Thursday, 20 May 2021

Swirling Rumors in Expat Village of Split: Stories from a Woman Business Owner

May 20, 2021 - What's it like doing business in the expat village of Split? Monique Laffite shares her trials and tribulations as a female business owner in the Dalmatian capital. 

I wanted to start this article with seven Spanish curse words that can easily describe what it is like to be a female business owner in Split, but I’ll leave the profanity to the gossip corner.  Lord knows they are half of the problem. That’s how I felt forced to write this article: pure gossip. So, before you lend your ear to those with the colorful stories about people’s lives, and how they should be punished for them, I ask you to hear me out.

It is no secret being a female business owner is hard. Pair that with a small town, and then add an even smaller foreigner community, and you have a recipe that would send even the strongest person running away from this city.  A friend of mine said the expat community can sometimes be the ‘selo within the selo’. She nailed it this time.

I was born and raised in a small town in Honduras, and I am no stranger to small-town gossip, or tactics. In my country, you settle things the old-fashioned way, face-to-face, or with a machete. I am kidding, most of us carry guns ;). 

Open a business as a woman and be ready to constantly get asked to ‘go get the big boss’, when I speak to vendors or people interested in doing business with me, which means: go get the man in charge. You need to explain yourself that even though you are a female that you are the big boss.  I smile, give them the short version, turn around, and roll my eyes. 

When someone cheats you and you demand an explanation for why, they call you hysterical (or when you look like me, ‘a crazy Latina’).  When you demand to get paid for your graphic design work and they only give you 25% of your agreed-upon price, they call you names and even threaten your legal immigration status, because you are willing to fight for what you have earned. Although things like this happen all too often, you are never prepared for the meaner, ill-spirited people and rumors that come from your own community. 

I have played the part of crazy Latina, uneducated immigrant, helpless woman, among others, but in my most recent and cruelest role, the battered wife.  Yes, this time, they have made me out to be the victim of a domestic abuse situation, spread this horrible rumor to the expat community in town, and then went ahead and attempted to punish me and my business as the battered wife. 

I am part owner (with a British gentleman) of a small Mexican restaurant in Split called To Je Tako, and I was surprised to find out a group of foreigners boycotted my restaurant.  When speaking to one of the digital nomads in town, we found out the boycott was put in place to punish the ”American owner” based on an embellished tale about a past owner and myself.  Ironically, I am the victim in the tale and the boycott is punishing me, the supposed victim.  Victimizing me, shaming me, aiming to destroy my hard-worked business.  Is it because I am a woman? My gut tells me yes. The times of #metoo & #girlpower, are outshined by the ever so classic Split foreigner gossip

Marvin Gaye said, ‘believe half of what you see son, and none of what you hear’. Maybe Marvin spent a couple of days in Split back in the day.

How do you react to something like this? I won’t lie to you and tell you I laughed this off and felt above it. No, I am not ashamed to say I cried. I screamed. I cursed in three languages. And when the dust settled, I did what is ever so familiar to us women, I found I had to explain myself by writing this piece.

I did not write this article to be able to explain my personal actions, my life, my decisions, or the fact that this rumor is not true. We are not friends, I’m not twelve, and this is not my diary. I am writing this article because at the end of the day, I am a business owner with responsibilities to my staff, to my landlord, to my vendors, and my business partner.  I need to explain that none of them need to be punished because of this rumor.


I have been doing business in Split since 2014. I opened a tiny bar doing pretty great things at the time. We did charities for the homeless, animals, an orphanage, art exhibits with young local artists, and became the first stage to a lot of the small duets and bands you listen around in Split now. We pushed gay rights, supported local businesses, hosted famous karaoke nights and Monday quizzes, and even closed it down one Saturday evening to celebrate the civil union of two girls in love (only the seventh such ceremony in Croatia at that time).

Today, I buy my table linens from an organization in Honduras that promotes women workers, cook for local soup kitchens, support animal charities, and hire local artists. Our staff is racially diverse, LBTQ-inclusive, loyal to the bone, and I would have nothing without them. 

Why do I feel the need to tell you all this? Because actions speak louder than words. 

Writing this article was not pleasant. The first version looked like a ransom note. But ultimately, I wrote it to let people know how boycotts often affect the wrong people (especially in this case, being it a malicious lie). You punished my staff, my vendors, and my business partner—but never an “American wife-beater”. It took me one day to figure out who started this rumor, and realized how personal it was.  To the group of men that started this, pick on someone your own size. The people behind To Je Tako deserve none of this.  If you know me, or any other woman in this situation: back off, because we will go down swinging.  It is time to let sleeping dogs lie.

In the domestic violence rumor, I am the battered wife.  The boycott does not affect the non-existent American owner, but me—the battered wife owner.  If the rumor were true, the people saying the rumor would be re-victimizing me—the battered wife.  Everyone knows that there is no American involved anymore in my business.  They know every lie they tell, every time they laugh about proliferating the lie, their goal is more than to affect my business, but to hurt me as a supposed battered wife.  Imagine if this were true how every Kuna I lost I also had another band-aid ripped off the wound.  This boycott is more savage than monetary and does not even hurt the person they are told it would hurt.  So why do you keep listening to it?


If you find yourself lending an ear to local gossip, take a second to see who is trying to entertain you with it, and consider the effect of your actions after listening to it.  In the meantime, we will be the ones next to the Temple of Jupiter, selling good food, and listening to none of it.

To follow more on business in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Hair of the Dog: Split Businesses and Breweries Come Together for Charity Beer Pong

December 15, 2019 - A new charity beer pong tournament will bring together Split businesses and local breweries on a mission help the animals of Knin. 

Christmas time is always the season when people feel most generous and giving.  This year, a group of Split businesses, ex-pats and a small animal shelter in Knin are getting together to make the holiday a much warmer one for some furry friends.On December 22, 2019, a charity beer pong tournament will take place with proceeds going to Udruga Berta to help feed and house about 50 animals.


Udruga Berta is located in Knin, a city that continues to lose its residents to better opportunities elsewhere. Unfortunately, when they leave, they leave their dogs behind, too. Fortunately, Udruga Berta is there to pick them up.


It all started with a belated Birthday Day present. 

Two years ago, an abandoned Dachshund was begging outside Ivan Simic's pizzeria the day before Valentine's Day.  Ivan still had not gotten his wife a belated birthday present (her birthday was the 9th) and it was to be Valentine's Day the next day. Little did that dog know that he would be the inspiration for hundreds of dogs needing homes. That little hungry Dachshund was named Masha and he was the first dog Ivan and his wife Zeljana saved from the streets. Today, their rescue has over 50 dogs. With 500 dogs being placed in forever homes in the last two and a half years. They rely entirely on donations and volunteers with just Ivan and Zeljana caring for the dogs every day.



In order to receive government aid, proper licenses need to be obtained, and this is costly and difficult because of Croatian bureaucracy.  This is where several local businesses have jumped in to help out.


About the Event:

“Hair of the Dog” Beer Pong Tournament is being held in hopes of raising money and awareness for Udruga Berta. The tournament will be held on Sunday, December 22nd, at To Je To Caffe Bar (Vukovarska Ulica 49).  Each team (consisting of two players) will donate a minimum of 100 kuna to the cause in order to play. Businesses will send two representatives (or in many cases, the owners) to play the tournament.  The community is urging people not interested in coming to donate money, blankets, dog food, or other supplies even if they do not want to play in the tournament.


The tournament will have 16 teams, and ten businesses are already participating in the competition. Six spots are left, and they are open for anyone to play; business or individuals. The beer for the Beer Pong Tournament will be donated by Lab Brewery, Tap B Brewery, and Fjaka Brewery. Prizes including bragging rights & a Beer Pong trophy for the winner, and prizes donated by Break Time Croatia, To Je To Caffe Bar and D16 are for second and third place. 

Business participating: 

Klub Kocka 

Radio Kampus 

Break Time Croatia 

To Je Tako Restaurant 

Black Dog Bar 

Crozzies PubCrawl Split 


Fig Restaurant   

Old Town & Outlanders Tribe Hostel 

Brooklyn Bagels 

My Map Split


The goals: 

 1. To raise enough money to extend a fence in the shelter so that medium and large-sized dogs can run around with more space, provide the Udruga with a form of transportation (for picking up dogs, taking them to the vet in Sibenik, etc.), buying small gravel to cover the ground, so the dogs are not covered in mud when it rains. 

2. To raise awareness about the shelter. They receive no government help and rely solely on donations, and Ivan and Zeljana's hard work to make sure these animals can live better lives. 

3. To let people know that there are plenty of dogs that need homes. Adopt, don't shop.

 4. That if you can't adopt, you can donate. If you can't donate, you can volunteer. And if you cant volunteer, you can spread awareness.

If you are interested in donating, volunteering or helping in any way, please contact the tournament hosts through Facebook.


All photos by Sara Filipa Delić

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

This One is for the Beer Lovers: Where Are You Drinking Beer in Split?

Beer drinking: a favorite pastime for beer lovers around the world but most importantly for those of us lucky enough to drink beer in Croatia. With the sudden craft beer revolution, newly built breweries, and the ever growing amount of pubs popping up throughout our favorite Croatian cities, today we bring you the best institutions for drinking beer in one of the best - Split. Bottoms up!