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A huge part of coming to Dubrovnik and starting a new chapter of my life here in Croatia for an extended period of time each year has dealt with adjustments and handling cultural differences. These differences have led to many a laugh, puzzled expressions all around and often a look of bewilderment on my face and of those around me. First off, let me state LOUD AND CLEAR that this post is in no way a negative reflection of the people, culture or customs of Croatia.
I am simple pointing out that there are a multitude of differences and I am sure that if the tables were turned and that if a Croatian would visit the United States, they would find a plethora of things they would see as different and feel the same way. So, with each future post, I’ll focus on one topic and share my thoughts and reflections. Considering this is my first topic in the series, I thought long and hard on what that first subject should be and my mind constantly came back to one thing…COFFEE!!!
Coffee isn’t just coffee here in Croatia, it is a way of life. So many things revolve around coffee. In the Unites States, for the most part, we view it as a convenience…something to grab on the go as a pick me up to get you through the day, while here in Croatia, it is a slow you down, sit down and enjoy your friend’s occurrence. In fact, in Croatia it is an integral part of the fabric of everyday life. One of the major differences in the coffee cultures is that in the US, most people go to a coffeehouse to grab something to go as a means of continuing their day and that simply does not happen here. There is virtually no “To Go” coffee unless a foreigner asks for it. You want a lid? Ha! What are those?
You go to the average American coffeehouse and for the most part people are sitting alone, usually working, reading or scrolling their phones. It is a rarity to talk to the person next to you unless you are asking for something. I have always viewed it more as a solitary act. Croatia is the exact opposite; you will hardly ever see anyone sitting alone. Here it is often a gab fest with friends catching up, co-workers bemoaning their bosses or work environments, business people meeting and closing deals, ladies sharing the latest fashion trends, even some gossip and everything in between. One important thing to keep in mind is that much of this occurs with people smoking, which can be quite an annoyance coming from the U.S. and our Smoke Free environments, but I will gladly handle some smoke to enjoy the intense satisfaction that comes with truly enjoying the coffee culture here in Croatia.
If you happen to be meeting anyone for coffee here, take into account the extra time needed for your meeting. A good gauge would be an extra 30 minutes. Here is a typical scenario: the meeting will begin with a greeting, then there will be good amount of small talk followed by the ordering of the coffee. For what type of coffee you should order, you should check out this article from our friends at Chasing the Donkey. For some more great observations on the Croatian coffee culture, check out this link…
A funny thing happens here once your coffee is delivered; you get a printed bill left under an ashtray for the coffee’s ordered. Each time more items are ordered another bill appears. By the time you are done, you have a slew of receipts which then get added up. Considering we get just one final bill after asking for it, I first thought they were rushing me along, but I was told that is the way it is done here and just got used to it. If sharing coffee with friends, one of the friends usually picks up the tab and the next time another person will do the same. Oh, there are NO FREE REFILLS like in the U.S., but considering coffee is at least ½ the price of the coffee of the U.S. I am good with that and good with the fact that coffee is KING here in Croatia. So, I would recommend that you sit back and relax…SLOW DOWN and enjoy your coffee and conversation sip by sip, relishing in the act and savor the moment.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Richard J. Gruica, American in Dubrovnik