Nepalese Working in Croatia Satisfied With Country Despite Difficulties

Lauren Simmonds

Coming to work in the Northern Croatian city of Varaždin cost these people a fortune. Young Nepalis and Indians, 350 of them employed by Varaždin-based companies today, paid 7,000 euros for the “privilege” to come and work in Croatia to various Nepalese agencies.

As Novac/Visnja Gotal writes on the 13th of October, 2019, Nepali citizens earn an average of 150 euros in their own country, so they have been given the opportunity to work in numerous companies based in  Varaždin… and have been paid what more than three years of work would earn them back in Nepal.

The money they gave to the agencies to find them work in Croatia was lent to them by banks, and they have to pay them back around 500 euros a month. The rest of their earnings are sent back to their families. Since their average salary is around 4,500 to 5,000 kuna, there is almost nothing left for them to spend. Yet they are constantly smiling. The Indians tend to keep themselves to themselves and are difficult to make contact with.

Some of the Nepalese people working in Croatia travel on bicycles that their employers have provided to them, others, with less socially sensitive bosses, have to walk and envy their countrymen on new bikes, but not because they find it difficult to walk.

“In Nepal, bicycles are only ridden by the rich because nobody else can afford them,” explained Bibek Tamang.

They ride around the city, always in groups, and their most common aim is the shopping mall in the Varaždin neighbourhood. They are peaceful, they have never had a problem and although they are all young people, and no local Varaždin girl can complain that they even tried to approach her, let alone bothered her. Yet, as the Nepalise workers say, they don’t understand why “people are afraid” of them.

”In the shop they bypass us, turn away from us and look at us with caution. We’re very bothered by this, and we don’t know the reason why” – they say.

Nepalis are usually Buddhists or Hindus and their life philosophy requires them to always have goodwill and remain grateful despite their adversities, and unlike many religious people who don’t practice anything near what they preach, Croatia’s Nepalise workers really are like that.

They are happy to socialise with their work colleagues, and the Croatian workers value them as good workers who “need to be shown how to do something at work only once and then they remember it and adopt it.”

They are tormented at work only by wearing shoes for eight hours a day. ”Back home we’re in flip flops all day, and shoes are for weddings and funerals!” they laugh.

Their colleagues say that by spending eight hours a day with these charming young men who are constantly smiling, they had the opportunity to meet them and get to know them better.

”People from Varaždin are proverbially distrustful of newcomers, we’re of such a mentality, but if other fellow citizens were given the opportunity to meet these guys, I’m sure that there would be no problem,” says Ivan.

”With the money we make here, we plan to buy houses in Nepal. Three years of work in Croatia would be enough for a nice house. In Nepal, most residents live in rented apartments in the city, and in the countryside, they live in mud huts. We also hope to raise enough money to be able to get married and get a car,” they say cheerfully.

None of them mentions the desire to stay in Europe for a long time. Not Croatia, and not even much richer European countries like Ireland, Germany or the United Kingdom are options for them.

They are not set in their ways and will gladly try local specialties, but apart from replacing their tea with coffee, they haven’t really changed their habits.

”You smoke too much and drink coffee,” they conclude, grinning, and they are amazed that despite Croatia’s rather unhealthy habits, people still look good.

”In our country, a 50-year-old woman just stays in the house and does household chores. From an early age, they work in the fields in the heat of the sun and so their skin is all wrinkled,” they say. There are few who know English well, most of them use it with the help of non-verbal communication, and it’s enough to be able to understand.

The Nepalis, who have at least one ”sherpa” in every family that takes foreign tourists to the Himalayas, have learned to communicate with foreigners without a single English lesson. For people in mud houses beneath the Himalayas, communication is equal to survival.

The five Varaždin Nepalis are thus nicknamed sherpa, according to the most popular occupation in the South Asian country bordering India and China.

The young men who currently live overlooking Ivančica spent their lives below Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Although they try to adapt to local customs, in one they fail… “We like really hot [spicy] food, which is almost inedible to you,” laughs Uttam Thakuri.

Without vegetables and rice, there is no meal for them. The guys at Marlex engaged Andrea Zorko, who supplies them with fresh ingredients from trusted local producers.

”I offered them pizza, kebabs, squid… they tried everything out of decency, but they didn’t seem particularly impressed. That’s why homemade vegetables and eggs brought to them by colleagues make them very happy and are gratefully received. Six days a week, they eat vegetables and rice and one day meat is on the menu. But even though they’re small people, which is why we had to make new work suits for them, they’re very tough and the Croats say that they work like worms,” says Andrea.

Handsome and young, the happy men are always on hand and have never complained. One of the biggest problems in Croatia, which is traffic, seems ideal to them.

”It’s unbelievable. Every car stops when we’re crossing at a zebra crossing, back in Nepal, we would have already been killed,” the group laugh.

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