15 February 2012

Thinking of moving here?

I get lots of queries from people who are thinking of moving to Croatia.   Many have only visited Croatia for a week, maybe two, during the high season, staying in a hotel or renting a vacation home by the sea.  Some have visited once or twice for an entire summer...but stayed for free at a distant relative's apartment or summer home.  While the experience was probably fantastic...it was, nonetheless, artificial.  Life in Croatia is like life in any other place.  You've got work to do, bills to pay, sometimes it rains, or snows, sometimes it gets cold, sometimes the heating breaks down and can't be fixed for a couple days.  Sometimes your car won't start.  Sometimes you've got to go to the doctor or dentist or chiropractor.  Sometimes you sprain an ankle and can't walk up the 45 stairs to your apartment.  Sometimes your company shuts down and leaves you unemployed.  Sometimes taxes go up.   Real life.

There's an additional aspect to life in Croatia that visitors may not be aware of, and it is this:  there is a distinct difference between life in the summer and life in the low season.  Lots of places that are lively and crowded during the summer can actually be extraordinarily quiet during the low season.  Yup.  Especially the islands.  So if your only experience of Croatia is Dubrovnik in July, or Mali Losinj in august, or Rovinj in June....and your idea is to move here and work at a cafe for the year while you bask in the sun...you'd better think again.  many of the cafes, bars, shops, and even some hotels are only open from May-September. 

So, before making any permanent plans about moving here, I strongly suggest the following:
-take an entire month off work.  Yup, you read that right.  An entire month (two is even better)
-rent a place in Croatia in the actual city/town/village where you believe you want to live.  Don't spend a month in Dubrovnik, and then move to Zagreb.  The places are completely different.  Also, if you want to live on an island, then rent a place for an entire month on that island to see what happens during the winter months
-here's the kicker though:  rent a place for a month during the lowest of the low season.  In Croatia, I'd have to say that January or February is about right.  Don't come in the spring or summer or fall.  It is very nice during those months.  Come in January or February.

And stay exclusively in your rental place.  DO NOT travel more than 30 minutes outside of your rental place.  DO NOT go to other countries, or other parts of the country.  Trust me on this:  you cannot judge what it is like to live in Croatia by spending 3 days here, and then spending the rest of your visit in Italy, France, Germany, and a side trip to the UK.  

During your one month stay:
-buy groceries and cook real meals everyday
-buy cleaning materials and clean your kitchen, bathroom and do some dusting
-do your own laundry every few days
-go to the market
-visit a doctor,
-visit a dentist,
-get an eye exam,
-go to the bank to gather information on how to open an account and what type of account you can open based on your status
-go for job interviews
-get a shirt dry-cleaned
- get a hair cut
-check out apartment rentals with an agent
-call on any local friends/family members during the middle of the work-day often to see what they're up to
-check out language classes
-get yourself a public transit pass

You can't do all of the above in a 1 or 2 week visit.  People need 3 weeks to acclimate to a new situation, so it will really be in the 4th week that you start to really feel like you live here.  The 4th week is when you will know if you want to move here. 

Also, hope that there is terrible weather during your stay.  I mean terrible.  The logic is this:  if you can like living in a new place at its absolute worst time of year, then you'll love it during the best time of the year.  But the opposite is not true....you might love a place during its best times....but absolutely hate it during the low season. 

After your month spent here really 'living' like a local,  you'll know if you want to live here full time.  Or if what you really want is to just visit for a vacation during high season.  Nobody can tell you the answer.  Everybody is different. 

I hope this helps anybody out there who is contemplating a move to Croatia.  Come on over.  Slam the doors and kick the tires.  And take 'er for a spin.  And let me know how it goes.

08 February 2012

Cat with a personality disorder

There are two types of cat in Croatia:  fluffy cute house-pet cats, and mangy one-eared alley-cats.  The alley cats tend to be pretty fierce.  I've learned never ever to sneak up on one to try and pet it.  Nope.  And to never corner one.  And certainly to never go near its food.  And if encountering one rummaging around in the garbage bin...that I should  back away slowly and then run.

Recently, an alley-cat has been hanging around our neighbourhood and it appears that in addition to ticks and fleas and crazy eyes, this cat has a personality disorder.  I only studied human psychology back in my university days, but I think that I can safely say that this cat has borderline personality disorder, and probably narcissistic personality disorder, and um, he seems to be talking to invisible other cats. 

I also firmly believe that he swore at me and gave me the equivalent of the finger when I caught him lapping away at the cooked lentils I had put outside to cool.  I went outside and yelled at him to get away, and with not one word of exaggeration, he looked at me with his non-mangled eye, sneered, and went back to eating the lentils.  So I had to swat at him with my slipper.  And all he did was jump off the table, growl and hiss at me, then strut off slowly while making nasty meowing remarks at me.

I was shocked.  Who knew cats liked lentils?

03 February 2012

So many new things, so little time

You may have noticed that I'm not posting as often as I used to.  You might think that I've settled into life in Croatia, become completely fluent, and have pretty much really become Croatian to the point where I just blend in.  And that I therefore have nothing new or interesting to write about.

You couldn't be further from the truth.  Seriously.  The absolute direct opposite is what's going on in my world.  There are so many interesting things to talk about, so many weird and wonderful happenings, so many stories about people, places, history.  So many stories to tell.  So many cultural and societal observations.  So many things in my daily life.  So very very much.  That I cannot even begin to write it all down.  I've just been sitting here for over an hour trying to write one simple blog entry, but every time I got one sentence down, I was reminded of something else equally if not more important/crazy/interesting, and so I deleted my original sentence and started a whole new idea, only to again have it sidetracked with some other more interesting/crazy/important/hilarious story.

So bear with me as I try to get myself organized.  There just isn't enough time in the day to do everything that needs doing.  What with constant grammar lessons (note to any English-only speakers  learning this lingo:  the grammar lessons NEVER end.  Ever) and hunting down fresh home-grown food, and cooking every single morsel of food that I eat from scratch, and then doing dishes after every meal without a dishwasher,  and doing laundry without a dryer (especially fun during a cold snap), throwing logs in the fireplace every 20 minutes, and a bunch of other things that I don't even have time to write about....well, there just ain't enough time. 

I've been told to think about writing a book about my experiences, which sounds like a fantastic idea.  I'll just add it to my 'to do' list, and see what happens.

But for now, there's 2kg of fresh whole calamari awaiting me in the kitchen sink.  And if I want to eat dinner tonight, I've got to get to it.