What To Expect If You’re An American in Croatia
What is it like to be an American in Croatia? Let’s talk about it!
The Most Thought-Provoking Part of Traveling
One of my favorite aspects of traveling is discovering that what you’re accustomed to in your native country is not the universal norm.
Cultural differences are truly some of the most unique aspects of the world we live in. Immersing yourself in a whole new environment is so enriching, and if you’re anything like me – your thoughts may trail towards more existential and philosophical outlooks!
I mean think about it… Every person on this earth belongs to the same species and has a soul and a body, as well as a family, a house, a job, likes and dislikes, heartaches, dreams, and more. (you get the picture)
However, the way we express those things is completely different because of our environment, culture, and upbringing.
IT’S JUST SO COOL!
If you’ve ever traveled to another country, I’m sure you know the feeling I’m talking about. And if you haven’t – it’s something to look forward to! You may love and embrace these differences and/or maybe there are things that you’ll miss from home.
Either way, immersing yourself in a new place is one of the coolest experiences of being a human.
So You’re Traveling from America to Croatia…
Well, in that case, you sound just like me!
Let’s talk about what it’s like specifically to be an American in Croatia. I’d love to share with you a few things I noticed that I didn’t know about beforehand so you can be prepared for your travels.
This article will specifically refer to our experiences in the Croatian cities of Split and Dubrovnik. Let’s get into it!
1. English is very Common!
It’s always hard to tell before going to a new country what the situation is going to be as far as language goes – because language barriers can be a real thing. However, since we live in the age of Google Translate, it’s much easier to get around now.
However, if you speak English, you’re in luck because pretty much everyone in Croatia does too! Croatia’s main industry is tourism, and one of its main visitors is people from the UK. (And seemingly so, the US, even though it’s quite far!)
The younger generation takes on the mindset that if you want to succeed in any industry, you need to know English these days. Whereas the older “parents” generation either strictly speaks Croatian or has recently begun learning English. We had so many Uber drivers tell us “oh, my English is no good!” but then they’d use that opportunity of our ride together to practice and we’d speak for 30 minutes straight.
Overall – if you’re a traveler who is worried about a language barrier, Croatia is a very solid option of a place to go where you can get maneuver around completely with English. Especially if you’re staying in tourist destinations like Split.
2. The Beaches are rocky but the water is crystal clear
This fact shocks people, especially Americans who have traveled to places with “white sandy beaches” in the past. However, in photos, you may have seen how blue and how clear the water is in Croatia. We truly have the rocks to thank for that! With less sand and smaller particles swirling around, you get that clear vibrancy that is captured so beautifully in pictures. (And looks even better in person!)
The major downside to this, of course, is that it’s painful on your feet. So please either bring or plan to buy water shoes there to make your life easier!
3. Dalmatian Cuisine is really good!
I was so curious about what the food was going to be like when we went to Croatia because, frankly, I had no idea! But the cuisine of the Dalmatian region had a lot of Mediterranean aspects to their cuisine – fresh seafood, meats, vegetables, fruits, olive oils, and noticeably – a lot of truffles! There was also a lot of pizza!
There are two dishes I would highly recommend trying in Croatia:
- Black Risotto with Cuttlefish – yes, this is risotto prepared with squid ink! It has a mild/medium seafood taste but when prepared well it is *chef’s kiss* – so good! My favorite place I tried was Bokeria Kitchen & Wine in Split.
- Peka – Peka is a traditional dish that takes approximately 4 hours to make, depending on where you get it! (More than likely, you’ll need make a reservation to order it a day or a few ahead!) Meat, seafood, and/or vegetables are slow-cooked in a bell-shaped cooking vessel and the results are melt-in-your-mouth extraordinary. We had Octopus Peka at Konoba Barba when we went to Vis and it was exceptional. If you want to read more specifics about Peka, check out this post – The Best Restaurants in Komiža | Island of Vis, Croatia.
4. There’s a lot of Roman Influence
I’ll be honest with you – I’m no history buff. My brain hears “conquest, invasion, and takeover” and turns immediately off. (So, you know, most of European history)
HOWEVER, upon arrival in Split, we noticed on our first night that of all the places we’ve been, walking around Old Town reminded us of our time in Italy!
After doing a quick google search to confirm my suspicions, I learned that the Roman Empire conquered part of Croatia in the 3rd century. (Back then known as Illyricum, which then split into the provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia) According to my (brief) research, they ruled until the 5th century!
All of this to say – you can very much feel the remnants of Roman influence in Croatia. Particularly when you see Diocletian’s Palace in Split. The architecture is so grand and beautiful. I highly recommend getting some gelato and absorbing the ambiance in that square, especially when musicians are playing at night!
5. Croatian Kuna is the Currency
As of June 2022, the currency in Croatia is the Croatian Kuna (HRK). The conversion rate as of that date was approximately 1 USD = 7.15 HRK. So anything you see listed in Kuna, divide approximately by 7!
However, for a more accurate conversion rate to the present moment, download a Currency Conversion app!
Also, Croatia is one of those places where you’ll definitely need cash. Have your debit card ready for the ATMs! (thankfully there are lots of machines located around the cities)
And this is our big tip – When you go to withdraw cash, do not accept the conversion rate. When you do not accept it, the machine only gives you a small fee vs. a huge converted gap. (Think a $5 fee vs a $70 conversion fee. No thanks!)
That’s our biggest travel tip of all and it’s saved us HUNDREDS of dollars!
6. Ubers are affordable and accessible
If you’re wondering the best way to get around, (specifically Split and Dubrovnik) Uber is the way to go!
We stayed in Podstrana for an entire month (which is about a 15-minute Uber ride into Old Town Split) and relied solely on Ubers for our transportation! No rental car, no problem!
The Uber drivers were nice and some of them were pretty hilarious characters. It was fun getting to talk to some local folks and, as I mentioned before, many of the older generations are excited to practice their English!
7. Game of Thrones was filmed here!
Game of Thrones had many filming locations. The scenes with the beautiful lush green backdrops were filmed in Northern Ireland… but what about the hot summery places like King’s Landing?
Well, look no further than beautiful Croatia! Game of Thrones presents a very medieval fantasy-type genre, so you know that the scenery in this country has to be pretty extraordinary.
The most notable places we got to see were:
- In Split, Croatia – Fortress of Klis was the filming location for Meereen!
- And Dubrovnik, Croatia was the filming location for King’s Landing! (specifically the infamous “Shame Steps”)
8. There aren’t very many Chain Restaurants or Stores!
If you can’t live without your Starbucks… sorry to break it to you but you’ll be without it for the duration of your stay in Croatia! Many of the commonly known chain restaurants or stores were not present in Croatia.
For example – No Starbucks, no Sephora, and only about 4 McDonald’s in the entire city of Split.
But trust me, you won’t miss them. Again, we were there for over a month and it truly didn’t faze me at all. There are more than enough other options to satisfy all of your needs.
9. It will be assumed that you are a Tourist
The two major locations we visited, Split and Dubrovnik, are definitely vacation destinations. Most people in the Old Town areas are tourists, so everyone is going to ask you where you’re from!
I was impressed by the fact that it didn’t feel overly “touristy” – of course, there are tourist-trap businesses/locations, but the good quality experiences are super easy to pick out. Also, the Old Town areas were extremely clean and we felt very safe in both cities!
The other major plus of the influx of tourists is that the Croatia magnet game is STRONG! We have been collecting magnets during our nomad life travels and our collection increased drastically after we visited Croatia! Truly some of the most beautiful magnets we have seen!
Also to note – the tourist season typically lasts from June – September. We arrived in the last 2 weeks of May and felt a significant increase in crowds once it hit June 1st!
10. Sitting outside with a Cappuccino or a Drink is a way of life
Lastly, this is pretty universal for any European country you’ll go to, but sitting at an outdoor table with a coffee or alcoholic beverage is truly the way of life here. Slow down, take your time, and enjoy the pace of the lifestyle. This is something we don’t do as much in the States, so it’s worth noting and recommending.
In Croatia particularly, there are so many places you can sit with a beautiful water/architectural view. So take advantage of it!
That’s all for now!
And that just about wraps up our post! If you’re thinking of going to Croatia, I hope this helped you be better prepared for what to expect during your time there.
If you have any other questions about what it’s like to travel to Croatia, drop me a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them for you. I cannot recommend traveling here enough – it truly is a paradise!
Until next time… here’s to doing what makes our souls shine! 🥂☀️
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