Croatian Mondays – How Are You? Kako Si?

Total Croatia News

If you’re trying to learn Croatian , you will probably realise that Croatian language, as beautiful as it is, can represent quite a challenge and a daily struggle with its often unpredictable and various changes. So we asked prof. Mihaela Naletilić Šego, Croatian language teacher from Croatian language centre CRO to go, to help us help you out with the little secrets of the Croatian language.

Kako si?

A wise man once made an excellent remark on Croatia and Croatian people after spending some time here: Croatia is such a beautiful land, but I have never seen as many sad looking people on the streets as I did in Croatia.

If you ever took a ride in one of Zagreb’s blue trams you might wonder: Could these worried and agitated looking people with mobile phones in their hands be the same shiny happy people laughing and simply glowing from the photos posted on social networks?

If you look at it in general – as a nation – we carry around a big grey cloud of constant dissatisfaction over our heads. We did experience a short period of blissful and unspoiled national hapiness this summer during the World Cup, though!

In that short period of time, everybody was grinning on the street for no reason whatsoever, drivers weren’t swearing at each other, mums weren’t yelling at their children on playgrounds and there were a lot of random happy faces on the streets of Croatia.

But those days seem long forgotten now, and we just went back to being the unsatisfied nation with that big grey Croatian – nothing is good in this country – umbrella above our heads! I often find myself riding in a blue tram or walking through Zagreb streets with a grey cloud filled with thoughts over my head. And then I bump into an old acquaintese whom I heaven’t seen for ten years. Actually – my ex boyfriend. Who of course happens to look amazing that morning. It’s obvious that he’d spent quite some time in the gym since we broke up!

Thank God I went jogging yesterday and woke up a bit earlier this morning in order to apply a ton of makeup, I thought.

– You look great! – he says.
– Thank you! – I reply politely and twinkle my eyes.
– The same as when we were at college! – he goes on.

Well, he was always a bit of a compulsive liar, now that I think of it. And then he pops out the eternal question: Kako si? How’re you doing?

How might one reply to the most commonly asked question in the world when its your ex boyfriend, whom you haven’t seen in a decade, asking, one might wonder? While I was thinking about what reply I could give to absolutely dazzle him, I started to wonder how Croats approach this eternal question. There are a few possible answers you might get when you ask about other poeple’s lives in Croatia.

The complete and noncensored life story. Some people just don’t realise that kako si? is asked out of courtesy, and simply get an urge to tell you their entire life story. A bit like my neighbour.

– Kako ste, susjeda? How are you, neighbour? – I would ask her while heading to my work.

– Oh, I have been fine lately, thank you for asking! – she smiles happily to me.
– Good, I’m glad! – I reply quickly and start to move my feet since I’m already a bit late for work.
– Nice to see you! – I try to turn my back and wave a bit to her to say goodbye.

Try is the key word in this sentence.

– But you know what happened to us just last month? – she gently but decisively grabs me underneath my arm – Do you know that we had a burglar at our cabin in the mountains?

– Yes, that’s very nice, I’m glad for you – I’m obviously not paying attention anymore, trying desperately to free my arm and catch that tram which is just around the corner – but I really need to go, I’m in a bit of a rush…

– Imagine the nerve of him! To barge into a house like that! – she completly ignores attempts to escape and continues with the endless burglar story, as I watch sadly how tram number 12 is leaving the tram station without me.

– Of course, we called the police – now she’s yelling – But what did they do, I ask you? Nothing!

The interesting fact with these people who tell you their entire life story, is that when it’s your turn to tell your life story story, suddenly they run out of time.

– A kako si ti, draga moja? And how are you, my dear? – she finally remembers that I might have something going on in my life as well.

– Well, you know… I start talking, but in that moment she experiences an instant Eureka-moment.

– Oh, no! I forgot I have to be home in five minutes to let the dog out! Nice seeing you! – and just like that, she’s gone.

Nisam baš dobro. I’m not so good.

A lot of people will tell you: Nisam baš dobro. And some aren’t very good at that point in their lives, and it’s therefore nice that someone can listen to them and maybe make them feel a bit better. But then there are those people who are simply always dissatisfied.

– Oh, I’m not so good. You know I won a lottery last month. We bought a new car and paid off all of our debts. My daughter got a new job and we’re going skiing this weekend. But, the weather is really lousy lately… This jugo (type of southerly wind) is killing me!

The weather is a huge ”mood issue” in this beautiful country. Somehow it seems that there is always something wrong with the weather. And there is! it’s so warm in the summer you have to wear short sleeves. The rain just won’t stop falling in autumn and sometimes it gets so cold in winter that it actually snows. Not to mention all the wind in spring time! Ah, the wind. One of Croatia’s unresolved mysteries.

Growing up in a big house in a cold and foggy little town on four rivers with my grandmother who moved there from warm and sunny Dalmatia, I soon realised that the wind is a higly important life issue. Grandma Marica was eternally worried about the weather, and the the posibilty that some day, somewhere, somehow you might just simply freeze. She was especially concerned about the wind situation.

– Put a sweater on your back, there’s some nasty north wind outside! – she would often warn me. The worst enemy of all possible winds was, of course, the propuh (draught).

– Put some clothes on those children! she would anxiously yelled to my mum while our old car with no air conditioning was leaving the backyard melting in the tropical summer heat.

– You have no idea how draughty it can get on the ferry boat!

Lately I have realised that the mood of lots of Croats depends on the type of wind that is currently blowing outside. And that biometeorogical weather report every night after the evening news is certainly not helping the nationwide situation of unhappiness. You just had a great day and you’re feeling happy and good about yourself and your life and then you watch the evening weather forecast.

Some very educated looking and serious looking guy tells you that the weather conditions will not be good at all tomorrow, and that sensitive people can expect headaches, dark thoughts, severe moping and in short – they will have a crappy day.

Tako – tako. So – so.

A wise and a good diplomatic answer that makes your friends interested in a discussion over a beer, and your acquintances, just a bit confused.

But, you know what the best answer to kako si? would be? Dobro sam, hvala! Good, thank you! or Odlično, hvala! Great, thank you!

Dobro sam! I’m fine! or even better Odlično! Great! – with a smile on your face. It makes your friends happy and your enemies miserable, and we sure need some more smiling faces in Croatia. After all, the World Cup wasn’t such a long time ago!

If you want to learn more about Croatian language courses, click here.


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