Why You Can’t Buy Four Potatoes at a Croatian Market and Who Gets the Bill?

Total Croatia News

– You wouldn’t believe what happened to me at the market a moment ago!?! – Mike bellowed while he was coming in.
– What? – I peered in from the kitchen, making coffee for the two of us. Mike is a good friend of mine, he’s from the USA, but he was on vacation in Zagreb.

Half an hour before that he called to tell me he was coming over for a cup of coffee.

– I stopped by Dolac before coming here because I needed four potatoes. – Mike started his story, sitting down on my couch, visibly upset.
– What do you mean ‘four potatoes’? Four kilos of potatoes? – I asked, confused, bringing in our cups of coffee.
– No, four potatoes. The seller asked the same question. – Mike answered.
– She said ‘What do you mean four potatoes, I can’t give you only four potatoes! Do you want a kilo?’
– ‘But I don’t need a kilo, I need four.’ I tried to reason with her, – Mike told me – but she looked at me like I was crazy and started adding more potatoes into the plastic bag.
– I’ll put in a kilo, just in case you might need more.
– But I won’t need more, I only need four, please let me pay you! – Mike wouldn’t give up.
– You don’t need to pay! Oh, just take them! – she yelled, taking out the rest of the potatoes and throwing my four potatoes over to me!
– But you can’t buy four potatoes, Mike, it just doesn’t work that way! – I explained, sipping black coffee.
– But why not?

I pondered over the question because I really had no explanation.
It’s difficult to explain to a non-Croat why the market seller wouldn’t dream of selling you only four potatoes. Or why it’s odd, if you’re having coffee with a Croat, to pay just for your share of the bill. Or why Croats have the latest phones, but you often hear them saying “I have no money.”

Some things are self-explanatory in Croatia. If you spend some time in Croatia, you’ll realize that:
1) Croats love to buy fruits and vegetables in bulk
2) Croats often say “It’s on me!” in cafés and bars
3) You don’t take back the change at shops.

You might think that Croats are megalomaniacs. And you wouldn’t be far from the truth.

A lot of people coming to Croatia comment that people in Croatia, especially women, are well-dressed. And that’s great. If you walk around the centre, you’ll see beautiful, fashionable women, with huge sunglasses and newest phones pressed to their cheeks, stepping out of shiny new cars.
If you sit down at a café with a Croatian man, you’ll often hear the “It’s on me” sentence uttered.
It’s not unusual for a waiter to stand there helplessly while two people wave their kunas in the air, arguing who’s going to pay.
Does it mean that we’re reach, the fact that we drive around in expensive cars, hide our faces behind huge sunglasses and new phones and always offer to buy drinks? Not really. A few exceptions aside, but in most cases, it’s just below us not to pay for drinks. Or even worse, to pay only for your part!

So, even if we’re left with only 20 kuna in our wallets, we’ll shout “It’s on me!” grabbing the bill as soon as the waiter comes.
We simply don’t want to look like we don’t have any money. Who cares we had to lease our car, we can’t see anything through the dark glasses or if the enormous phone we have fell off a truck or off a production line somewhere in China. As long as it looks good on the table at a café.

Just as we love big sunglasses and phones, we also love big banknotes. Ok, everyone likes big amounts of money, but I don’t think there’s another nationality out there that hates change so much.

I was waiting in line at the store the other day, watching the cashier trying to give back the change in lipas to a lady in front of me.
– No, I don’t need those! They just make a mess in my wallet! – the lady said, waving her hand at the yellow coins that the cashier put on the counter.
Croatian cashiers have stopped trying to give back the money to customers because people here simply don’t care about coins.

There we were, Mike and I, finishing our coffee, and it was time for him to leave.
– Oh, I forgot to ask you – I’m travelling to Split this week, need to visit some relatives, including mom’s aunt whom I haven’t seen in 10 years. What should I get her?
– A box of chocolate and a pack of coffee, 20 dag. – I replied automatically.
– Really, why? – Mike asked.

Yes, why 20 decagrams of coffee? It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try next time, together with some other subtleties that you need to know when visiting someone in Croatia.
I’m off to buy a box of chocolate and a pack of coffee I’m visiting some relatives today.


Visit www.crotogo.hr to find out more about Croats and their linguistic and cultural quirks.


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