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Sigh, I really do get sick of being asked this question, because moving to Croatia is not the same for everyone.That said, if you are planning to move to Croatia, do not take advice from anyone who does not live in Croatia 24/7 – 365 days a year – for at least a full year.I had a horrible experience with one newspaper article that took what I said out of context, and made the dumbest click-bait style headline – for which I was roasted – and still feel the effects of now.Since then, I have hardly written about my personal life – having two kids now makes me even more wary of sharing details about my life here.Then, of course, there was the major issue of speaking zero Croatian in my first two years.What the heck was I thinking of moving to Croatia, without taking classes, and learning this horrifically hard to learn the language?Shopping, coffee shops, and all basic doctors appointments are now done in Croatian. I deprioritized many things to focus on building this blog, and then having a new baby, and then starting a business… In fact, I restarted my Croatian lessons again a few weeks back, after an 18-month hiatus, and I was super impressed with myself for how far I have come. 3 years ago, I missed my friends more than I ever could imagine – ack, that was damn painful. I have been back to Australia twice in 5-years, and have zero desire to go again anytime soon. I don’t dislike Australia, I just don’t have a life there, as I do here in Croatia.and oops, as a result, my language skills are way short of what they should be after 5 years. But you know what, imagine if I did not spend the time building a business model to maintain our life here as I have – and had instead focused on speaking the language and making more local friends, that would have all been in vain. I completed the first few pages of the workbook with 98% accuracy – okay so it was the beginner book, but, heck 5 years ago I knew zero on those pages. The daily game of charades I once played, now is more like once a month. But now, I am just sad that I have lost so many of them. I remember once I had no power for 4 days when I was alone with a baby, and I had people offering to have us come stay with them. I would not have the work experience to get my old job back.
In some cases (like at my doctors’ office), I have to explain my rationale every visit. My meh days are when I barely manage to stay optimistic when faced with an onslaught of bureaucratic challenges, or when I spend days at a time alone without speaking to or hearing from a single friend, and all I can think about is calling my sister and telling her to pop over for a visit. I try never to speak of them, as they are the days when if spoken about, it is all people will focus on. Each year that passes gets a little easier to adjust to the situations that might edge me toward me those rare dark days.
Like, der, wind the clock back and let me correct that colossal fuck up, please. Notwithstanding many readers over the years telling me things like, ‘Oh I moved to Germany and became fluent in a year, so you should too’ or ‘Just watch Croatian TV and make more Croatian friends and you will learn’, I have come to learn that I am a slow learner. I even ask for help – and at one very low point, last year accepted more help from several friends that I could never have imagined I could.
After 5 years, I no longer have sweaty palms and suffer from my heart racing when I walk into a store and need to find something. So judge away as you will, but I am not fluent and often need help. Sorry Croatia, I promise to try much harder over the next 5 years about learning to communicate better with you. I realize that you need a community around you – no matter where you live – and even more so as an expat without any family of your own.
In fact, the whole country feels safe, I have wandered the streets late at night, and never once felt like a mugging was around the corner. One came here when he was 9 months old, and the other was born here.
I still have them, but they are small periods, not everlasting.