Back in the 2018 World Cup, there was a very strange discussion in the French media after the French anti-racism organisation LICRA (International League Against Racism and Antisemitism) tweeted that the Croatian team was too white ahead of the World Cup Final. Nobody seemed to think that the Nigerian team was too black, by contrast. Having lived in Croatia for 15 years at that point, mostly on a Dalmatian island, seeing non-white people was a rarity in my daily reality. Nothing right or wrong about that, just the way it was. It got me thinking about how many foreigners lived in Croatia, and just how homogenous Croatia was compared to other Caucasian countries in the world, and I published my findings on TCN – Croatia was the whitest country in the world.
I am not saying that is a good thing, or a bad thing (in fact, I am not going to express any opinion on it, since it might divert from the discussion), just that it is (or at least was, back in 2018), a thing.
Reaction to the article was pretty intense, with many saying that this was one of the reasons Croatia was such a safe country. Many said that they should keep it that way, to keep the Croatian identity strong, especially after centuries of subjugation and oppression.
Having lived here for 20 years, It is a point of view I can certainly understand from a proud nation whose recent independence was so hard-fought.
As a foreigner who has lived in Rwanda, Somalia, Russia, Japan, and multicultural cities such as Manchester and Munich, moving to Croatia back in 2003 felt different in so many ways. It was only when I saw my first black person on Hvar after a year or so living here that I connected that I was in an almost exclusively white society. I am not saying that is a good or bad thing, just that it was the reality. And I wondered what it must be like for locals without my multicultural upbringing to encounter people of other races on the street.
A little like the reaction of my mother back in the 1960s, perhaps. Born and raised in rural Ireland, she saw her first black person on the streets of Dublin in the 1960s – she was not alone in staring at this exotic visitor.
I don’t normally engage in comments on social media (and rarely read them), but I have been making more of an effort as I grow my Paul Bradbury Croatia Expert YouTube channel (you can subscribe here).
As with most things in Croatia, the comments are polarised. Some welcome the channel and a different perspective of a foreigner who has lived here for 20 years. Others (often from the comfort of diaspora locations in Australia) say that we should have no more foreigners in Croatia, let alone their opinions about Croatia.
This remains one of my all-time favourite comments on one of my articles, so much so that I made it my Facebook cover for a while. But it is also quite instructive. Some of the loudest voices against foreigners living in Croatia are those in the diaspora with no intention of ever returning to the Homeland, apart from that 3-week holiday on the beach and visit to the selo.
Nepotism, corruption, low wages, the dreaded communism everywhere – these are the main reasons cited by the patriots abroad as to why they will not move back. A decision I respect, and we are all free to make the choices we do.
I chose Croatia, and after 20 years of living here through the nepotism, corruption, low wages and the dreaded communism everywhere, I still think it is the best place to live in Europe, despite having no Croatian blood. As I explained in one of my videos, which I am pleased to see has been watched over 70,000 times already – see below.
I am sure I am not alone in noticing a subtle change in the makeup of the population in Croatia in recent years. In the cafes and restaurants, supermarkets and building sites. A lot more workers from Asia and Africa, doing the jobs that Croats no longer want to do, as the salaries are much higher in Germany and other parts of the EU. Again, a decision I respect, although I do find it sad. I also find encouragement in those who decide that they want to take advantage of the remote work revolution and continue to live in Croatia and with determination find a job internationally which allows them to continue their Croatian lifestyle. You can follow the series here.
Although I hadn’t paid too much attention to the rising number of foreign workers (and I am talking about year-round workers, not the seasonal help from Serbia and Bosnia now that Slavonians are choosing Germany), it was a post from one of Croatia’s most influential contributors on LinkedIn, Milan Horvat, on the rapidly changing demographics in his native Varazdin, that really caught my attention. You can read the full translation in Milan Horvat, Snapshot of Change: Foreigners 15% of Varazdin Workers.
So how much has Croatia changed demographically? Above is the first in a two-part video snapshot of Croatia from 2018 and 2023, just five years later.
We will be analysing and reporting on the current numbers and demographics based on data supplied by the Ministry of the Interior.
There is no question that the number of foreigners – both in the higher-paid IT sector in places such as Rimac and Infobip, and in the service industry – have risen. It will be interesting to see how much.
And, as the last census shows, there are less Croats here now than a decade ago (population under 4 million).
Less Croats; more foreigners; strong voices in the diaspora for less foreigners to be allowed into Croatia, as Croatia’s resistance to multiculturalism is heralded as a reason for its safety and strength of identity.
But with Croats leaving and foreginers coming to take the jobs, how to preserve Hrvatska?
It seems that there are two main variables, both in the hands of the Croatian people:
1. A change of politics to a less corrupt and nepotistic society, achieved through the ballot box – Croats are the ones with the vote.
2. The return of the diaspora in large numbers, to play their part to preserve Hrvatska and make it shine.
Which one is to be? Or is there another way? Interested in your thoughts to [email protected] Subject Preserving Hrvatska.
Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.