Are Croats Friendly?

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Remember how we talked about whether or not Croatians are friendly here? Today I’d like to discuss a special category of Croatian (un)friendliness – clerks.

Take, for example, clerks at bus stations, banks or a civil service institution. They sure do get annoyed a lot. Of course, there are a few of them grinning as if they’d just won the lottery. And you can’t really blame them for being sulky and ill-tempered.

If you have been sitting behind the same counter for years, with the words “WE DO NOT GIVE OUT PENS, YOU CAN BUY THEM AT THE KIOSK” written on it on the wall, just to have a person approach you every 5 minutes, asking for a pen, you’re bound to become a sulky, bad-tempered individual, like that lady at the main police station.

What’s the problem with Croatian counters and application desks and the clerks sitting behind them? The thing is, whenever you come to a bank, bus station or, God forbid, civil service institution, you automatically feel like you did something wrong. Even if you happen to be there just to pick up your hard-earned money.

You walk into a building in a good mood and look around you – everyone’s standing in line with their heads bent and the clerk casts a sheep’s eye at you. You glance over the room and see threatening SAMO JEDAN RED ZA SVE ŠALTERE (“FORM A SINGLE QUEUE”) or UZMITE BROJ (“TAKE A NUMBER TICKET”) signs, accompanied by threatening photos prohibiting the use of mobile phones, warning you to be quiet and keep your breathing to a minimum.

So you stand in your line gloomily, wondering what you did wrong, while the clerks keep loudly putting stamps on things and, finally, it’s your turn. You smile nicely, explain politely what you need, maybe even try to ask “How are you?” but she just looks at you from under her glasses and utters in ice-cold tone of voice “Your ID, please.”

There are two mistakes you can make at that moment.
The first one is asking additional questions.
The second one is asking for a pen.

I’ve had my fair share of jumpy clerks at Croatian administrative desks, but a lady at Zadar bus station wins by a landslide. In the middle of tourist season, she yelled at a guy in front of me for having the nerve to ask “Which platform does the Zagreb bus depart from?”

The lady started shouting like crazy, and he just looked at her calmly and said
– You know, ma’m, when I’m feeling nervous, I normally take a nice little pill.

Why is the situation so bad at Croatian application desks? See, even though we’ve been part of democratic Europe for years, submerged into rugged capitalism and deranged consumerism, when you reach a Croatian application desk, all capitalist postulates, such as:

“The customer is always right”  or “The assistant/clerk is here for you” disappear, and the only rule that applies is

“You are at the desk because you need them, they do not need you!”

It’s just one of the remnants of the socialist era that we used to live in. Not unlike the 20 decagrams of coffee we take when we visit guests, for that matter.


Click here to find out more about whether Croats and their language are friendly or not.


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