult ten years ago, we likely don’t now. What we spend our time worrying over now, we likely won’t even remember in five years. Getting to know a new country also forces you to get to know yourself. It opens up and exposes parts of you that no other experience could, and forces you to give yourself a long, hard look in the mirror. You might find that you actually don’t particularly like yourself, and while that is a jarring experience, it will open the door to transformations. Nothing builds character like being forced out of your comfort zone, and nothing makes you more self aware than being plunged into unknowns.

Croatia is an onion. It has many layers, some parts of it might appear rotten, and other parts are white and pure. It has taught me many, many things, and while it has well and truly put my pre-Croatia definition of stress to shame, it has also taught me what true appreciation really is. It has taught me that comparison, despite being an unavoidable part of being human, doesn’t have to be given a voice that influences anything, and while there are many things in this country which absolutely do need to be changed, I wouldn’t change that part.

Comparison is definitely the thief of joy, as Theodore Roosevelt once rightly said, but only if you allow it to rob you.

For more on life in Croatia, from tips and tricks about renting a car and using the ferry services to opening a bank account and obtaining citizenship or residence, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section. Our How to Croatia series is published every Wednesday.

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

How to Croatia - New People, Expat Groups, Homesickness and More

January the 18th, 2023 - In this edition of How to Croatia, I'm going to take you through some of the sometimes rather surprising and unpleasant motions (and emotions) living abroad can stir up. From expat groups to dealing with homesickness and more, making it work means getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Remember when you were a kid and it was enough to tell another random kid you’d never met before that you liked his toy dinosaur and that was it, you ended up being friends with no questions asked. How simple life once was. As adults who obsess over our insecurities, what others might think of us, and worst case scenarios, we tend to overcomplicate making connections, especially genuine ones. Spoiled by being older and wiser, we add layers of complexity to things that should be simple, create barriers where there doesn’t need to be any, and sometimes even seek to protect ourselves from discomfort or embarrassment by not putting ourselves out there.

Did you know that we make our minds up about others within about ten seconds of meeting them? It’s subconscious and automatic. This is because back when we were living in caves and trying to avoid being killed by sabre toothed tigers, we didn’t have the time to spend getting to know others on a deeper level. I suppose when your life is all about churning out offspring and becoming old and decrepit at about 25, things like that aren’t quite as important. Times have changed dramatically, but we still tend to make up our minds to a certain degree about others based on the energy we feel from them when we first meet. First impressions are everything, as they say. Meeting people in Croatia might be a bit more complicated because of the language barriers, but deep down - we all speak the same language, and decency transcends everything else.

Many foreigners tend to think Croats are a bit standoffish because they tend not to walk around with beaming smiles plastered across their faces. While people in the UK have even been known to apologise to inanimate objects when bumping into them, you’ll likely not notice that here. Despite typically not being seen grinning from ear to ear, the truth of the matter is that Croatian people would usually give you the shirts off their backs if asked. 

Croats speak English to an extremely impressive standard, but even an attempt at speaking Croatian (which is notoriously difficult and most Croats are aware of that), will win you instant appreciation with most people. A friendly ‘dobar dan’ (good day), ‘dobro jutro’ (good morning) or ‘doviđenja’ (or just ‘đenja’ for short) will elicit a smile and help develop connections. I’ll jump more into language a bit later on.

Expats who like to live their lives in expat bubbles full of their own nationality or indeed different nationalities who have also come to live in Croatia do so understandably. Humans are social animals, we seek out what feels most comfortable, and the craving for something familiar can be extremely strong when spending extended periods of time abroad, and that doesn’t really fade no matter the length of time spent outside your home country. 

I still have cravings for Greggs sausage rolls and every time I go to England, which is every few months or so, I transport myself back in time with the taste of them, proper fish and chips and Irish bacon. My mum’s Sunday dinners are something irreplaceable, and even if they could somehow be made in Croatia, I honestly don’t think I’d want to eat them anywhere else but in my childhood home. I’m going off on a bit of a tangent here (the thought of sausage rolls does have that effect), but my point is that feeling homesick and longing for home comforts isn’t unusual, and what might be a hard pill to swallow is the fact that while it will fade in and out, this will likely never go away. It’s human, and while frustrating, it’s completely natural.

Don’t limit yourself to other expats only

Feeling like you don’t quite belong here (being home) or there (being Croatia) often leads expats in Croatia to associate and build relationships solely with those from their country of origin. While understandable, doing so will limit your understanding of Croatia and Croats enormously. Becoming friendly with the locals will see doors open up to you in a way you might not expect, despite how obvious and logical it might seem to read it. Understanding the country you’re in on any deeper level gives you the opportunity to see the wood from the trees, broaden your horizons and grasp another way of life, even if not entirely. 

While I’m a huge proponent of immersion, I am absolutely aware that saying ‘just speak to people’ is a daunting task and much more easily said than done. Feeling comfortable in a new place is a gradual process which happens over time and isn’t straightforward, so if you’re just interested in meeting others who will more than likely share the same struggles, have the same problems, and be feeling the same feelings as you for now while you get settled and find your feet, I’d recommend introducing yourself to some expat groups. There are several large and very active and helpful ones to be found on - you guessed it - Facebook.

Expat groups

There are expat groups for various locations all over the country, from Osijek to Dubrovnik and everywhere in between, and most of them are very active. Asking questions there will help get you realistic answers from people who have experienced things themselves, introducing yourself there will quickly gain you some friends, and observing what’s posted there will keep you up to date on events and the like which you might not have known about otherwise, especially if you’re still working on learning Croatian.

Expats in Zagreb [Official], Expats meet Split, Dubrovnik Foreign Circle, Expats of Dalmatia, Expats in Dubrovnik, Expats on Brač, Korčula, Hvar Comunita Degli Italiani Spalato, Croatian Australian NZ-ers and Friends in Split, Expats in Trogir, Americans in Croatia, Chilenos en Croacia, Indians in Croatia, Latinos en Croacia, Svenskar i Kroatien, South Africans in Croatia… I could go on, but you probably get my drift. These are just some of the expat groups on Facebook, so you’ll find something that suits you without any problem at all.

There are usually local Croats who are members of these groups, too.

For more on finding your feet in Croatia, be it regarding setting up your health insurance and finding a job and somewhere to live, to driving and learning to avoid snakes and bears, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section and our How to Croatia series, which is published every Wednesday.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

How to Croatia - Croatian LGBTIQ+ Rights, Laws and Organisations

January the 11th, 2023 - In this edition of How to Croatia, I'll take you through the topic of Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights, as well as laws, amendments, and the steps the country has taken as an EU, Eurozone and Schengen member state to align its domestic laws with those of the wider bloc.

Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights have expanded considerably over more recent years, with Gay Pride parades and associated events now generally taking place without much incident, which wasn’t the case at all several years ago. The Croatian Constitution defines marriage as being the union between a man and a woman, and this was determined by a referendum held back in November 2013. While this effectively prohibits same-sex marriage, the status of same-sex relationships in Croatia became formally recognised by the state much earlier (2003) and the introduction of the Life Partnership Act saw same-sex couples entitled to almost all of the rights enjoyed by married heterosexual couples in 2014.

With all this being said and looking half decent on paper, LGBTIQ+ individuals in Croatia still unfortunately have to deal with various challenges that heterosexual individuals don’t, both in a legal and social sense.

A brief history of Croatian LGBTIQ rights

After the Republic of Croatia became recognised as an independent state back during the early 1990s, there wasn’t any advancement in gay rights until the early 2000s when a centre-left coalition took power from the conservative, Christian democratic HDZ party. The coalition passed the aforementioned same-sex union law in 2003, giving full, legal recognition to same-sex relationships. This was an enormous breakthrough by Croatian standards, and it didn’t pass without quite some earthquakes (proverbial ones, of course).

Several laws and directives prohibiting any form of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and self expression have also been introduced over the years. These include a penal code recognising hate crime based on gender identity.

When it comes to the protection of individuals other than gay men and lesbians who also fall under the LGBTIQ+ umbrella, the laws become more difficult to follow, and it does leave one scratching their head quite a lot. Gender transition is absolutely legal in Croatia and the law also allows for a person to change their name and all of the paperwork which would follow such a move. This law includes transgender persons who haven’t undergone gender affirmation surgery yet, or perhaps don’t plan to at all, which is a huge step. The rights of intersex people, however, have not yet been given legal protection in any way.

Constitutional amendments

With considerable help from the Catholic Church, a controversial lobby group called ‘U ime obitelji’ (In the name of the family) ran a very visible campaign against same-sex marriage during the year Croatia joined the EU (2013) in which, among other things, they called for a referendum to introduce changes to the national constitution. The changes they proposed would constitutionally define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, which I touched on above.

The outcome of that referendum was 65.87% of voters supporting the change to the constitution, and 33.51% opposing it. It is worth noting, however, that voter turnout was less than 40%, leading many civil rights groups, particularly those very focused on LGBTIQ+ issues, to point to the issue of the turnout threshold.

Croatia’s Life Partnership Act

Regardless of the aforementioned (and very fraught) campaign by U ime obitelji and its results, the following year, the Croatian Government went ahead and introduced the Life Partnership Act. This established registered civil partnerships, which saw same-sex couples granted equal rights to those of married heterosexual couples. One notable exception was that they wouldn't be given the same adoption rights heterosexual couples enjoy, which may have seemed a bridge too far to the powers that be and has been a burning topic on a regular basis, especially over more recent years.

It has, all in all, been a mixed back indeed. But to say there hasn’t been a very marked shift since Croatia’s European Union membership would be a lie. A left-green coalition entered the Croatian Parliament for the first time in 2020, a great number of its members were from various different civil rights groups, and the coalition very openly supports Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights.

Pride events

The first Pride march happened in the City of Zagreb way back in 2002, taking a very profound place in modern Croatian history as the first high-profile LGBTIQ event ever in what was then a relatively new country. It had just 300 participants, and despite clear government support, they were met with verbal abuse and attempts at violence from homophobic crowds who had gathered on the streets solely to taunt and threaten those taking part. It is an enormous understatement to say that this, the first of many Pride events to hit Zagreb’s streets, did not go well. Despite the atmosphere, Pride continued every June in the Croatian capital, getting more and more public support and reporting less and less incidents with each and every passing year.

2011 rolled around, just two years before Croatia joined the EU, and Pride took to Croatia’s second biggest city - Split. Pride in Dalmatia’s largest city unfortunately ended in physical violence, with attackers significantly outnumbering the event’s actual attendees. The media and general public condemned the Croatian Government and the police for failing to adequately protect those marching from the homophobic crowds. A march of support was held in Rijeka, known as a very progressive city, that very same year.

The terrible events in Split marked a turning point for LGBTIQ+ activism across Croatia. While what happened never should have, it didn’t occur in vain as it prompted more public discussions on this issue which was deemed taboo in Croatia for a very long time than ever before. Shocked by the homophobic attacks on attendees, people who had once been passive bystanders at such events became active allies, determined to never be lumped in with people who would seek to harm others for simply wanting acceptance and to live their own lives how they so wish. More and more well known faces began attending Pride marches and speaking up for the LGBTIQ+ community.

Held just one week after Split Pride, Zagreb Pride in 2011 became the biggest Pride march up until that point. The event had grown considerably from its initial 300 marchers, it was promoted and backed by the media, as well as by some celebrities and Croatian politicians, and remarkably, it took place without any violence.

Then came 2013, the year Croatia joined the EU, and just before it, that year’s Zagreb Pride event. Many people who would otherwise have been passive bystanders grateful to not be affected by this issue readily joined it to express their opposition to the outcome of the referendum of November 2013 regarding the definition of marriage. With 15,000 participants marching and showing public support for LGBTIQ+ rights, it continues to be the biggest Pride event ever held in Croatia.

Croatian LGBTIQ+ organisations

There are a number of organisations dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of various members of the LGBTIQ+ community all across Croatia. LGBTIQ+ centres exist in the large cities of Zagreb, Split and Rijeka. 

The City of Zagreb is home to initiatives such as Zagreb Pride, Iskorak, Kontra, LGBTIQ Initiative AUT, qSPORT and the recently initiated Ponosni Zagreb (Proud Zagreb). Trans Aid protects the rights of trans, intersex and gender-variant persons. Dugine obitelji (Rainbow families) is primarily made up of LGBTIQ parents and those who wish to become parents.

Split Pride is known for their original approach to activism which includes amusing and sarcasm-filled videos uncovering, for example, the absurdity of mainstream reactions to the pride events. QueerANarchive works on developing the queer discourse in and around Split. 

Rijeka is, as I mentioned, known for its progressive stances surrounding a whole host of social issues, and it is no coincidence that one of Croatia’s oldest LGBTIQ+ organisations, LORI, comes from here.

LGBTIQ+ tourism in Croatia

A bit of research placed Croatia as 39th on the list of 150 world's most popular countries for LGBTIQ+ travel. While Croatia may not have a particular strategy for attracting LGBTIQ+ tourists as such, some 200,000 of them visit the country for touristic purposes each and every year.

Given the fact the country heavily relies on tourism as its source of income, with tourism being the strongest economic branch by far, the sentiment of the general public towards LGBTIQ+ individuals is a little more relaxed when it comes to tourists than it is when it comes to the locals. This isn’t necessarily to say that busy tourist destinations full of various nationalities and accommodation providers are more LGBTIQ+-friendly, they’re simply less concerned about who they provide their services to than they are about making their profit.

Renting out accommodation as a same-sex couple should generally not be a problem at all. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression is 100% illegal in Croatia. There were unfortunate cases of private landlords refusing to rent their properties to same-sex couples, and they got ripped apart for it by the media and nearly sank their only flow of income into the ground. Being homophobic and caring what others do in their bedrooms isn’t really the best business move in 21st century Europe.

Which destinations are the most welcoming to LGBTIQ+ tourists?

Rijeka is hailed as the most open city in Croatia and has been for a very long time. It is home to a very diverse range of people, and many more progressive people from other places across the country move to live there precisely because it appears, at least in some aspects, to be a step or two ahead of other cities. One of Croatia’s key port cities, the home of the torpedo (no, really) has always had a reputation of being a vibrant and diverse place despite its largely industrial past. The city’s slogan for the Rijeka – European Capital of Culture 2020 project was ‘Port of Diversity’ for a very good reason. Kvarner, the region in which Rijeka is located, and nearby Istria are both traditionally known as the most tolerant parts of Croatia, with most parts of Dalmatia still lagging behind.

The island of Rab, which markets itself as the ‘island of happy people’, lies in the very north of Dalmatia and is considered to be one of the first openly gay-friendly destinations in Croatia, holding the title since the 1980s, when it certainly wasn’t a popular thing to proclaim, however quietly. In 2011, this island which is known for its beaches officially became the first place in all of the Republic of Croatia to very openly promote itself as a gay-friendly tourist destination.

I mentioned that Dalmatia is still lagging in this area, and while that is true if you were to compare it with the likes of Rijeka and Kvarner, the City of Split is becoming increasingly open to different types of visitors. Dubrovnik is also among the most accepting destinations. Back in 2020, the first gay music festival was to be held at the world-famous Zrće beach on the island of Pag. It wasn’t homophobes who threw a spanner in the works in this case, but a global pandemic.

Public displays of affection and things to note

Gay is very much OK in Croatia on paper, and as time goes on, this is the case more and more in reality, too, but it is always best to exercise your judgement and pay attention to your surroundings. Major cities, especially the Zagreb, Kvarner and Istria areas, are generally more open, as is Dubrovnik in the extreme south. However, public displays of affection are still not common – even among the local LGBTIQ+ population, who are usually discreet when it comes to this. There are homophobes and hostile, ignorant people all over the world, and Croatia is unfortunately no exception.

If you’re planning to see some selos (villages), travel to more rural areas or head off the beaten path to some less frequented locations, have your wits about you and don’t engage in PDA too much. 

If you do end up being faced with any sort of homophobic abuse, be it verbal or otherwise, do not hesitate to contact the local police. You’ll more than likely find more of an alliance than you might expect. This is especially the case if it comes from an accommodation provider. Report them.

To sum this article up, I've watched Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights over the last few years absolutely blossom. The vast majority of people in Croatia have no issue with what other people do. It wouldn’t be true to say that Croatia is at the level of certain other European countries such as the UK or Germany when it comes to acceptance levels, after all, this is a Catholic country with many people still identifying as religious, but it has certainly come on leaps and bounds, and that is likely to continue to be the trajectory.

For more on living in and moving to Croatia, as well as tips and tricks to avoid the crowds and save a kuna euro or two when it comes to things like renting cars, driving and hopping on the ferry during summer, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Sunday, 8 January 2023

5 Things I Advise New Arrivals Moving to Croatia

January 8, 2023 - Thinking of moving to Croatia? Looking for a little advice from a foreigner who has been here for 20 years? Five things I advise new arrivals coming to live in Croatia.

Croatia is a wonderful place to live, although it is certainly not easy. Having lived here for 20 years, I have made all the mistakes possible - and more - and have been very frustrated by a number of things.

In order to lessen the pain for those coming after more with plans of living in Croatia, here are 5 things I advise people to take into consideration when moving to Croatia, in order to have a better experience. Want to learn more about the realities of living in this flawed but majestic country? Our new book, Croatia, a Survival Guide for Foreigners is now available on Amazon.

And there is a little bonus at the end as well, if - like me - you happen to be a beer drinker.

Many thanks for all your support on my little YouTuber journey so far. I have to admit it is a lot of fun, and I do feel humbled by the level of interest, subscriptions, and comments. Keep them coming. If you have not seen the channel yet, it is called Paul Bradbury Croatia Expert, and we will be posting two videos a week minimum, covering all aspects of life as a foreigner in Croatia, after my last fabulous 20 years here. You can subscribe 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.

Subscribe to the Paul Bradbury Croatia & Balkan Expert YouTube channel.

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

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Wednesday, 4 January 2023

How to Croatia - Why You Absolutely Should Learn the Language

January the 4th, 2023 - In this edition of How to Croatia, we're going to be exploring the reasons why you should make the effort to learn the language, and that Croats having an excellent grasp of English should never a be a get out of jail free card.

I’ll be frank, learning Croatian is difficult unless you happen to have a Slavic language as your mother tongue. It has been listed as among the most difficult languages to pick up in the world on multiple occasions, and I’ll also be frank when I say many expats don’t bother trying to learn it. Do you absolutely need to be able to speak Croatian? Honestly, no. You’d get by. I’ve mentioned that the English language proficiency among Croats is very high. Should you learn to speak Croatian? Yes. And not only because it is the respectful thing to do when living in a country where Croatian is the official language, but because it will help you to adapt in a way that nothing else even comes close to.

Do you need to be fluent? Absolutely not. Croats are (unless the person is very ignorant to the world) aware that Croatian is difficult to learn. That said, as I mentioned before, any attempt at learning shows respect and will be greatly appreciated and even admired if you manage to get a bit more advanced with your skills. 

It’s true when they say that the earlier you begin learning something, the more quickly and easily you’ll master it. Croatian kids converse very well in English, many of them take extra lessons outside of school, and a lot of them enjoy watching YouTube videos by American content creators and reading books written by British authors. I’ve met Croatian kids who actually don’t even like to speak in Croatian, choosing to instead speak in English among themselves, and lapping up the chance to practice to what is often fluency. 

Given the fact that the English language is so desired and so widely spoken across the world, those who have English as a first language often speak only that. That of course isn’t always the case and claiming so would be a wild generalisation, but at age 13 with raging hormones and wondering whether or not Darren from the year above fancies you or not, it isn’t really the best time to soak up the ability to tell everyone what you did on holiday in French. This puts Brits especially at a disadvantage when it comes to properly learning foreign languages.

Croatian is made up of dialects, there are three main ones; Kajkavian, Shtokavian, and Chakavian, but the reality is that the way in which people speak can alter from town to town, let alone region to region. Someone from Brač (or as they call it - Broč) will struggle to understand someone from Zagorje, and vice versa. The way the time is told in some parts of the country is different from in another, and Dalmatian is a language with many unfortunately near-extinct words of its own. Did I mention that Dubrovnik language is also one of its own in many respects? Don’t get me started on different words being used on different islands which are a mere stone’s throw away from each other. There are words that the now dying generation use which, when they depart this life, will tragically go with them.

Some words in Croatian are so similar to each other in how they sound but mean wildly different things. Proljev is diarrhoea, and preljev is dressing. I cannot imagine a salad slathered in the former would be all that appealing. A friend once accidentally called her mother in law (svekrva) her ‘sve kurva’ (kurva means whore). Another person I know once said he had a headache (boli me glava), but ended up saying ‘glavić’ instead, which is part of the male sex organ. Given that ‘glava’ means head, you can probably guess which part ‘glavić’ is. My point is that this is a language which is intricate, and the little things make a big difference.

Croatian is a very colourful language. The ways people swear in this country and the creativity used is quite the art form in itself. The genitals of sheep, mice and Turkish people are dropped into conversations quite casually, and people refer to things being easy as a ‘cat’s cough’ or even as ‘p*ssy smoke’. I’ll be here all day if I carry on and explain all of their meanings, but rest assured, Croatian makes up for its infuriating difficulties with its imaginative creativity.

How do I begin learning Croatian?

Turn on your TV, your radio, and start reading news in Croatian language. You’d be surprised how much information having the radio or TV on in the background actually puts into your brain without you even actually listening. Children’s books are also extremely helpful if you’re starting from scratch.

Find a private Croatian teacher

Word of mouth and expat groups are your friend here. People are always looking for Croatian teachers and seeking recommendations for them. One question in an expat group will likely land you with several names of teachers with whom other users have had good experiences and progress with their language skills. Some teachers hold small classes, some do lessons over Skype, Zoom or another similar platform, and others will meet one on one. 

Language exchanges

There are also language exchanges offered informally, where a Croat will teach you Croatian in exchange for you teaching them English, German, French, Spanish, or whatever language is in question. You both help each other learn the other’s skill, and it is a very equal affair.

Take a Croatian language course

Certain faculties and Croatian language schools, such as Croaticum, offer Croatian language and culture courses for foreigners. Did you know that you can also apply for residence based on studying here? There are different types of courses available and at reasonable prices. Some of them are even free! From semester-long courses on language and culture spanning 15 weeks and over 200 lessons to one month courses of 75 lessons spanning 4 weeks, there is something for everyone, depending on how much time they can or want to put into it. There are also others which offer Croatian language courses online, such as HR4EU, Easy Croatian, the Sputnik Croatian Language Academy, CLS and more.

If you have a Croatian partner, don’t rely entirely on them

Have them help you to learn, but don’t completely rely on them to the point that they’re your buffer stopping you from attempting to learn and improve. Many expats make this error, and their Croatian spouse actually ends up becoming an unwilling barrier to them picking up at least bits of the language in their perfectly noble attempts at helping. Stick some notes on household items with their names in Croatian. You’ll be calling a bed a krevet, a door a vrata, a wall a zid, a floor a pod, a window a prozor and a glass a čaša (or a žmul, if you want to take a step even further and learn a little old Dalmatian), in no time.

Age is a factor, so don’t run before you can walk

It isn’t a popular thing to say, but age does play a role when it comes to learning new skills, whatever they may be. Kids soak up new languages like sponges because their brains are developing, but with each passing year of our lives, that sponge gets a little bit drier. Croatian isn’t Spanish, it has very complex rules which are unlike what native English speakers have grown up using. You might find that you never truly master Croatian, and you might also feel as if you’re behind and not picking it up as quickly as you’d like to. This is normal, and it’s fine. Moving to or spending any significant amount of time in another country is a huge shift and for some people, throwing themselves into learning the language is last on the list in comparison to working out how to make ends meet or set up their lives. Nobody should be shamed for not having the same priorities as others might have. For some people, being a polyglot is just part of their nature, for others, it just isn’t. Patience is a virtue. Many expats will tell you that they understand much more Croatian than they’re able to speak, and if you can reach that level (which takes a while), you’re already much more than halfway there.

If you’re a member of the Croatian diaspora, the State Office for Croats Abroad has has scholarships available

If you’re a member of the Croatian diaspora, even if you don’t have Croatian citizenship and don’t have any intention of moving to or working in Croatia, you can still learn Croatian in various locations in Croatia and reconnect with your family’s roots and heritage.

I’m a translator. I translate from Croatian into English all day long, I could talk about my love and endless interest in linguistics all day (so I’ll stop now) and I can tell you that the two languages are very different in almost every aspect. It will not come easily, but genuine desire and consistent effort will surprise you with its results. Listen to Croatian, watch things in Croatian with English subtitles, have your spouse, friends and Croatian family members help you, don’t fear making mistakes and your confidence will grow. You will get there.

For more How to Croatia articles, which explore living in and moving to Croatia and span everything from getting health insurance to taking your dog on a ferry, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 21 December 2022

How to Croatia - The Lowdown on Purchasing Croatian Property

December the 21st, 2022 - When it comes to purchasing Croatian property, there are (rather unsurprisingly) numerous things to note. Some of them are very, very important. From lawyers to the Ministry of Justice and zoning (read on, it will make sense eventually) - here's what you need to know.

First of all, foreigners are able to buy property in Croatia, with more and more of them snapping up real estate on the glorious Adriatic coast and using them as summer homes or indeed renting them out as a way to make back what is usually a heft investment. While this more than understandably bothers certain locals who have genuine fears about being outnumbered or priced out of where they come from, there is a healthy mix of foreign and domestic owned property up and down the coast and on the islands.

It isn’t a surprise that Croatia attracts so many foreigners (and their wallets), and while I’ve mentioned the natural pull of the sparkling coast, many foreign nationals also purchase apartments in Zagreb, quaint houses in the rolling hills of Gorski kotar, and even old cottages in far-flung villages. You don’t need to plan to move here at all in order to making purchasing Croatian property a reality and owning a little piece of this country, but you do need to keep the rules and some restrictions in mind before taking the plunge. 

Croatian nationals

If you’re a member of the Croatian diaspora, either living here or living abroad with zero intentions of packing your life into a few suitcases and moving here, and you have Croatian citizenship, you are of course treated exactly like anyone else who has the same document and has been born, raised, and is living in Croatia. There are no restrictions on what you can purchase or where, and you don’t need to seek any special permissions from anyone when it comes to purchasing Croatian property.

EEA/EU citizens

As an EEA citizen, you’re treated in the same way as a Croatian national would be. You’re free when it comes to purchasing Croatian property whether you live here or not. There is one catch, however, as EEA citizens cannot purchase anything listed as agricultural land, this is set out in the Law on Agricultural Land. 

What does that mean?

No foreign nationals can purchase agricultural land at this moment in time. This will expire in the future, with the date being pinned down at this moment in time as June 2023. This is currently the case (and has been ever since Croatia joined the EU) as part of a seven-year transitional period in which Croatia chose to maintain its restrictions on the sale of anything classed as agricultural land to foreign nationals. 

Until then, foreigners can purchase land listed as agricultural land if they open a Croatian company, list themselves as the owners, and purchase it through their Croatian company.

Third country nationals and British citizens

When it comes to purchasing Croatian property as a third country national, you’ve got more of a task on your hands. You’ll need to inform the Ministry of Justice and seek their consent before any property sale can go through. Be prepared to wait, it can take months. 

Once you do own a property, you can’t rent it out unless you open a Croatian company and do it through the company. This is costly and is absolutely not worth the hassle, time and potential problems you’ll likely run into.

The same rules apply to you in regard to the Law on Agricultural Land in that you cannot purchase it. You can’t purchase forested land, or any property considered to be a cultural monument. 

British nationals

'Can Brits purchase Croatian property?' is a question that I see often, and the answers provided are somewhat vague. Given that the United Kingdom is no longer an EU member state, British citizens are no longer EU citizens, meaning that certain rights which were once afforded to them merely by being the holders of British passports no longer apply.

Up until February the 1st, 2020, ironically just before the coronavirus pandemic reached Europe and caused havoc like we've never seen before, Brits could purchase property in Croatia as they were EU citizens. The same continued to be true between that aforementioned date and the 31st of December, 2020, during a transition period when all EU law continued to apply to the UK as it slowly made its way out of the bloc of which it had been a leading, powerful and wealthy member for over 40 years. 

During the UK's transition period out of the EU, British (and as such EU) nationals were free to purchase Croatian property without having to get any particular permissions and without having to engage in anything out of the ordinary. This applied to all property with the exception of what was classed as 'property and real estate in protected areas' and agricultural land. Then came January the 1st, 2021, and everything changed for Britain. That was the real D-Day, when the UK ceased to be a member of any kind of the EU, the transition period ended at midnight (Central European Time) on the 31st of December, 2020.

The answer to the question: Can Brits purchase Croatian property? was expected to change, but it didn't alter all that much. In short, yes they can, but that desired property absolutely needs to be classed as a residential property, and for that it must be in a certain 'zone'. This is all based on reciprocity agreements held between the Republic of Croatia and various other countries, and this functions in the British sense much like it did before Croatia joined the EU back in July 2013.

A tip for looking this sort of agreement up in Croatian would be to Google: Uzajamnost za stjecanje prava vlasništva na nekretninama u Republici Hrvatskoj.

It sounds a little bit complicated, but in reality it isn't. If a Croatian citizen can buy property in a certain country, then the citizens of whatever country that might be can typically do the same in Croatia, with certain conditions attached in each specific case. You also do not need to register as a resident of Croatia in order to buy a property here, as I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter.

So, what needs to be done?

Consent for the acquisition of ownership rights over Croatian property by foreign citizens who aren't nationals of the EU/EEA requires what everyone in Croatia just adores - an administrative procedure. A Brit intending to buy a property here must first make a request to the Ministry of Justice.

In the case of a British citizen who isn't protected by the Withdrawal Agreement wanting to purchase a property here, this procedure is conducted at their request to purchase real estate. That real estate needs to be 'zoned' as residential.

The procedure is laid down in the provisions of the Act on Ownership and Other Real Rights and the Act on General Administrative Procedure. A mouthful, I know. Any submitted application must be written and then be submitted to the Registry and Archives Department. This can be done by post to the following address:

Croatian: Ministarstvo pravosuđa i uprave Republike Hrvatske, 

Uprava za građansko, trgovačko i upravno pravo

Ulica grada Vukovara 49, 10000, Zagreb, Grad Zagreb, Republika Hrvatska

English: The Ministry of Justice and Public Administration of the Republic of Croatia,

The Directorate for Civil, Commercial and Administrative Law

City of Vukovar Street 49, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia

The following documents must be enclosed along with your (written) application form:

An acceptable legal basis for the acquisition of ownership (this can be a property purchase agreement, the deeds proving the property has been gifted to you, etc). These documents can be in their original form, or they can be certified copies.

Proof of ownership from the seller of the property, such as a copy from the land register confirming their ownership.

A certificate of the administrative body responsible for urban and physical planning, according to the location of the property, on the legal status of the property.

Proof of the prospective owner's nationality (such as a certified copy of their passport showcasing their citizenship) or proof of legal entity status (evidence with a copy from the court register) if the prospective owner is a foreign legal entity.

When the applicant is represented by an attorney-in-fact, the original power of attorney or a certified copy thereof must be submitted.

In certain cases, additional documentation will be sought from would-be buyers of Croatian property. It all depends on the individual request. 

So, in short, the answer to Can Brits purchase Croatian property? is a resounding yes, given that all of the requirements for reciprocity have long been met. This was of course helped not only by the UK's recent EU membership, but also by the fact that Croatia is the EU's youngest member state and that many bilateral agreements between the UK and Croatia before Croatian EU accession were long-standing and clear.

Check the property records

This is a very important step that needs to be taken when purchasing Croatian property. There are many properties in Croatia which are the subjects of ownership disputes and these can go on for donkey’s years, as they say in the UK. Doing your due diligence can help you avoid any unpleasant surprises as you go through the purchase process. You really, really don’t want to deal with any Croatian institution for longer than is absolutely necessary and the biggest wet blanket in the world would come in the form of inheriting a list of problems as long as your arm while trying to enjoy your new little slice of Croatia.

How do I check the public records for a property?

There are two ways to do this. One is by checking the Land Registry, or through Cadastre.

The information that you can access through these platforms are the purpose of the property you’ve got your eye (and maybe your wallet) on, the name(s) of the owners and certain pieces of information about them, such as their OIBs (although this isn’t always shown), where they live (or at least their registered addresses), the size of the property and any accompanying land, and if there are any ownership disputes or other problems going on.

Make sure your desired property is zoned as residential!

When purchasing Croatian property, you need to make sure your desired property is zoned as residential, and unfortunately this information isn’t freely available with a few clicks online. To find out how any particular property is zoned, you need to send a request to the Administrative Department for Construction and Physical Planning (Upravni odjel za graditeljstvo i prostorno uređenje).

If you are not a Croatian citizen, you’ll need to pay a small fee for this and you need to request a certificate stating the property’s zone as residential.

Things to note

Engage a lawyer when purchasing Croatian property. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t try to navigate these (sometimes, alright, often) murky waters without professional legal assistance.

Have your wits about you. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If your gut is telling you something doesn’t seem quite right, it probably isn’t. Ask, ask, and ask again. Then ask your lawyer three more times.

When it comes to purchasing contracts, it will usually be your lawyer (as the buyer) who prepares everything. Everything, including the terms of the purchase, will be very clearly outlined in order to protect you and your hard earned cash. You’ll need to visit a notary (javni bilježnik) to have copies of the contract notarised.

Your lawyer will explain all of the fees to you as you go through the process, as there are several that act as guarantees for both parties, as well as how to obtain the certificate of ownership at the end of the process.

For more on How to Croatia, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

How to Croatia - Getting Around on Land, at Sea and in the Air

December the 14th, 2022 - In this edition of How to Croatia, let's explore the numerous ways you can get from point A to point B (and to the points dominated by a few other letters, as well), be that by using the roads, maritime transport, or the air.

For such a small country, Croatia has numerous transport options which are generally very good. An array of bus companies, both domestic and foreign, operate on Croatia’s roads, and while Croatian trains are another kettle of fish entirely, bus, maritime and even domestic air connections and the ease of which public transport generally works is praiseworthy for such a small nation which doesn’t exactly have huge sums of cash to blow on it.

Bus services

Jumping on a bus in most places across Croatia is often the most efficient way of getting from A to B, and to a few other letters should you so wish. Croatia’s overall bus network is extremely comprehensive, and even the smallest villages are usually still connected. This is very impressive when you think of far richer countries such as the UK which has horrifically poor bus connections the further north you move, with some rural villages being almost entirely cut off.

Generally faster than the train (for reasons we’ll delve into later on), buses are the main travel choice for tourists and locals alike. Journey times are mostly reasonably quick on direct routes, but do be aware that bus journeys from let’s say… Dubrovnik to Zagreb, do take a while. Nobody can do much about that distance.

Online information on bus options is constantly improving and has done quite remarkably over the last few years, as is the option of buying tickets online. Expect to stop at least once on longer journeys, which will be welcome news for smokers, those who really need to stretch their legs and those in need of a toilet.

From Flixbus to Čazmatrans, a fantastic way to learn all you could possibly want to know about bus services in Croatia, from local lines which get you from A to B to large companies taking you to one end of the country and back again or indeed outside of its borders, is to pay a visit to the website Get By Bus (getbybus.com), and then enter ‘Croatia’.

Trams

Zagreb’s trams are without a doubt the most famous Croatian trams, but there is another city which boasts this handy and very environmentally friendly method of getting around too - Osijek. Trams were once present in both Istria and Dalmatia, with a very beloved (and very charming) one once operating down in Dubrovnik, but unfortunately they are a thing of the past.

As touched on above, the City of Zagreb has a very well developed central electric tram network called Zagreb Electric Tram, or ZET for short. These trams are generally blue, but also come in other colours, and sometimes with imagery promoting everything from Zagreb University to Gavrilović meat products. They make their way through the streets in all directions like a steel snake slithering through a concrete jungle during the day and late into the night. You can get from just about anywhere to anywhere else in Zagreb using the tram network, and timetables can be found at tram stops dotted all over the city or by visiting ZET’s website (zet.hr), and selecting English (EN) as your preferred language.

It’s worth noting that ZET also runs Zagreb city bus services, and those buses are of course also blue.

Further east in the City of Osijek, the only tram network still in existence outside of the capital is a favourite method of public transport. Having begun way back in the 1880s as a horse-car tram line, this way of getting around is still going strong. All information and timetables can be obtained by visiting gpp-osijek.com and searching ‘vozni red tramvaja’ (tram timetable).

Renting a car

There are many rental car companies dotted all over Croatia, and during the tourist season it’s always a bit of a game when driving along the motorway to count the amount of them you see. In Croatia, all driving licences are accepted, but if your licence is printed using a non-Latin script for instance in Cyrillic, Arabic or Chinese, you will need to get an International Driver's Permit (IDP). An IDP can only be obtained before you leave your own country, usually with the country's automotive association or a similar institution. You’ll also need to be 21 or older.

Crossing borders in a rented Croatian car

There’s usually no problem at all with taking a rental car across an international border, but the best thing to do is to specifically check with your rental company. You should also check the insurance situation if you intend to leave the European Economic Area (EEA) and visit neighbouring Montenegro or Serbia, neither of which are EEA member states. A green card will usually be required if you intend to do this and most rental companies in Croatia will have this included in the price because of how common it is for people to drive in and out of these countries, but definitely check before you book. There was a requirement to have the green card for Bosnia and Herzegovina as well, but it isn’t required any more. This is good news for many drivers as crossing into Bosnia and Herzegovina from Croatia and back again is very common.

Is it possible to organise one-way car rental in Croatia?

Yes, and it’s a very popular thing to do. This can be an extremely cost effective way of travelling if you’re in a small group, and journeys such as Split to Dubrovnik or even Dubrovnik to Zagreb are good examples of popular one-way rental routes. It may also be possible to do one-way rentals across borders in some situations but you must absolutely check with your car rental company before you book, and let them know your plans.

Things to note

Due to the sheer amount of companies offering car rental services across the country, do shop around. It’s wise to organise a plan with a rental car away from the airport, as what you might deem to be more convenient will almost always be more expensive. You will get a better deal elsewhere in almost every single circumstance.

If you are planning on crossing borders, make your plans explicitly clear and ask for confirmation that this won’t be a problem. Each company has its own set of rules and what they are willing or not willing to facilitate. Don’t leave it up to chance.

On a less serious note, if you do rent a car and want to see parts of the country (especially down by the coast) that you wouldn’t usually get to, skip the motorway and take the old road. It takes longer, but you’ll get to see some absolutely jaw dropping mountain and coastal scenery and visit some places along your route you’d otherwise bypass entirely by jumping onto the motorway. You won’t regret doing this, I promise.

Maritime travel

Being a country with a history so inextricably tied to the sea, Croatia naturally has some excellent connections with ferries and catamarans, not to mention water taxis, from the mainland to the islands. 

Incredible sunsets, gorgeous mountain views with the breeze blowing through your hair, nothing quite beats ferry travel on the Adriatic. Alternatively, the quicker catamarans cutting through pristine Croatian waters taking you to your next destination can be exhilarating. While jumping on a boat may seem like a carefree thing, unless you’re seasick of course, there are a few things worth bearing in mind, and a few pieces of advice worth taking on board (no pun intended), before you head off on your Adriatic adventure. Just a few minutes invested in learning how things work might save you hours in ferry queues in the scorching summer when, trust me, hanging around boiling alive isn’t much fun.

Let's start with the main player, the Big Daddy, if you will - Jadrolinija

Jadrolinija (Adriatic line) is by far the most well known and largest company engaged with the transport of people and cars between the mainland and the islands. This Croatian shipping company is headquartered in Rijeka, is state-owned and was founded in 1947 in that same Kvarner city.

Whether you want to get from Dubrovnik to the nearby islands, from Makarska to Brač or from Split or Zadar to Ancona or Bari in Italy, this company is where you need to be looking. You can find all of their timetables on their website (jadrolinija.hr). You can book online and purchase tickets on the Jadrolinija mobile application (app). Jadrolinija’s ferries are surprisingly punctual but summer and the crowds can cause delays. If things are problematic, the company usually puts more ferries into operation on particularly busy lines.

The Jadrolinija ferry schedule changes with the seasons, meaning that there is a summer and a winter schedule. The winter schedule usually starts in later October and runs until late May. During this time, there is a severe reduction in ferry services to the islands, even the busiest and most popular ones. If you’re planning on doing some out of season travel, you should plan extra time to travel between the islands. Things pick up again in May with the summer schedule, with even more crossings during the peak summer season weeks.

Ferry or catamaran? That is the question!

There are several key differences between jumping on a ferry or a catamaran in Croatia when planning your Adriatic sea journey. If you’re travelling with a car, then the catamaran is not an option at all, for example. Another example is that smoking is not permitted inside a ferry, but you can smoke outside on the deck. Catamaran journeys are almost always without an option to go outside.

While catamarans (the company you need to look for in this regard is Krilo/krilo.hr) are undoubtedly quicker, they are also typically more susceptible to cancellation due to bad weather conditions. If you’re planning on taking pets or bicycles on board, both are no problem at all if you’re going to take the ferry. But both are problematic if not totally impossible on some catamarans.

Things to note

While it is relatively simple to get from Croatia to Italy, getting to other Adriatic or Ionian countries is quite poor. There has been talk for years, for example, of establishing a route between Croatia and the popular Albanian port of Durres, but nothing has been set in stone so far. There is also no connection to either Montenegro or Greece, with Corfu in particular being an interesting and wildly popular destination not currently served in any way at all.

Facilities on board vary a lot, depending on both the season you’re travelling and the route you’re travelling.

Most ferries and catamarans will have at least some form of refreshment, usually in the form of overpriced drinks, pringles and sandwiches which consist of cheese or ham, or ham or cheese, or ham and cheese, or cheese and ham… You get the idea. You can typically only pay in cash and the ATMs on board usually rip you off or simply don’t work at all. I know I’m probably not selling this mode of transport to you, but it’s worth mentioning as you will save yourself a decent amount of money if you buy your food and drink before you board. You can take it on board with you without a problem.

WiFi does exist on some ferries, especially on larger vessels running on popular lines, but it can be erratic and unreliable, especially when the journey passes through weaker signal areas out on the open sea.

There are toilets on board all ferries and catamarans operating in Croatian waters. Although I definitely wouldn’t say they are the cleanest or most modern in the world, they do get the job done, or perhaps it’s better to say that they allow you to.

It is very important to note that if you buy a ticket as a foot passenger, you’ll be guaranteed a space on the vessel, but with cars, it’s all about where you are in the queue. During the peak season, that means you might be waiting a while.

Buying tickets online and offline

Like much of the rest of the country, Jadrolinija was also living in the dark ages and resisting entering the digital age until quite recently. It finally brought in the option to buy tickets online several years ago. All ferry companies now offer online sales through their websites, and as I mentioned a while ago, Jadrolinija now even has an app!

One useful tip, especially on popular routes such as Split to Hvar which can sell out quickly, is that if the boat is going on to another destination, a percentage of the tickets should be allocated for the final destination. So if Hvar is sold out, ask for a ticket to the next place and jump off on Hvar. It may cost you a little more, but your time, if not your money, will be saved.

Pets, bikes and cigarettes

You can take pets and bikes on ferries but there are restrictions on both on catamarans. Bikes are not allowed on catamarans while pets can go aboard under specific conditions. For regular ferries, such as those operated by Jadrolinija, you don't have to pay anything for having your pet with you. Any damage your pets do when on board the ferry is your responsibility, and they must not pose any sort of danger to other passengers. Animals aren't allowed inside, with the exception of guide dogs. Dogs must always be on a leash, while cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, mice (the list goes on) must remain in their pet transporters.

Some catamarans will transport your pets but only if they have conditions which include cages or pet transporters in which they can be held for the duration of the journey. You’ll also usually have to buy your pet a ticket, the price of which is the same as for regular (human) passengers.

Smoking inside is forbidden on both ferries and catamarans, and as there is no outside access on the catamaran at all, this means that there is no smoking at all, either. That said, you may smoke freely out on the deck on the ferry.

Air travel

For such a small country, it is remarkably well connected by air. Domestic flights operated by Croatia Airlines are a regular sight in the skies heading from Dubrovnik to Zagreb and back again, and this 50 minute (ish) flight is very popular, as is the even shorter flight between the capital and Split.

There is also Trade Air, which is a small Croatian passenger and cargo charter airline which was founded back in 1994 and based at Zagreb International Airport. Its primary activities are operating passenger charter flights and cargo operations.

Of course, Croatia is extremely well connected to a wide variety of European cities as well, and while this is especially true during the summer months, it’s true to a great extent for the majority of the year, particularly if you’re travelling from Zagreb International Airport.

Domestic flights

During Croatia Airlines’ summer flight schedule at this moment in time, and likely for the foreseeable future, you can fly to…

Zagreb from Pula, Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik and even from the island of Brač which has its own airport.

Split from Zagreb and Osijek

Dubrovnik from Zagreb and Osijek

Pula from Zagreb and Zadar

Zadar from Pula and Zagreb

Brač from Zagreb

Osijek from Split and Dubrovnik

The flight schedule is of course subject to change, but for the current schedule at any time of year, which includes domestic flights, head to the Croatia Airlines website and select ‘current flight schedule’ which also offers more detailed information and will let you know of any changes as and when they happen.

International flights

Croatia Airlines is very far from the only one connecting Croatia with the rest of Europe. With Ryanair now more or less totally dominating, cheap flights from Croatia to an incredible array of European destinations are now very easily accessible. During the summer months, a huge number of carriers from across the continent fly to and from Croatian airports up and down the nation, and there is never a problem getting into the country. During the winter months, while things do generally thin out, especially for Dalmatia and Istria, getting to Zagreb is just as easy as it is during summer, with the likes of Croatia Airlines and Ryanair flying from Zagreb International Airport to many major European cities and the likes of London Heathrow and London Stansted on a daily basis.

This is an extremely easy thing to Google (or jump onto Skyscanner) for, so I won’t go into the tiny details which can of course change, but put it this way, British Airways, Air France, Ryanair, Croatia Airlines, Lufthansa, KLM, Jet2, easyJet and more all offer direct flights into Croatia, and that’s just some of them.

Taxis

There are a number of taxi companies operating in Croatia and the market is very liberalised (which was a thorn in the side for some at first). There are many apps you can download, and of course there’s the much loved Uber. Bolt is a favourite taxi service in Zagreb in particular, as is Cammeo. Both of these services have apps which are easily downloaded, and you can link your bank card so that when you book, you pay and you don’t need to worry about looking for change in your pocket when you’re dropped off. You can also follow the car you’ve ordered as it makes its way to you, you’ll be told the time it will need to get there, and you’ll be told the name of the driver (with a photo), the car’s licence plate number, and the type of car coming. Like with Uber, most taxi companies big enough to have apps will also give you the opportunity to choose the size of vehicle you need, as well as approximate prices.

Things to note

As with just about anywhere, there are private taxi companies operating in Croatia which seek to do little else but rip you off. This is especially the case if you’re travelling from a Croatian airport to your destination and you’ve hopped in a taxi waiting like a vulture just outside arrivals. Try to avoid this unless you have absolutely no other choice. This is advice that probably applies anywhere and is a trend most prominent in tourist hotspots such as Dubrovnik and Split.

Some companies which are larger and have apps have fixed rates to take you TO the airport.

Trains

Croatia does of course have a rail network, but it has faced endless issues. Train drivers and other staff simply not turning up to work, falling asleep and so on has happened (and will likely happen again). They take a very long time to reach their destinations, the system has suffered a great lack of investment over the years and while Croatia does have high hopes to alter this, especially given the fact that the European Union is pushing for more and more electric, environmentally friendly methods of transport (meaning trains), it will take a long time before Croatia catches up with certain other European nations. I’ll be honest and tell you to avoid travelling by train in Croatia, there are so many other options (and great roads!) which will be more satisfying to you. If you’re set on travelling this way despite these warnings, your best bet is to check out www.interrail.eu and choose Croatia by Rail.

For more on Living in Croatia and Moving to Croatia, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Saturday, 10 December 2022

Moving to Croatia - How to Find a Croatian Apartment or House

December the 10th, 2022 - So you've decided to take the plunge and explore living in Croatia. Just as a snail needs a shell, you'll need a house. Here's how to find a Croatian apartment or house, with a few tips and tricks thrown in.

If you’ve already applied (and hopefully been granted) residence in Croatia, then you’ve already got a place to live, as you need to have a Croatian address to apply, and you can skip this article.

Looking for somewhere to live anywhere can be a task and a half, let alone in a foreign land where you more than likely don’t speak the language, or nowhere near enough of it to navigate this alone. There are multiple ways in which you can do this in Croatia, both formally and informally. If you’re here because you’re being employed, this may not be an issue if you’re being provided with accommodation, or if your employer is helping you out with your quest. There are many Facebook groups which offer apartments and even houses for rent and sale without the need for a middle man or intermediary to get involved in the process. There is also Njuškalo, a platform where you can sell just about anything.

Unlike many other European countries, an unfurnished apartment is an exception, not a rule in many places in Croatia, particularly in the City of Zagreb. That said, the glossy wide-angle photos that have caught your eye on social media or a website might not be quite up to date, so always go and see the apartment in person before committing to anything. This is a general rule anywhere in the world, of course.

Check if your potential living quarters has all the appliances that you’ll need (such as a washing machine, stove, fridge. If it hasn’t, make sure to ask if the landlord is willing to purchase them. You can also hire a real estate agency to help you out with your search, but in that case, you will probably end up paying a lot more money. If you’re a foreigner, and you probably are if you’re reading this, then hiring a lawyer could be a useful extra investment if the cash is there. They’ll be able to fully explain all the details of the contract to you and make sure you understand everything, especially if the contract isn’t in English and if the owner doesn’t speak English.

Sites for finding apartments, such as the aforementioned Njuškalo, let you search via maps for apartments, so, based on what you’re looking for, you can filter and narrow down your search and find a location that suits you best more quickly.

Location, location, location…

Just like almost everywhere else on the face of Earth, the closer you are to the very centre of a town or city, the higher the prices typically are, but I must say that when it comes to Zagreb in particular, the price difference might not be quite as vast as you expect. This is because the buildings are typically older, while apartments located a bit further out are usually newer, so the combination of a convenient location with lower apartment quality, and not so convenient location with a top quality apartment equals more or less the same amount of money.

Money talks, and the season is short

You should also be very aware of the fact that Croatia is a nation of seasonality. You’ve probably heard of seasonal affective disorder, well, Croatia sort of has it, in its own way. The effect that the tourist season has on the rental market can be quite jarring. Short-term summer holiday rentals are what keeps many local families afloat, especially on the coast, and it isn’t uncommon for long-term rental properties to exclude the tourism-dominated summer months from their offers entirely. There are even horrendous cases of people being told they have to leave and go elsewhere for the summer, because tourists pay more and like everywhere else, especially in a country where tourism is the strongest economic branch - money talks. Having said that, the possibility of year-round income, even if it is lower, and not to mention stability, is also attractive to some landlords, as the tourist season remains short despite efforts to lengthen it. With such question marks hanging over your head, engaging a lawyer to make sure your contract and your agreement is watertight and you aren’t going to get any unpleasant surprises as soon as the temperature heats up is a worthwhile move, if for nothing else than peace of mind.

Facebook groups

The site that just used to be about posting on people’s walls and poking each other until one of you gave up (or grew up) has evolved into something enormous over the years. Facebook groups can be extremely helpful when it comes to finding apartments in Croatia. Groups that offer apartments will have names such as the following:

Stanovi za najam (Apartments/flats for rent)

Iznajmljivanje stanova (the same as the above)

Najam stanova [enter location] bez agencije (Apartments for rent without the engagement of an agency)

Newspapers and portals

Popular newspapers such as Večernji list, Jutarnji list and 24sata (to name a few) have advertisements in them.

Njuškalo.hr

I’ve mentioned this platform previously, but it’s worth a paragraph or two of its own. This platform is the most popular buying and selling platform in the country. A little bit like Craigslist or even ebay (at a stretch, but you get the idea), this is the country’s largest online advertisement website by far. Acting as a marketplace, it has more than 1.4 million customers who are in the market for, well, just about anything!

You’ll need to select the category on Njuškalo called Nekretnine (property), and browse using the filters to find something that suits you, from the area to the square footage.

Other useful websites

Aside from the wildly popular Njuškalo, there are several other sites which can help you to find your new living space in Croatia which also have English language options, they are:

Crozilla.com

GoHome

Najam.hr

Real Estate Croatia

Burza

Nekretnine 365

Oglasnik.hr

Podstanar.hr

Index oglasi

Oglas.hr

Things to note

Word of mouth, just like with everything else in Croatia, is extremely helpful when it comes to finding an apartment.

Make sure you get a written contract and you go through it with a fine tooth comb, or have a trusted friend or better yet, a lawyer (or a trusted friend who also just happens to be a lawyer) sit down and go through it with you.

If something doesn’t feel right or you’re unsure, ask, ask, and ask again.

For more on moving to and living in Croatia, keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

How to Croatia - How Can I Work Legally and How Do I Find a Job?

November the 30th, 2022 - Imagining yourself lounging around on a Dalmatian beach with a cold beer in hand is all well and good, but unless you've won the lottery or have a foreign wage or pension coming in every month, how do you fund it? Here's how to get a job (legally), in this edition of our How to Croatia series.

I know, it might be funny to read ‘working in Croatia’ considering the reality that the Croatian economy isn’t exactly booming and an enormous number of people are out of work for various reasons. There is a demographic crisis which is still ongoing, a brain drain, and there are employers seeking employees but can’t pay them what they’d like to. It’s a complicated situation that requires a book of its own, but one of many Croatian paradoxes is that you just can’t get the staff, despite the fact that the staff are quite literally everywhere.

I’m aware that many expats in Croatia earn their money abroad, or are drawing a foreign pension. In that case, you can safely skip this part, but for those who want the experience of working for a Croatian company, read on!

Now, it’s important to note that being able to work in Croatia and under what conditions also depends, much like residence, on your nationality. 

So, who can work in Croatia? Do I need a work permit?

If you’re an EEA citizen, or you’re from Switzerland, you are free to take up work or self-employment in Croatia much like a Croat can. You don’t need any type of work permit or special permission to do that. If a Croatian company wants to hire you, they can.

If you’re a third country national, then things are a bit more difficult. Not impossible, might I add, but more difficult. If you’re a third country national and you haven’t yet been granted permanent residence, then you’ll need to seek a work permit if you’re offered employment.

If you’re a British national covered by the Withdrawal Agreement (a pre-Brexit Brit), then you can work without a work permit. Post-Brexit Brits, however, fall under the third country national category.

If you have permanent residence in Croatia, you can work in Croatia regardless of your nationality, be it an EEA citizenship or a third country one, being a permanent resident in Croatia more or less equals you with a citizen, especially in this regard.

Seems simple enough… How do I get a work permit?

In order to get a work permit, you'll need to either apply from within Croatia if you're already here, or at a diplomatic mission in your own country. Should you need to extend the work permit you've been granted when here in Croatia, you may do so in person at your local administrative police station (shock, horror, it’s the police again!)

Please note that the law states you must begin the work permit extension procedure 60 days before your current work permit is due to expire. There are exceptions of course, and discretion is commonly used by MUP, but it's best to stick to this rule to avoid needless complications and possible extra paperwork, not to mention a fine.

What does a third country national need to present when applying for a work permit for Croatia?

You'll need to present an official (government issued) ID, such as a biometric ID card or a passport, and a copy of the information page.

An employment contract (it's wise to make a couple of copies), or other appropriate proof of having concluded (signed) a work contract

If you're not technically being employed by a third party, and you intend to carry out your work in Croatia as a self employed person, you'll need to provide proof of you having registered your company/trade (tvrtka or obrt), etc, in Croatia. (Extracts from the relevant registers should not be more than six months of age).

A completed application for the work permit (this can be picked up at the administrative police station when you apply, or at the competent diplomatic mission outside of Croatia).

Your OIB (personal identification number used for tax purposes that was touched on earlier).

If you've registered your address in Croatia, you'll need to provide proof of you having done so (either via a registration certificate, proof of you having submitted that particular document, or your Croatian ID card if you already have it).

A photo of you (this is done in the same way as with the residence permit, so MUP will tell you more).

Proof of having paid the applicable fees for the application.

You may be asked for proof of your education and qualifications, proof of sufficient funds, and other documents depending on your individual situation.

You'll notice that unlike when you as a third country national applied for residence in Croatia, you may not need to provide proof of having Croatian state health insurance when applying for a work/stay and work permit if you are being hired by a Croatian employer/company, as this will be paid by them anyway.

In some cases, however, third country nationals continue to be asked for this, and it is prescribed by law even though this often isn't asked about, so do be prepared for the question.

Is Croatia part of the EU Blue Card scheme?

Croatia is indeed part of the EU Blue Card scheme, which often proves useful for third country nationals in Croatia. If you're highly skilled and are offered an EU Blue Card, this can entitle you to two years of being able to work in Croatia. Other work/stay and work permits typically only allow for twelve months at a time and in some cases can prove problematic to extend.

For certain jobs, you don't need a work permit, but a work registration certificate, and your employer can get this for you from the police. If you're unsure of whether or not this applies to you, ask MUP and your employer.

I’m a third country national going through this process, does my Croatian employer need to be involved at all in this process?

Yes.

The work/stay and work permit procedure can either be done by you, or by your employer who has their company seat in Croatia. You'll both be required to provide supporting documents as and when asked for them. You may also be asked to provide official translations for any documents you provide which are not already in Croatian.

There used to be a quota system in place, but it has been abolished… Why?

Croatia used to use a quota for the employment of third country nationals in various sectors in need of workers. This has been abolished, so I won’t go too deeply into it. 

Under the no-more-quotas-rule, an employer from Croatia seeking to hire a foreign (non-EU) worker will have to contact their Croatian Employment Service’s (CES) regional office to verify whether or not there are any unemployed persons in their records who meet their requirements.

If there are any, the CES will mediate the employment of that (usually Croatian or EEA) individual, otherwise, it will issue an opinion on the basis of which MUP will issue work permits for foreigners. Once again, this refers to third country nationals, not EEA citizens, who can work freely just like Croatian citizens, without the need for any type of permit. If you’re an EEA citizen, just ignore this entirely.

It’s worth bearing in mind that these tests aren’t carried out in the case of seasonal agricultural workers, and there’s no need for the test in certain other professions either. I’m aware this comes across as somewhat vague, but these tests are also overlooked for occupations that are lacking on the local and regional labour market and cannot be 'stoked' by migration into the country, the implementation of strategic and investment projects, and ‘other circumstances relevant to economic growth and sustainable development’.

In other words, it’s all about context and the situation at hand. Much like just about everything else in Croatia.

Now that bit is (hopefully) cleared up, how do I actually find a job?

I’ll be honest, it’s no easy feat. Croatia is a nation of paradoxes in many regards, and this is just one of them. There’s an ongoing demographic crisis, employers can’t get the staff, everyone is out of work, there is plenty of work and there’s also no work. I know, it’s difficult to wrap your head around.

Employment in Croatia is, on the whole, very seasonal. The unemployment rate traditionally drops like a tonne of bricks the closer we edge to the summer tourist season, and we all get to read about it each and every year in the newspapers like it’s some economy-rescuing phenomenon. Talk about groundhog day. I digress, finding a job in the catering, hospitality and tourism sector isn’t that difficult as the warmer weather approaches, especially as the demographic crisis is biting even harder.

Traditionally, citizens of Croatia’s neighbouring countries such as Serbia and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina come to work as bar staff, waiters and chefs in coastal Croatian destinations to fill labour market gaps. Many people from Bosnia and Herzegovina also hold Croatian citizenship and of course speak Croatian, so it’s easy for them to hop over the border and get a job. Given that Dubrovnik for example is so close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, people from a town called Trebinje which belongs to Republika Srpska often travel the few miles into the extreme south of Dalmatia and gain employment as seasonal workers during summer, repeating the same thing each year, much to the disdain of Dubrovnik’s locals.

More recently, Croatia has been importing labour from much more distant countries, including India, Nepal and the Philippines. There are even agencies which facilitate precisely this. Since the war broke out in Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February 2022, many Ukrainians have also taken up residence and work in Croatia. Ukraine is hardly a distant country, but it is a third country (a non-EEA member state) and this is worth mentioning because the number of Ukrainians working in Croatia has increased significantly since Croatia facilitated this for refugees.

Many Croats have gone off to Ireland, Germany and all over the place to seek work and better prospects. This was made extremely easy when Croatia joined the EU in July 2013, allowing Croats to work in most countries across the bloc without the need for a work permit, with only a few continuing to maintain labour restrictions which would expire after a period of however many years. The United Kingdom and Austria were just two of several of the countries which imposed this. Those restrictions were eventually dropped.

Background over, let’s get back to the practicalities.

How do I find a job in Croatia?

There are a multitude of ways. In a country so set in the ways of connections and someone’s friend’s uncle knowing someone else’s cousin who used to work for so and so (apparently it’s called networking now), word of mouth is king. 

Talk to who you know, and ask them to talk to who they know

Word of mouth is, as I stated above, king in Croatia. Many people find jobs through someone who knows someone else, so put yourself out there. If you’re fluent in a language like English or German, you can absolutely use this to your advantage.

The Croatian Employment Service (CES)

In Croatian, this is Hrvatski zavod za zapošljavanje, or HZZ for short. It is a state institution which implements employment programmes. It is by no means a legal requirement as a jobseeker to apply to be kept up to date with new jobs on offer linked to your desired field of work, education and profession in this way, but it might help you. What you need to commit to if you do choose to do this is to visit their office once a month, then once every two months after some time passes. You’ll need to find the office closest to your place of residence if you choose to take this route. 

You can unsubscribe from their service and from receiving information on available jobs from them at any time, whether you’ve found work or not.

Facebook groups

There’s a Facebook group for just about anything, and finding jobs and staff is no exception. Numerous Facebook groups exist solely for this purpose. Many of these groups are regionally based, or city/town based. A quick Facebook search will allow you to narrow down the sort of thing you’re looking for, be that freelancing, work in the blossoming Croatian IT sector, seasonal work, or even work as a skipper, videographer or photographer.

Most of these groups will contain the words ‘trebam’ (I need), ‘tražim’ (I’m looking for), ‘nudim’ (I’m offering) and posao (work/a job). Add your location if that is important to you and you’re not a remote worker, and off you go. Just watch out for scams and spam posts. They’re usually obvious and properly administered Facebook groups will quickly take such posts down, but sometimes they aren’t as obvious as one might hope. This is a very legitimate way to seek and find work, with thousands of people doing it, but it always pays to keep your wits about you.

Websites and platforms

Just like in most other places, Croatia has its own array of websites and platforms dedicated to job searches. Posao (posao.hr) is a very popular one, as is Moj Posao (moj-posao.hr), Jooble (hr.jooble.org), Oglasnik (oglasnik.hr), Freelance (freelance.hr) and even Njuškalo (njuskalo.hr) all have a huge amount of jobs on offer spanning a very wide array of different fields and professions. There are some which offer information and even live chats in English, such as danasradim.hr, which is a Croatian language website with a live English language chat option, and PickJobs, which is available in multiple languages. 

I’m not endorsing any of the above websites, nor do I have any affiliation to them, but this is just an example of (only a mere handful) the amount of websites in Croatia dedicated to employment, be you the employer or the would-be employee. LinkedIN is also extremely helpful and will show you jobs best suited to you, as will websites like the aforementioned Moj Posao which have a newsletter you can subscribe to.

Target Croatian companies specifically

If you’re qualified and interested in a highly specific field, such as engineering for example, the likes of Rimac Automobili and Infobip might well be on your radar. There are many rapidly growing, wildly successful companies in Croatia (contrary to what you might hear and read), and they’re more or less constantly expanding and trying their hands at new things. These are the types of companies that you need to contact directly. They might be a safer option if you’re a non-EEA national without permanent residence, meaning you need a work permit in order to legally work in Croatia, as highly qualified employees who aren’t EU Blue Card holders are still deeply desired by companies like the aforementioned who are willing to go the extra mile to get you sorted legally.

Language schools

There are multiple language schools spread across Croatia who are often on the hunt for native English speakers (and indeed the native speakers of a number of other languages). A quick Google search will reveal their details. It’s absolutely worth contacting them.

Things to note

There are more and more large multinational companies popping up in Croatia, particularly in larger cities Zagreb and Split, who require staff who speak other languages. Some don’t even make speaking or understanding Croatian a requirement.

When the quota system (which I talked about a little bit in the Working in Croatia chapter) was in force, things were a bit different for companies seeking to employ third country nationals. They didn’t have to contact the Croatian Government and were free to facilitate the employment of a third country national (and have their work permit approved) as long as their skills matched what the quota needed. That is no longer the case. Now quotas are a thing of the past (and have been since January the 1st, 2021), employers must still contact the powers that be and make sure there are no Croats or permanent residents registered on the labour market who would fit the bill for the job before being able to hire you.

Many job posts being posted on Facebook groups in particular will state that they want people who have ‘EU papers’ (meaning either an EU passport, or someone who isn’t an EU citizen but who does have permanent residence in Croatia).

The economy isn’t ideal at the minute (it feels like we’ve been saying that for an eternity, doesn’t it?), and finding a job is not easy, so don’t be put off if you don’t hear back from some of the places you apply to. Unfortunately, ignoring applications as opposed to sending out a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ in response has become the norm just about everywhere.

As I talked about before, because Croatia’s demographic crisis is becoming more and more problematic, many Croatian employers are importing foreign (non-EEA) labour, either from neighbouring countries or from much further afield. If you are a non-EEA national and you manage to land a job, just be prepared for MUP to take a while to approve your work permit. They have been struggling with an increasing backlog and there are unfortunate (and infuriating) cases in which Croatian employers in the tourism, catering and hospitality sectors are waiting for weeks for their employees’ work permits to be processed, leaving them short of staff in the height of the summer season purely due to complicated red tape. 

Because of this, if you’re a non-EEA citizen and you want to work in Croatia’s tourism, catering or hospitality sector, you must begin your job hunt months before summer arrives to make sure (as best you can), that your paperwork is all done and dusted and you can begin work and legally receive a wage before the tourist season hits.

You’re much more likely to find work in less formal ways than through the CES. I’m not saying that it doesn’t help, but most people simply don’t fall into jobs through that service, particularly if they’re foreign, and every other way I’ve listed is more popular and usually yields more fruit.

For more on our How to Croatia series which is published each week, check out our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

How to Croatia - Getting an OIB and Opening a Bank Account

November the 9th, 2022 - In our latest edition to our How to Croatia series, we look into how to get a personal identification number (OIB) and open a Croatian bank account as a resident.

It appears that wherever we may roam on this tiny blue dot taking trips around the sun, we end up ‘roaming’ into a taxman. Croatian taxes are the bane of society for a multitude of reasons, but I won’t get into that now. Once you’ve got your residence permit, you’ll need what’s known as an OIB to be able to work, open a bank account, and do just about anything. You can obtain an OIB without residence, too, or before you embark on the residence process.

What is an OIB?

An OIB, or personal identification number (or tax number) is a little bit like a national insurance number (you’ll know what I mean if you’re British), but you’ll end up using it so much in Croatia that you’ll likely end up remembering it. Does anyone else never look at their UK NI? Christ only knows what mine is. The funny thing is that I’ve used my OIB so often that I know it back to front. Bit sad, really. Anyway, back to the point! An OIB is very easy to get, you can simply visit your local tax office (porezna uprava) and ask for one. You’ll just need your passport or other form of government-issued ID.

You can also make the request for an OIB online by visiting porezna-uprava.hr and selecting ‘Dodjeljivanje OIBa’ (Assigning an OIB), then selecting English language as your language of choice (EN).

Getting an OIB assigned to you is so easy that if you’ve gone through the residence process first, you might think you’ve done something incredibly wrong. You haven’t. This is one of those situations in Croatia that seems too simple to be true. Cherish them, they happen at random and are kind of few and far between.

Once you have an OIB, you can open a Croatian bank account as a resident.

Opening a Croatian bank account

There are numerous banks available in Croatia, with the Croatian National Bank (Hrvatska narodna banka or HNB/CNB for short) serving as the independent regulator of commercial banks operating in the country. 

The CNB was established as part of the Croatian Constitution which was passed by Parliament on the 21st of December, 1990. It issues banknotes, holds the national monetary reserves, aims to maintain stability and ensures the financial liquidity and soundness of the country’s financial system. The CNB joined the European System of Central Banks and started performing its role under the Statute of the ESCB and the ECB, following Croatia’s entry into the European Union back in July 2013.

Some of the most popular banks in Croatia are Privredna banka Zagreb (PBZ), Zagrebačka banka, Erste & Steiermärkische bank, Raiffeisenbank Austria Zagreb (RBA), and Hrvatska poštanska banka (HPB). There are of course others, such as Addiko bank and OTP, but there’s no need to list them all. Many banks are foreign owned, and those such as Erste are very popular with expats thanks to their ease of use, very good mobile app, and good customer service. There are English language options on banking apps and on their websites.

To facilitate your transactions (paying rent, paying the bills) to receive your Croatian salary and have a local bank card, and to do literally anything financially, you’ll need a Croatian bank account.

What do I need to open an account?

To open a bank account in Croatia, you’ll need an OIB. Generally speaking, you’ll need a valid passport, your residence permit (either your ID card or your registration certificate, if your card isn’t yet finished) and the bank’s application form that you can find online or get directly at the bank to open a bank account as a foreign national. Most of the staff working in banks speak a decent level of English, so you shouldn’t have any communication difficulties. The process is fairly quick.

Types of Croatian bank accounts, apps and online banking

The most typical account types are giro, current and savings account. Some banks offer automatic overdrafts once you open an account, while in others you have to apply for an overdraft once the account has been set up.

As stated, most banks offer online and mobile banking services, which comes in handy when paying the bills, for example, because you can simply scan the QR code that can be found on every payment slip and the payment information is filled in automatically, so you simply have to authorise the payment, click send and the job’s done.

Bank loans for foreigners

Applying for a bank loan is a modern reality in a society which lives increasingly on credit. Inflation and spiralling prices are likely to force more and more people to live this way. Croatia is no exception in putting things on the plastic, even though so many people still love to carry cash, and of course, some cafe bars, pubs and even restaurants like to pretend their POS machines are broken until the tourist season arrives. You can probably guess why... Despite that, many Croatian households of all classes have loans from the bank for a variety of different reasons.

I’ll be blunt, the procedure for getting a bank loan in Croatia is not simple. There are many hoops to jump through, requirements to satisfy, papers to obtain and time to kill, at least in the bank’s eyes. Unless you are armed with an extra dose or ten of patience (or you’ve been sedated), you have a particular masochistic passion for providing people with documents, copies of said documents and filling out forms with half-chewed pens stuck to tables by strings, frustration will be your main companion and your eyes will probably see more of the back of your skill than much else, you know, what with all the rolling they’ll be doing.

Many doe-eyed, would-be foreign buyers of Croatian property seek to borrow funds from the bank to help with their purchases. Despite lots of promises and stringing along, there is still no mortgage product on offer in Croatia for foreign buyers, so please, please, bear this in mind.

Opening times

Opening times for banks will be clearly displayed on their doors, their websites and their apps. Be aware that Croatia is the land of religious holidays, bank holidays, and random days where things just aren’t open. Those days can of course affect the operating hours of banks. Luckily, many things can now be resolved online and through mobile banking, thanks to virtual assistance and even instant chats.

ATMs

Just like across the vast majority of the rest of this modern, fast-paced world, ATMs can be found all over in Croatia, they have even been ‘evicted’ from the hearts of ancient towns like Dubrovnik. You’ll have no problem finding one, and the vast majority (if not all of them) have different language options you can select before withdrawing cash or checking your balance. Do keep in mind that different banks have different limits on how much cash you can withdraw in any given 24 hour period, so make sure to check what yours is.

 

For more on How to Croatia, from adopting pets to getting health insurance, make sure to keep up with our lifestyle section.

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