We are excited to welcome Coni to our Expat Life Interview Series as she talked about her expat experience in Croatia – the similarities, the cultural differences, and her everyday life as an expat.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I’m from Santiago, Chile
Q: In which city and country are you living now? Did you move there alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I moved to Split, Croatia.
Q: How long have you lived there and how long are you planning to stay?
A: I’ve been living here a bit over a year, and I plan to stay indefinitely.
Q: Why did you move and what do you do?
A: I moved to my Croatian boyfriend. I work on research, and I have a travel blog, so – luckily – I can live anywhere in the world as long as I have an internet connection.
Q: Moving from Chile to Croatia, what was your first impression?
A: I was amazed at how similar the cultures are. As a Mediterranean country, Croatia is not too different from Latin America.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Croatia? What were some of your favorite experiences?
A: Definitely the weather. I live on the coast, where we have long summers, which is amazing! I work from a café by the beach, so being able to enjoy the views and get a tan while working is the coolest thing.
Q: What do you miss most about home?
A: My family and friends. It’s hard sometimes to be away, but Skype helps a lot. I think it was hard on them too when I left, but they realized that now they have a place to crash in Croatia, so they’re really supportive, which makes it easier on me. I also miss manjar, a Chilean take of caramel. A few jars are a must for everyone that visits me 🙂
Q: What has been the greatest aspect of your expat experience so far? What are the adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life there?
A: The language has been a tough aspect. It’s a Slavic one, so it doesn’t have anything similar to any of the languages I speak. In the touristy areas, everyone speaks at least a bit of English, but everywhere else they don’t, so it’s a constant struggle. Learning a bit has been a huge help!
Q: How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country, in terms of cost of living, public transportation and healthcare system?
A: Strangely, it’s quite similar. South America is known for being a cheap destination, but Chile is a huge exception. Croatia is expensive during summer on the coast, but for day-to-day items, I see no significant difference.
Q: What are the best things to do or places to visit in Croatia?
A: The Dalmatian region is heaven on earth! Home of a thousand islands, you’ll always find a spot to enjoy paradise in the Croatian coast. The best part is that it has a ton of history too. So you get sun, beaches, nature, and culture too!
Meeting people and making friends
Q: Tell us about your typical day as an expat in Croatia.
A: I live close to the sea, so I usually go to a café by the beach to write. From there the day has many possibilities: meeting friends for a drink, sunbathing, go for a stroll in the Adriatic. If I don’t have to work, my boyfriend and I try to escape the city and go hiking to any of the gorgeous mountains that Split has in the background.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? Did you feel you fitted in culturally?
A: It was really hard. Still is, I’d say. Locals are friendly, but without knowing the language is complicated to get them engaged in a conversation. Even the ones that speak English quickly switch back to Croatian. Among the expats, I’ve made some friends, and I can call some of my boyfriend’s friends mine too. Culturally, fitting in is easy.
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or go through an agency?
A: Bureaucracy is one of the main issues I encountered in Croatia. Getting a visa on your own, without the help of an agency or a local is practically impossible. No one in the office that deals with foreigners speaks any English. Fortunately, I have my boyfriend to help me sort everything out.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: The laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle is manifest in Croatia. During weekdays you see cafés full of people all day long. You go to an office and workers are always on ‘pausa’, the local word for break. I’m not saying that people in Chile have a crazy work ethic, but I do think in general that they work harder. The point that I give to Croatia is that people have a life outside their job. Almost everyone finishes their workday at 4 o’clock, so they have most of the afternoon free. As cities are smaller, there’s no time lost in commuting. Back in Chile, you’re lucky if you have less than an hour to get home, and we work until at least 6 o’clock, so the day is mostly spent at the office. It might be less efficient, but the Croatian way is much more humane!
Q: What are your tips or advice for anyone looking to live and work in Croatia?
A: Be patient. Moving to Croatia is challenging in many aspects, but it’s also rewarding. It’s an incredibly gorgeous country, where I feel super safe, but the mentality hasn’t caught up to the 21st century. If you learn the language and make friends, the shortcomings become less important. Focus on the amazing scenery, and I assure you, you’ll be happy here! 🙂
Thank you, Coni, for taking the time to be part of our Expat Life Interview Series! Coni has wanderlust, so she created a travel experiences bucket list to guide her journey – the 201 most interesting things this world has to offer in one awesome list. If you’re looking for inspiration to start traveling or to travel more, follow her adventures!
*All photos are the sole property of the author. They were provided and used with permission for this interview only. Any unauthorized use of these photos is prohibited.
Booking a Flight. When finding cheap flights, we try a combination of search engines to ensure we’re not missing out on the best deals. We use SkyScanner, Expedia, Kiwi.com, Kayak, and Google Flights, then compare them to the prices shown on the airlines’ website.
Booking Accommodation. We prefer staying in hotels. Booking.com is our favorite when it comes to finding the cheapest rate. Again, it won’t hurt to check the hotel’s main website. They usually offer discounts for booking directly with them. For last-minute booking, check out HotelTonight. There are also other types of accommodation like Airbnb, hostel (Hostelworld has the largest inventory), and Couchsurfing.
Sightseeing & Tours. We like DIY tours - it gives you freedom and flexibility. You can take advantage of the CityPass and Sightseeing Pass. But we have joined in several tours that maximized our time and made our trip easier. Feel free to check out Intrepid, and Trusted Tours & Attractions for discounted offers.
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