We’re halfway through our second long term stay. It took me awhile to get a feel for Lisbon and Portugal in general, but when I did I found that living there was very different from my preconceptions going in. So when we were in Germany I decided to list out my expectations for Croatia (without any research, just from hearsay and my own naive preconceptions). We leave Split in two weeks and will have a month in a much smaller town, Orebic, for May–in addition, we’ll have had more day trips and had time to explore islands, national parks and historic sights by June1–so I’m sure the final update to this post will be different. Still, I wanted to check in halfway through and see how wrong I was this time! So here goes:
Expectation 1: I expect that it will feel like a close fit [not a far leap] acculturating to the society—another small step outside the norm—not because of the history & Diocletian palaces, language & signage, all of which will be very different for us, but because they use the euro, widely speak English, have modern roads and infrastructure, are fairly western in their check in/check out, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. And that they will have a fairly mid-range standard of living. I don’t expect their customs or religion, or mannerisms to be completely different than what we are used to.
Reality: Croatia uses the Kuna, not the euro. Their roads are modern but the drivers are insanely aggressive (I was passed from behind as I slowed for a 4-way stop sign, with an on-comming truck at the other end of the intersection and another car coming in from a side street, and a handicapped man in a motorized wheel chair was in front of me, also entering the intersection…the person zoomed around me, cut through the intersection in front of the truck and nearly took out the handicapped man). Motorists routinely go 20-30 Km over the posted limit. English is widely spoken. Croatian is a difficult language. Overall, everything is as easily adaptable for Westerners as I had thought.
Expectation 2: I expect the people to be more friendly than we found in Portugal, more like our experience in suburban/rural Germany, but not as friendly as we found in Groningen, Netherlands. I don’t expect the people to go very far out of their way to be friendly and helpful, but I do expect them to be, by and large, cheerful and extending a greeting, especially in the suburbs and country. I expect the people to be more or less upbeat, but not overly/outwardly happy. I also expect they are sick of tourists, especially in Dubrovnik.
Reality: I need more time and information to decide about this. People in Split aren’t really friendly, but they get bombarded with tourists, so a couple of off-season travelers might not be that interesting…it may be different in Orebic. The older men stand out as the most cheerful/happy people (within their own group of buddies on the park benches and restaurants) in Split. Many people have dogs here and walk them without leashes, usually without any problems for their dogs or others. TONS of feral cats here.
Expectation 3: I expect to see dry/almost arid soil along the coast with wide open landscapes and big views. A vastness of the (Med) seascape, but rocks and stark sea side beaches. I expect a quaint old town, shops, cool narrow alleyways, hanging laundry, brightly colored buildings, quirky split neighborhoods—but also a modern, upscale area of fancy shops, designer stores, artwork, graffiti, and music all kinds, all interwoven into the culture. Good nightlife in the restaurant variety sense and in the music venue sense, maybe even a place we can dance? Might be asking too much.
Reality: probably due to the off season, nightlife is essentially bars that are open late–no music, dancing or shows so far. The landscape is starkly beautiful. No fancy designer stores and 90% of the street art/graffiti is for the local soccer fan club Torcida Hadjuk Split.
Expectation 4: I expect to be able to rent a small boat, find an indoor swimming pool, and maybe even a piano to practice on.
Reality: I found a public pool (Pools Plojud) that is very cheap (under 3 euros) and easy to use. I haven’t looked into a piano–bought a used travel keyboard in Germany so that’s all set.
Expectation 5: For Sarah and I, I expect to be building a schedule: exercise, yoga, meditation, writing/editing/posting/researching and exploring. I expect to immerse ourselves better in Croatia than we did in Portugal
Reality: nailed it! We’re loving Split and Croatia, finding our routines, meeting expats and digital nomads, immersing ourselves to the best we can. 3 months isn’t enough for Croatia, we have to return!