5 Key Struggles of Life as an Expat In Croatia | Croatia Journey Weblog

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Written by Tash Pericic, 
I’m at the moment approaching my five-year marriage ceremony anniversary, which additionally means I’ve been dwelling in Croatia for 5 years – whaaaat, how did that occur?? As such, it appeared like a great time to replicate. After a 12 months or so of dwelling in Croatia, I wrote an article in regards to the “fact behind the expat fairy story”; it was the primary time I spoke up about my struggles and the response was unbelievable – I had so many individuals attain out and say “oh, thank god it’s not simply me!” It seems, we had been all feeling the identical means, which made us all really feel much less alone in Struggleville.
5 years down the monitor and I’ve undoubtedly come out on the opposite aspect, don’t get me fallacious, there are nonetheless struggles however I don’t assume something will evaluate to these first two years. Now I’m assembly ‘contemporary’ expats, the courageous ones who’ve simply taken the leap and moved to Croatia, stuffed with hope and marvel… solely to be smacked round by this expat expertise. I virtually really feel like a veteran; I sit with them and need to reassure that these are simply the rising pains and it does get higher.
So, I assumed possibly it’s time to share these ideas and experiences out loud once more (thanks Chasing the Donkey for having me), if it helps or assures solely a few individuals of their endeavour, then I’ll be completely happy. There are clearly greater than 5 struggles however these had been the details that stood out for me and it ties in properly with my 5-year anniversary.
The frustrations in forms and the precise ‘how you can arrange a life’, have been coated in plenty of methods and Chasing the Donkey has given loads of sensible recommendation over time; so as a substitute, I’m going to concentrate on the emotional journey and challenges we face as new expats in Croatia.
1. Be Ready for Tears, The Emotional Battle
The fact of my tumultuous feelings was like an uppercut, it took me by full shock and was rattling close to simply as painful. Now, I’m an emotional creature by nature however I’m additionally a robust, unbiased, profitable lady in my very own proper. But, after shifting to Croatia, I discovered myself in bouts of messy, hyperventilating tears extra usually than I need to depend; my feelings had been wild and unpredictable.
Something may set me off, from lacking household and pals, to not realizing how you can ask for bread on the grocery store. The extra I cried – the extra annoyed I’d get at myself – the extra I’d cry. It was a vicious cycle. Made worse by the truth that I wrestle to ask for assist and since I used to be married, everybody assumed I used to be okay; so, only a few individuals checked-in on me.
A tough-learned lesson on this journey has been to ask for assist after I want it; lots of my tears and frustrations may have been eased by merely reaching out and asking for assist. I nonetheless wrestle a little bit with this however I can now see that if I’m keen to assist others, I would like to point out the identical quantity of grace in asking for and receiving assist.
My recommendation? Go straightforward on your self and ask for assist while you want it. You have got simply modified EVERYTHING about your life and these modifications take a unprecedented emotional and psychological toll which most of us simply don’t acknowledge. So, be ready for tears, they’ll come but it surely’s all a part of the method.
2. Who Am I? The ‘Holy Shit I Misplaced my Identification’ Battle
I moved to Croatia to be with a person I fell in love with, in addition to that, I had ZERO ties to Croatia.
Discovering myself in another country with no household, pals, profession and even language, was some of the difficult and confronting experiences of my life.
For many of our lives, there may be at all times one thing which defines us – household, pals, neighborhood, job… strip all of this away and what are you left with? Even traits I attributed to myself – humorous, outgoing, form, motivated… all fell away. It’s exhausting to be humorous, outgoing, form or motivated if you end up depressed and really feel like shit. It felt like a whole lack of id, and in essence, it was.
I may write a complete guide on this section alone however to maintain it very actual – it was a darkish place; I used to be deeply depressed for the primary 12 months or so of dwelling right here. Now that I’ve come out on the opposite aspect and spoken to extra individuals about their experiences, it appears all of us went via one thing comparable in our personal means.
Personally, I wanted to face my demons and rediscover myself. The ‘easy’ query – “who am I” – was like pulling a single thread and watching all the things unravel. However possibly the unravelling is critical, what number of instances in life do we actually ask ourselves – who am I, what’s essential to me, what do I stand for?
Most individuals can spend their lives within the snug and will by no means must ask themselves these powerful questions; and, whereas it was excruciatingly uncomfortable and confronting, I’m a a lot better individual for it.
There aren’t any shortcuts and I may give no definitive piece of recommendation, because it’s a private journey for every of us, all I can say is a complete lot of soul-searching, self-love and compassion are wanted. I do know this isn’t the simplest tablet to swallow for a lot of however these aren’t simply fad phrases, they’re important instruments for survival, particularly while you change all the things about your life.
On the time, I didn’t perceive what I used to be going via, solely hindsight revealed this to me; so, possibly simply by realizing that that is regular and a part of the method, would possibly make it easier to navigate it higher.
three. “Ne Govorim Hrvatski”, The Language Battle
Uffff. There isn’t a sugar-coating this half, Croatian is tough ya’ll, actually exhausting. It isn’t a flowery, poetic language like Italian, it isn’t attractive like French, and also you haven’t unintentionally realized some Croatian such as you’ve realized Spanish by singing alongside to “La Bamba”.
It’s a Slavic language with extremely troublesome grammar and since most of us have by no means been uncovered to the language earlier than, it means we have to be taught each, single, phrase (together with the 7 methods the phrase can change relying on how you employ it!) So, the primary level to emphasize is that it’s a troublesome language and the second is that all of us be taught otherwise and have completely different priorities which we have to respect.
Once I first moved to Croatia, I had some large inside work I wanted to do, then I centered on working and constructing a social circle – these had been my priorities and my stepping stones in direction of feeling a way of belonging; language was the very last thing on my listing.
Nevertheless, I’ve some pals who tackled the language first as a result of it was their precedence. I’d be mendacity if I mentioned that I wasn’t jealous of my pals who are actually fluent in Croatian however I’ve lastly stopped beating myself up and accepted that we had completely different priorities.
We additionally must acknowledge that all of us be taught otherwise – simply because studious Judy mastered the language in a single 12 months, doesn’t imply all of us can. Some individuals are naturally gifted at studying languages, others present unbelievable grit and perseverance of their research, some have tried all the things and nonetheless wrestle, others would relatively have their enamel pulled than be taught Croatian… we’re all completely different and so many different elements contribute to studying a language – shallowness, workload, households… I’ve even written in regards to the ‘5 Phases Earlier than You Be taught Croatian’ – the emotional levels we undergo BEFORE we even sort out the training half.
We’re all completely different and want to point out ourselves persistence and compassion, in addition to respect everybody else’s journey. Throughout my first two years, individuals would usually inform me “You actually need to be taught Croatian”’ or “You don’t communicate Croatian but?” *insert condescending tone* – this solely aided to frustrate and push me farther from the concept as a result of I used to be already scuffling with a lot. Shaming others doesn’t encourage, it truly has the other impact.
Nevertheless, this mentioned, in my humble opinion, I do consider that all of us must make some effort to be taught the language if we need to combine. There’s already a devoted part on Chasing the Donkey about Studying to Communicate Croatian, and listed below are some harsh and optimistic causes to be taught Croatian by one other expat in Croatia, so I gained’t go into it an excessive amount of however I’ll say this – our perspective is all the things.
I’ve lastly accepted that I must make a aware and dedicated effort to studying Croatian; and, extra importantly – I’m in a headspace the place I CAN be taught and actually WANT to have the ability to communicate Croatian fluently, which may be very completely different to guilting ourselves or being guilted by others.
In my private journey, I’ve realised that not talking Croatian is hindering my relationships with locals, my husband’s household, and my general integration into life right here. I’ve discovered a incredible Croatian instructor who I join with and who understands how you can train (each of those elements are tremendous essential), and I lastly be ok with studying.
Don’t get me fallacious, I nonetheless have each day frustrations and moments of “oh god, I’m by no means going to grasp this language”, however I even have small each day wins. I believe that is all a part of the method and the principle piece of recommendation I can provide right here is (like all the things about this expat life) – persistence and perseverance go a good distance. So, if you’re solely 6 months into your journey and are pissed that you simply aren’t fluent in Croatian and charming the locals together with your wit… go straightforward on your self, 5 years on and I’m nonetheless working at it!
Discover a Croatian language instructor right here
Discover ways to swear like a Croat right here
four. Nigel No-Mates, The Battle of Making New Pals
“Making pals is simple”, mentioned no expat ever. Okay, possibly it has been for some however for almost all of expats I’ve spoken to, this facet of life has been far more difficult than any of us gave it credit score for. I’m a reasonably social, outgoing individual; I lived in Australia, London, Italy, travelled Europe and all over the place I’ve lived, I at all times made pals simply however my expertise in Croatia has been completely different.
In hindsight, I can now see that almost all of my friendships both got here from – faculty, College, the office or sports activities. Whereas, originally of my expat journey in Croatia, I didn’t have any of these issues, nor did I communicate the language and in case you refer above, I used to be an emotional wreck making an attempt to determine who I used to be… in brief, I used to be not my greatest self, which doesn’t precisely assist in the pursuit of forging friendships.
It’s a type of Catch 22 – as people, we’re hardwired for connection and belonging, not having these items could make us really feel depressed and remoted, which in flip doesn’t make us really feel like connecting… It was certainly a downward spiral for me, so how did I overcome this? Will probably be completely different for everybody, I first wanted to work on myself earlier than I felt prepared to attach and socialise, then, in a nutshell –
1. Attain out.  My first step was reaching out to the expat neighborhood. As I mentioned, I wrote a light-hearted weblog about among the struggles of being an expat and shared it, then was inundated with responses. Typically, simply reaching out or asking for assist is sufficient to break our self-imposed isolation. Shared experiences are what join us.
2. English shouldn’t be the only real connecting issue. After reaching out, I used to be nonetheless like a fumbling fawn studying to stroll once more. The Expat teams have been a incredible useful resource however I additionally needed to be taught the exhausting means that whereas I can respect everybody and their journey, the only real foundation for friendship mustn’t simply be that we each communicate English. Appears apparent however not essentially once we are all struggling for connection and belonging. As a ‘beginner’ expat, it may be tempting to cling to everybody we first meet however similar to within the ‘actual world’, there are individuals we naturally gel with and people we don’t, and it will be clever to determine this out as quick as attainable.
three. Friendship takes time. It’s pure to overlook previous pals, because the previous adage goes – “you’ll be able to’t make previous pals”. That is true; we are able to’t make previous pals however we are able to make lovely new pals (who will hopefully turn into ‘previous pals’ over time). After the primary couple of years, I discovered myself pulling again from the Expat occasions as a result of I needed to concentrate on caring for the few friendships I had. I needed deeper, extra significant connections, relatively than 100 espresso dates and being caught in surface-level chit-chat. However, like all good relationship, friendship takes time, shared experiences, mutual respect and dedication. Fortunately, I can now say that I’ve an attractive and assorted circle of pals – however this has taken years!
four. Don’t be too fast to evaluate. If my expertise is something to go by, we aren’t precisely one of the best model of ourselves once we first arrive, so don’t be too fast to evaluate others. Sure, guard your vitality and discover individuals you click on with, however don’t be too fast to type opinions. I say this from a spot of realizing, I made a variety of errors after I first arrived after which skilled this for myself. Permit some house for compassion – for ourselves and others.
5. Join with locals. I’d encourage everybody to not simply concentrate on expat friendships both. Whereas, expats make up nearly all of my pals, and they’re straightforward to bond with (shared ‘trauma’), I additionally know so many superb locals. If I’m fully sincere – which this whole piece is about – I can say that I didn’t initially exit of my solution to join with locals, largely resulting from my very own disgrace and insecurities round not talking Croatian. Right here’s the factor although, locals aren’t essentially going to exit of their solution to make a brand new good friend – not as a result of they aren’t open to it however as a result of they have already got their life and circle of pals; so, I do really feel that the onus is on us. For me, that is one other push to be taught Croatian as a result of I would like to have the ability to join with locals of their language and have seen the distinction after I do communicate Croatian.
6. Go to occasions, do the factor. It ought to go with out saying that sports activities and different actions are an effective way to fulfill like-minded individuals and are a pure setting for real connection. I’ve met pals at expat occasions, inventive workshops, mountain climbing, Zumba, crusing… Once more, simpler mentioned than executed once we aren’t feeling our greatest however I promise in case you get on the market, go to the occasion, do the factor, 9 instances out of 10, you gained’t remorse it.
Making new pals isn’t straightforward, it may be scary and weak to place ourselves on the market, kinda like courting, however there is no such thing as a different means. You possibly can’t soar from a espresso date to prompt pals (this can be a poor basis for friendship and can most definitely crumble on the slightest inconvenience, tremor or misunderstanding).
However, while you undergo all of this and at last discover your tribe, maintain them close to and love them exhausting as a result of they are going to be your lifeline on this bizarre expat world.
5. What the F*** Will I Do Right here? The Work Battle
Work is clearly a significant factor when shifting to a brand new nation. In the event you moved to Croatia, it was most definitely for love – the love of somebody, love of the nation or love of the life-style; profession alternatives had been unlikely your deciding cause. However, now that we discover ourselves dwelling right here, we have to make it work, proper?
This topic deserves greater than a paragraph and since I mentioned I wouldn’t go into forms; all I’ll say is – go into all the things with eyes huge open. Forms is a b****, however be taught as a lot as you’ll be able to, learn as a lot as you’ll be able to and discuss to as many individuals as attainable about their experiences earlier than diving headfirst right into a enterprise enterprise.
Issues take time right here, and don’t count on all the things to work “prefer it does again dwelling”. Settle for this and you’re midway there. I’ve seen so many expats arrive, eyes gleaming, stuffed with one million concepts, solely to get the optimist beat out of them by the system. I’ve additionally seen individuals executed over or taken benefit of. It’s removed from excellent, it’s not at all times honest however due diligence, persistence, and perseverance are undoubtedly the secret. Loads of foreigners haven’t solely survived however thrived right here.
One of many uncommon gems within the minefield of expat struggles is that life is already extremely exhausting and EVERYTHING is exterior our consolation zones, so why would we select to do something apart from what makes us completely happy? In our ‘regular’ lives, possibly it will be straightforward to fall into consolation and routine, however altering all the things about our lives additionally offers us the chance to pursue concepts which have been written on our hearts, to experiment, to take an opportunity as a result of – heck, why not?!
I’ve watched so many pals pursue fully new careers – opening a marriage planning enterprise, a co-working house, freelance writing, jewellery design, property growth… And, I’m not saying that everyone has to work, in case you don’t need or must work (keep at dwelling mamma or dad) then superior – one much less wrestle for you! However for these of us who want and need to work, there may be hope; nearly all of expats I do know have succeeded of their new enterprise ventures – take this weblog as an ideal instance!
Since shifting to Croatia, I’ve: labored in a Vrtić (kindergarten) educating English to Croatian kids, started freelance writing, given hospitality coaching workshops, curated and executed luxurious journey itineraries and brought to the ocean as a hostess/sailor.
I’ve tried all the things that has ever sparked an curiosity and mainly, simply mentioned “YES” to all the things. It hasn’t at all times gone to plan however I’m far richer (in individual) for the experiences and now I do know extra undoubtedly what I do and don’t need to do. There isn’t a means I’d have allowed myself the time to experiment like this in a ‘regular life’. S
o, possibly one other piece of recommendation right here is – enable your self the house and freedom to strive one thing completely different or simply say sure, you by no means know the place it would lead!
Phrase To The Smart: Give Up The Superhero Advanced
As a brand new expat, there may be a lot to sort out; but, virtually each expat I’ve met (together with myself), has wild expectations of what they’ll obtain within the first 12 months –
“I’ll transfer to Croatia, be taught the language, arrange my enterprise, make pals, socialise, turn into a health guru, volunteer, be the right mom, companion… one 12 months ought to do it.”
*** Insert realizing laughter right here***
Transferring to a international nation is a mammoth enterprise; we are actually re-building our lives from scratch, but we get annoyed once we haven’t completed this in 6 months to a 12 months!
It sounds ridiculous after I write it like this however so many people are responsible of getting extraordinarily unrealistic expectations, then falling aside once we don’t meet them. So, re-writing the script and creating a practical set of expectations is an effective place to start out – be aware: originally of our journey, generally, simply getting away from bed is an achievement!
Throughout my first 12 months (the messy tears section), I berated myself and felt so ineffective for not having achieved the entire above; I gave myself zero credit score for the truth that I had uprooted my ENTIRE life. This unfavourable self-talk is the place I wanted to start out, the place many people want to start out as a result of it’s counterproductive and inhibits our capability to take any type of optimistic step.
We count on to be uber-productive people however originally, usually we simply really feel torpid and overwhelmed. On a psychological degree, our brains are busy processing all the things about our new lives and we make no allowance for this. Settle for the truth that you is probably not your common energetic, motivated self and this complete adjustment section will likely be marginally simpler to bear.
Principally, we have to surrender the superhero advanced as a result of we are able to’t do all of it. We have to settle for and acknowledge our limitations, ask for assist once we want it, attain out, take day trip and simply breathe. Belief me, I do know it’s simpler mentioned than executed however I want I’d proven myself a little bit extra compassion in the beginning of my journey and I additionally want I had recognized that I wasn’t alone in my struggles.
You could have observed an underlying theme to all of those factors which is – be light with your self; present persistence, compassion and acceptance to your self and your journey. There’s a variety of residing in Struggleville and we are able to both be our personal ally or biggest enemy.
5 Years Later, Have I ‘Succeeded’ As An Expat In Croatia?
Nicely, I’m nonetheless right here! 5 years later and my Croatian is okay (removed from excellent), I’ve a small circle of shut pals and a bigger assist community of unbelievable people, I’m in a loving marriage and worth my husband’s household as my very own, I could not have an outlined profession however I earn cash doing a wide range of issues I really like… in brief, I’m happier, more healthy, extra content material and extra myself than I’ve ever been – I suppose that is success?
I may simply write an inventory of the entire optimistic features of life in Croatia as an expat and possibly I’ll one other day however for now, I needed to share among the harsh realities as a result of the struggles are actual – BUT, after I lastly realized that I wasn’t alone in these emotions and experiences, it helped. Hopefully, it helps you too.
I’ve realized a lot within the course of and have 100% come out the opposite aspect a lot stronger, extra decided and surer of who I’m and what I would like. Dwelling inside a consolation zone doesn’t provide this degree of progress. Typically, being pushed exterior our consolation zone – exterior ALL of our consolation zones, is strictly the push we have to begin creating the life we dream.
This expat life is certainly not for the faint-hearted and I assure it should change you, however I consider it’s for the higher.
Sretno – Good luck!

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