November 6, 2018 – Interest in Croatia from South Africa is growing. A short mini-series looking at various South African experiences in the Adriatic region – why is Croatia coming on the radar?
One of the things I love about running Total Croatia News is that I get to travel all over the country meeting people from all walks of life. Sometimes chance conversations on totally unrelated topics bring together a strand or a trend that neither I, nor anyone else, had contemplated. One particular example of this involves the growing interest in Croatia from South Africans. And not just – as might be first though -white South Africans.
The strand started earlier this years over a beer with a friend in Varazdin, who commented that a growing number of South Africans were looking at buying (some with success) property in northern Croatia. Another drink with a South African businessman on Korcula, some messaging with a South African friend with a house on Hvar, and then posting on various expat groups to find out the level of South African presence and interest in Croatia. I was surprised not only by the level of interest, but also in the reasons for that interest. In an era of mass emigration, any trend of people looking to move to Croatia is interesting to investigate, and so a small series of articles on South African experiences in Croatia will appear over the next few weeks. I am grateful to South African Hvarophile Beatrix Roux for kicking off the series on South Africans in Croatia with the following overview below.
Every home has its own problems and if you are a country… well the problems can include anything from political instability, recession, poor healthcare and the list can go on forever. South Africa has surely been in the news over the years for all the wrong reasons and just when we said goodbye to apartheid’s mafia with a sigh of relief and everybody sang ‘kumbaja’ in harmony, trouble stirred again – in the form of the Zuma era.
To explain the Jacob Zuma era of looting, fraud and underhand manoeuvres in state departments such as the South African Revenue department, South Africa Railway system, mining industry etc. would take 50 articles. One of the best online newspapers that did a splendid job was The Daily Maverick – not only did they report objectively but was also instrumental in exposing the whole shenanigans with the Gupta brothers. South Africa almost belonged to three brothers living in Dubai!
For eight years this played havoc with the South African Rand and people become more and more disheartened with the slow deterioration of a country so beautiful but so divided. Our brand new president, Cyril Ramaposa, brought a certain amount of relief, but the ruling ANC party is so divided and riddled with thugs that he is barely able to put plugs in all the holes of our democracy. The crime rate in South Africa is another tale of sorrow, and it is escalating daily.
To be mugged in a street or hijacked at a traffic light has become part of everyday activities. Gang violence has also escalated immensely in Cape Town and although it is confined to certain neighbourhoods, it impacts people’s lives on so many levels.
Why do I mention all these tales of dread and discomfort?
South Africans are seeing a country caught in the web of political games and crime, and more people are looking at other countries to buy property with the specific intent of obtaining EU permanent residency. The Rand/ Euro exchange rate hiccups with every poor political decision, and people want to make sure their money is worth more in the future. A sort of insurance policy in case of emergency. Portugal, Malta and Slovenia are among the most popular due to their favourable investment policies.
Purely on an emotional decision, with no political worries in mind I visited Stari Grad on the island of Hvar 15 years ago and stayed for 3 months. Two years later I was offered the chance to buy a friend’s house in the old historic part of town. An opportunity I grabbed with both hands. I have never looked back. Over the years so many South Africans have visited our house in Croatia and the most frequent questions by all SA visitors: How much does it cost to buy property in Croatia/ How did the buying process work/ Can you please give me the name of a property agency.
Why (besides the obvious) are South Africans interested in Croatia as a second home country?
One of the safest countries in the world. My favourite story to tell people is the fact that the police station on the island work office hours. If you have never had to lock your car door every time you get in or look nervously around when you have to stop at a red light you will not understand the importance of this.
Rand/ Kuna exchange rate quite good compared to the Rand/Euro or Pound.
There is the anticipation of Croatia getting Schengen status within the next few years (already EU status). South Africans, like the Australians love to travel, but the EU visa nightmares are endless and expensive. At the moment permanent residency in Croatia is like finding the Holy Grail, but hopefully it will get better in the near future.
Investment growth in Croatia is much better. The value of my house in Stari Grad doubled in 13 years due to the Rand/Euro situation.
South Africans are spoilt with one of the best lifestyles in the world due to beautiful landscapes and excellent food quality. They can duplicate that in Croatia.
Slower pace of life in Croatia. A lot of people are looking at a more relaxed lifestyle and Croatia offers all of that and more.
Excellent opportunities for entrepreneurs in Croatia (if you can get past the red tape). As a previously Socialistic country Croatians do not always think like entrepreneurs and often miss all the wonderful opportunities.
Wonderful farming opportunities for South Africans – a nation of farmers. An increase of farm murders in SA make farmers look at other countries of opportunities. Zambia is popular due to the government subsidizing new farmers and tax breaks for exporting. If Croatia wants to save their farming industry – send a delegation to Zambia for advice.
The kindness and genuine friendship Croatians offer to me and my family as well as any friends that have visited always surprise us. My neighbours in Stari Grad see my house as an extension of their responsibilities when I am not there and will guard my property like their own. It is common to find a bunch of lavender in your windowsill or a bowl of fresh figs on your doorstep on a weekly basis.
Many thanks Beatrix, who used to write occasionally for Total Hvar back in the early days – you can read her Stari Grad property buying experience here.
If you are South African and would like to contribute to the South African experience in Croatia, contact us on [email protected]