What makes the Croats stand out from the pack? In a part of the world where languages intertwine, and much of history is shared, it is culture that separates the Croats from their Slavic brethren. Pay heed to these points, and you’ll soon understand.
Culture is everything in the Balkans. Croatian culture gets drummed into young people from an early age, an obvious hangover of centuries of occupation and having to fight for national existence. There is plenty to love in the culture, however, especially if you’re into red-and-white checkerboards.
Red-and-white checkered everything
If there is one thing that is synonymous with Croatia, it is the distinct red-and-white checkerboard design that is ubiquitous here. Whether it is adorning the jerseys of national sports teams, the faces of supporters or practically every flag in the country, there is nothing more Croatian than what the local people call the šahovnica (chessboard). The šahovnica has been the symbol of Croatia since the 10th century, although its use by the violently fascist Ustaše organisation in World War II means it is viewed with fear and suspicion by others in the region.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Soccer is life
Many fans were surprised by the Croatian national team’s run to the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but not the Croats. The beautiful game is king in Croatia and has long been a source of inspiration to ordinary people from Osijek all the way down to Dubrovnik. The love and passion are shown in how vociferously the fans protest against the ruling body and the corruption that holds back this already overachieving team.
Independence is everything
Few nations have been as feisty as the Croats when it comes to demanding independence over the centuries. Croatia was a part of the Habsburg Empire for hundreds of years, many of which were punctuated by protests and riots demanding more autonomy for the people of Zagreb and beyond. These demands continued with the establishment of Yugoslavia following World War I (originally called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), and it was the Croats who protested the most. Croatia was also the first republic to formally declare independence from Yugoslavia, doing so in June 1991. Croats take their independence very seriously, so don’t make the mistake of questioning it.
Don’t mention the war
This one isn’t particularly unique to Croatia but bears repeating nonetheless. Do not mention the war. This is little more than common courtesy, and digging up old wounds is a surefire way to create tension and anguish in what may have been a joyful room to that point. If a Croat wants to talk about their experiences, then by all means listen, but do not barge in with opinions based on hearsay from far away.
Croats and Serbs are different, very different
The languages are about as different as British and American English, and you might not be able to tell a Croat from a Serb just by looking at the two, but don’t err in assuming the two nations are one and the same. There are similarities for sure, but you wouldn’t barge into a pub in Glasgow and tell the local people how fabulously English they are. Croatia and Serbia have separate histories, religions, influences and desires. Learning to respect this is the key to a good time in the company of Croats.
Dress to impress
The Croats are very style conscious. Call it the influence of nearby Italy or maybe even another part of a longstanding desire to be a part of the European elite, but the streets of Croatia are chock-a-block with people looking their best and fully aware of that. You can certainly travel around the country in your tatty shirt and jeans, but why not embrace a little bit of class? As the saying goes, when in Croatia…
Confidence, not arrogance
When you finally find yourself deep in your first major discussion in Croatia, don’t be surprised if you feel like you are under attack. Croats can be extremely assertive and abrupt when talking, but don’t mistake it for arrogance or rudeness. It is little more than the style of conversation here. There is little in the way of wasted words and even less small talk. Get to the meat of your point, and don’t be afraid to speak up.
Eat, eat, eat
Croatians are very proud of their food, and so they should be. The regional influences are embraced instead of being resisted, with little dabs of Croatian class added to great effect. The traditions of Central Europe and the Mediterranean are very much alive in the kitchens of Croatia. It might also seem like there is a never-ending supply of the stuff, and don’t be surprised to come home from Croatia with a bit of extra padding around the waistline.
Regional diversity across the board
Croatia isn’t a huge nation by any stretch of the imagination. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in diversity, helped no end by a curious shape that bends around neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina and touches on many different parts of the continent. People in Osijek and Đakovo are every bit as Croatian as those in Split and Šibenik, but the Slavonians and the Dalmatians are very different nonetheless. This is true even of the coast – your average person from Rijeka is going to be different than your everyday Dubrovnik gentleman. Take a little bit of time to explore the regional cultures, and you might just find yourself stuck for life.
Family comes first
Family is everything in Croatia. An extremely high value is placed on family relations, and they can often act as the social centre of life in the country. Children often live with their parents until they are themselves married, something that many Western visitors might find a little confusing. This isn’t quite as much about being a ‘mummy’s boy’ or ‘daddy’s girl’ as you might at first think – it is just how things have always been here. Blood is most definitely thicker than water in Croatia, whether they like it or not.
Equal parts European class and Balkan chaos
Despite the confidence and the conviction, Croatia is a nation that often experiences an identity crisis of sorts. For centuries, Croatia has gone out of its way to show that it belongs among the civilised countries of Europe while simultaneously wanting to retain some of the Balkan madness that keeps people coming back to this part of the world for more. Don’t be surprised if someone jumps between loving and loathing both Western Europe and the Balkans in the same conversation. The simple fact is that Croatia is stuck between the two, in a geographical, ideological, spiritual and cultural sense. Embrace it.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.