We arrived in Zagreb in September 2015 and I thought it would be great if Jaime would somehow sum up his first year in Croatia and share it with you guys. He pretended he was on it, but the year has passed and it seemed the second will pass too. Finally, we sat down and I asked him 15 questions to illustrate what was his first year as a Croatian expat like.
1 What do you like the most about Croatia and your life here?
Croatia is great, there is a lot of interesting things to do and visit, you can not get bored. I love the fact you can go to the mountains or to the coast in the only few hours (in Mexico everything is far), or you can have a great time in one of many Zagreb parks that Zagreb has. If you wish to have just a normal day, you can practice Croatian coffee culture, slow down and grab a drink with a friend.
2. How did you adapt to the Croatian way of life?
I think I’m doing great! Last year I had some issues dealing with the cold weather but this year I’m handling it like a local. The language is still an issue but I understand Croatian much better. From time to time, I even surprise Maja because she did not expect me to understand something. She needs to be careful now!
3. What’s your favorite Croatian food?
Favorite food, hmm that’s a tricky question, I like lots of things, but I will go for Croatian barbecue (roštilj), ćevapi, baby pork (odojak), kobasica, and fritule.
4. What are the biggest differences between Croatia and Mexico?
The language is very different – that’s my biggest problem hahaha. The second thing is the weather, here it can be anywhere from -5 in the winter to +35 during the summer and in Oaxaca it’s always just hot. I saw my first snow here. But in Zagreb, there is no crowds or traffic like in Mexico and the life in much calmer and safer in general.
5. What’s your favorite thing about being an expat in Zagreb?
Favorite thing… I would say it is the opportunity to learn so much about a new culture and practice the traditions completely different to the ones I was used to.
6. And what’s the worst or hardest?
This answer will be relative, since every day we face the new challenges, we overcome it and face the new ones. At the beginning, I thought that the language is crazy but now after a year it is not so scary anymore. Last year I could not bear the cold, but you know what – this year it’s not so bad. I used to miss the spicy food, but I found different sauces and my mother in law started to grown our own chilies. Today’s fear becomes tomorrow’s joy, that’s my new motto.
7. What do you miss the most from Mexico?
I miss my family, friends, tacos and tlayudas.
8. Which custom and habits do you find the most awesome in your new country?
I really like how the people here enjoy outdoors activities and I’m happy because the air is much cleaner than in Mexico City. During different seasons you can find many interesting activities, for example, now you can visit the Christmas markets in Zagreb, during summer you can enjoy the parks or the coast and attend some of many festivals and happenings all around Croatia.
9. And which ones are the most strange or the weirdest?
The weddings are weird. People have their roles, for example, there is a guy waving the national flag and he is often the drunkest person at the party. Also, there is a tradition when the best man needs to “buy” a bride for the groom. As he starts to bid and offer low amounts, all he gets are guys dressed as a bride, as the price gets higher the bridesmaids start to get out until he offers something the bride’s family can’t offer and he finally gets a bride for his best friend.
10. What were your first days in Croatia like?
My first days were full of the excitement, I had so many new things to learn and see. We were visiting many locations, museums, churches, parks, towns, … while we were making sure everything will be ready for the wedding. In the end, I was completely exhausted.
11. How would you sum up your first 6 months here?
Firsts months were like a sugar rush, everything happened so fast. The things started to calm down after the wedding and I could focus on starting my life here. I started to look for a job more seriously because I was bored of being all the time at home. In the meantime, I was studying Croatian and doing exercise, but I wanted a job. Lucky me, I got a good job offer and by February I was working. Unfortunately, I couldn’t start before because I didn’t have my residency permit yet.
12. Describe a funny situation you found yourself in because of the language or cultural differences?
The very first time I went to have a haircut all by myself, I went to a hair salon and I said: “Oprostite, dobra večer, govorim malo hrvatski, ali trebam šišanje, hvala” which means “Sorry, good evening, I speak a little bit of Croatian but I need a haircut, thank you”. The lady who was there started to talk a lot telling me things I didn’t understand so at the end of her talk I just stopped and said: “da ili ne?” (yes or no?). She said ne. So I left and I went to another one and the same story repeated until somebody said yes. The lady asked me which haircut I wanted so I took a photo from my wallet and I showed to her. Then she tried to make conversation but I have no idea what she was talking about hahaha.
13. What do you think, how do the people see you here?
I think that they are still seeing me like an exotic person hahaha, there are not so much Mexicans here. I think around 50 Mexicans are living in Zagreb but I haven’t met them all.
14. What were your first impressions about Zagreb?
When I was in the airplane the first thing I saw was Medvednica, the highest mountain in Zagreb, and I thought it’s great because it is so close to the city. Maybe someday I could go there to run or to ride a bike. Right after we landed to Zagreb, I started to feel weird because everything I saw I couldn’t read or understand hahaha. Also, I got surprised how Croats love to drink coffee, they can spend hours with one cup of coffee, while I drink the same in 10 minutes. Zagreb is a fascinating city and I still have a lot to discover.
15. Which advice would you give to somebody who just came to Croatia?
I did not know this until only a few months back, but it is important. If you like to do the workout in the outdoors, I assume you do not carry anything with you. Well, try to remember to take your ID because if the police ask for your identification, you would get fined with 1000 kunas fee if you do not have it.
Do not get annoyed by the bureaucracy. Every bureaucratic process is long and probably you would need to go to the same office couple of times. Check in advance online what exactly do you need or ask to someone, especially if you do not speak Croatian. You are going to waste less time like this.
But, Croatia is a wonderful place so enjoy it to the maximum. Just be careful of propuh, I heard it can kill you easily! 😉
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Thanks for sharing.