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Riva, Split | © Ben Snooks/Flickr
Riva, Split | © Ben Snooks/Flickr
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11 Habits You Pick Up Living in Croatia

Picture of Peterjon Cresswell
Updated: 1 January 2018
For all the laid-back vibe of the coast in summer, Croatia is essentially a Balkan culture. Locals are direct to the point of blunt, smoke like beagles and offer kisses on the cheek or extremely firm handshakes when greeting. All these habits rub off on the residential foreigner, who’ll return home at some point a tactile, chain-smoking convert.

Sugar in coffee

Thanks to mass tourism, in cafés around Croatia, sugar is provided in little sachets, either on the table or in the saucer. But for any local, drinking unsugared coffee is simply unthinkable. Therefore, if you’re invited round to someone’s flat, they will sweeten your drink unless you have the temerity to say otherwise. They then will look at you strangely when your bizarre no-sugar stance is flagged up, as if you’ve asked for coffee with a dash of mustard. Go with it. Pour the sugar in. What’s a few teeth between friends?

Coffee in Dubrovnik
Coffee in Dubrovnik | © Andreas Viseth/Flickr

Main meal at lunch

Although the culture is changing, particularly in Zagreb, the main meal of the day is lunch. Even with more and more people tied to a nine-to-five lifestyle, a simple sandwich just won’t do. Many restaurants offer lunchtime deals, and you can still find the once ubiquitous gableci, cheap local dishes offered to hungry workers who started the day at 8am or earlier with just a coffee and cigarette. In Dalmatia, these late morning/early lunchtime meals are called marende, generally lighter than the bean soup or breaded meats served in Zagreb, but still the full complement of fish or meat, rice or potatoes, and salad. Substantial evening meals, on the whole, are for tourists.

Lunch in Brela
Lunch in Brela | © Nikolaj Potanin/Flickr

Carry ID

Those arriving from the UK come from a culture without ID cards or the need for a passport unless foreign travel requires it. Here in Croatia, everyone carries their own osobna iskaznica, an ID card compulsory for everyone over the age of 16. Tourists staying at hotels need not worry about bureaucracy or expect to be checked if hanging around any holiday resort. Otherwise, carrying ID is probably a good idea. US and Canadian citizens staying in Croatia for three months or more need to arrange registration.

Driving on the right

This is continental Europe — everyone drives on the right. This wasn’t the case when driving was first introduced in Croatia, as it was only from the 1920s that areas once under Habsburg rule switched from left-hand to right-hand driving. Knowing the rules of the road here is essential if you’re going to tackle the notorious Magistrala, the Adriatic highway that runs down the coast of Dalmatia, with scant delineation between oncoming lanes of traffic.

Driving into Croatia