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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From the very first day, we got used that nothing about our relationship will be simple or normal. Since we started to date, we needed to survive seven or more time zones between us, more than 10 000 km and cultural differences. It worked more than fine, but we started to wish to spend more time together. We were completely sure we are a great couple and we were ready to take our relationship to the next level.
Why did we choose Croatia
For those who do not know us (read more in about us section), my (now) husband Jaime is a Mexican citizen, and I am Croatian. When we started to talk about the wedding, the first and the most important step was to decide where are we going to get married.
We considered many options – from the beach wedding somewhere far away for only two of us to the big Mexican wedding party. In the end, we decided to organize a rather small, intimate wedding in Croatia. To be completely honest, it was not my first option (I voted for a barefoot wedding on a beach), but the reality check got us back to Croatia.
The most simple thing we could do was to get married in one of our countries. Getting married in Mexico meant my parents would not be able to attend it due to the medical reasons and, besides all the documents I would need to bring, we would be required to do several medical tests which would increase the total price for around 500 USD. Croatia, however, does not have any medical requirements and his family (at least a part of it) was able to come. The decision was made.
Documents Jaime needed to get married
I will always remember how, when we told my parents that we are getting married, my dad said: “Congratulations, you just made your life more complicated!”. Of course, he was referring to all the paperwork we would need to get through in order to be together. Our motto always was “When there is a will, there is a way.” and we were ready for this adventure (and yes, it was the adventure!).
To start with, Jaime needed to get three documents in Mexico before we could even apply for the marriage ceremony in Croatia. He needed (1) his birth certificate, (2) the certificate he was single and (3) the certificate there was no any barrier marrying me and the marriage would be valid in Mexico as well. All the documents needed to be apostilled afterward.
The first two were piece of cake. Since he was living and working in Mexico City, his parents were allowed to picked them up and they apostilled in Oaxaca, his hometown. The third certificate was a bit tricky because at the time we were living together in Mexico and the only place we could get the document was Mexican embassy in charge for Croatia, which was located in Budapest, Hungary.
A Trip To Budapest
We tried everything, but there was no help. We needed to go to Budapest as soon as we arrived in Europe. Everything needed to be well planned as we needed to apply for the marriage in Zagreb between 40 and 30 days prior to the wedding and we needed to find the day when both of our embassies in Budapest were open. We booked the apartment for three days, as the first day we arrived in the afternoon, we could not do anything. The second day we hoped to get everything done, but nobody could confirm it for sure.
We sent all the documents to the Mexican embassy several days before and made an appointment. We needed to show up there strictly between 10 and 12 in the morning, with all the original documents. They asked for (1) certificate that Jaime was single with apostille, (2) his passport, (3) his Mexican ID or any document with Mexican address on it, (4) birth certificate with apostille, (5) my passport or ID with the address in Hungary, Bulgaria or Croatia (because the stated embassy is responsible for citizens of those countries only) and (5) Jaime’s photo (3.5 x 4 cm).
They were very friendly and they informed us we would get the document within 15 to 20 minutes. In no minute they issued the document saying there is no reason why he could not marry me. We paid the fee of 17 670 HUF (approximately 60€ back then) afterward. The lovely clerk in the embassy explained to us where we could find the bank to make the payment and which bus we needed to take back to the center.
To make the document valid in Croatia, we needed to pay the visit to the Croatian embassy too. They told us to give us the call when we will be on the way and so we did. They took the paper, gave us the payment slip and told us to come back in 2 hours. We decided to stroll around until we find a bank or post office. And so we did, we paid the fee (I think it was around 20 – 25€, but I am failing to find a proof of payment) and grabbed a coffee while we were waiting.
Somehow, we managed to do everything within the same day and we were thrilled. Even we had apartment paid for an additional night, we decided to pack and go home the same afternoon. At the time, Budapest was full of refugees and it was not the best time to visit. Also, we were nervous about wedding preparations so we wanted to seize every day we had.
Organizing the ceremony in Zagreb
If you are organizing a wedding ceremony in a foreign country, you need to translate all the documents to the local language. As soon as we arrived in Europe, we translated the first two documents Jaime needed to present. While we were still in Budapest, I emailed the last document so the translation would be ready as soon as possible. In total, we needed to translate three documents from Spanish to Croatian which cost us around 600 HRK (around 80€).
In the meantime, we started to look for a translator. As Jaime was not fluent in the Croatian language, the official translator needed to accompany us in the civil registry office when we were applying for the marriage as well as she needed to be present during the wedding ceremony. 375 HRK each time (around 50€). Here you can find the list of all the translators in Croatia (the document is in Croatian only, with the list of different languages).
We could choose if we wanted the translator to be from Spanish or English language, but since most of the foreign attendees were Mexican, we went for Spanish. Basically, if you are fluent in more than one language, you can choose any of them – it only matters that you fully understand the process and the ceremony.
Finally, we were ready to book the appointment for the wedding ceremony. We came to the civil registry office in Maksimir with Jaime’s three documents, all apostilled and translated to Croatian, my ID, the copies of best man and maid of honor IDs and accompanied by the translator. A few days earlier we made a payment of 200 HRK and brought 100 HRK worth government stamps (in total around 40€). Please take a note all the documents need to be issued within the last three months.
In less than half and hour time, we had our October 23 appointment set and all the hassles we went through (I tried to leave all the stress and bureaucracy problems out of the post since we are trying to remember only the good things) suddenly were not important anymore. Our day was coming and we could not be happier!
If you want to get married in Croatia, those are (more or less) the steps you will need to pass in order to finalize your marriage. I know you are probably not Mexican, but you will still need to visit your embassy in Croatia or some of the surrounding countries to validate some of the documents.
We decided to have a civil wedding only, since because of the distances and other requirements, a church ceremony would complicate the things even more. Make sure to have enough time to organize everything if you would like to have a church ceremony as well.
Yesterday we celebrated our first wedding anniversary and this was the perfect moment to remind ourselves what we needed to get through. Our marriage is still not legalized in Mexico, though. Apparently, you need to do it in person in Mexico, and since it is a bit far, we were not able to do it yet, but hopefully we will next year.
Ps. All the photos were taken by a great duo named Fotkalo. We highly recommend them if you decide to get married in Zagreb! Check out their web here
Where did you get married? Was is complicated or you enjoyed every moment?
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If you are living or planning to live in Croatia, you will become familiar with OIB very fast.
What is an OIB and why do I need it?
OIB or “osobni identifikacijski broj” is a personal identification number given to all citizens and residents in Croatia, as well as foreign nationalities who perform certain actions in Croatia. It is similar to SSN (social security number) in the USA or to CURP in Mexico. OIB- is basically a mix of 11 random numbers.
To begin with, you will need your OIB if you plan to do anything where you need to identify yourself, in terms of opening a bank account, signing a contract for the phone or internet, applying for residency, you are buying a property of opening a business in Croatia.
Yes, you can apply for OIB being “just” a tourist. Actually, you should apply if you are planning to do any of stated above. Getting OIB is easy and usually it takes only few minutes. It is completely free of charge.
Where do I need to go?
Here we are going to explain the process applying in person while you are in Croatia. There may be other possibilities to apply over Croatian embassy or with the power of attorney, but we do not know anything about it. For any other question, kindly contact Croatian embassy closest to you, your Tax office (Porezna uprava) or an attorney.
To apply for OIB in person, you need to pay a visit to Tax office. If you are applying in Zagreb, there is only one Tax office which is in charge for OIB – Porezna uprava in Novi Zagreb, Avenija Dubrovnik 32 (working hours from 8 am to 3:30 pm). For other cities, find Porezna uprava closest to you online.
How do I apply for OIB?
When applying for OIB, you need to come in person with your passport (make a copy also) and filled application form (which you can download from here – also “Expat in Croatia” made a lovely guide how to fill it out since it is available only in Croatian). If you have a local to help you, you can fill out the application there as well. If not, better prepare yourself in advance so fill it out at home where you can translate everything you do not understand.
When we came, the office was not busy and Jaime got his OIB in literally five minutes. Otherwise, you may pick it up later or even have it mailed to your home address in Croatia.
How my OIB looks like?
Your OIB document will be one page, which can be cut in two parts. Upper part is informational and tells you what to do if you lose it, how to use your OIB and similar. Down part consists of your OIB, your name, year of birth and date of issue. This is the part you need to provide whenever asked for OIB (or you can provide any official document with OIB instead, if you have one – new ID, driving licence and so).
You can get a copy of your OIB document, however, keep it in a safe place. Take a photo of it and never give the original document, always make copies. If you lose the original, you should apply for the replacement as soon as possible.
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