September 2, 2020 – Declarations of love, funny trading offers for chickens, appeals for dates and creative swearing have lightened the mood after earth tremors, as the Croatian sense of humour spills over into the unlikely forum of an earthquake-reporting app
The earthquake of 22 March 2020 was an unforgettable experience for anyone in Zagreb. The strongest to have hit the Croatian capital in 140 years, it has naturally been followed by a series of aftershocks. Eight particularly forceful tremors have been accompanied by more than 1000 smaller aftershocks. The vibrations have become as much a part of 2020’s everyday life in Zagreb as putting on a mask.
While some still become mortified by these tremors, many Zagreb residents have now become accustomed to this low rumbling of the ground. They can now laugh and joke about it.
The Croatian sense of humour is a diverse beast – it can be dark, brutal, scathing, self-deprecating, gentle, simple, outrageous, creatively profane or simply just bizarre. In this diversity and relentless ability to laugh at all situations, the Croatian sense of humour and that of some immediate neighbours, is much closer to that which the British have rather than other Europeans. It is British comedy shows that regularly delight Croatian TV audiences, not those from Germany, France or Italy.
Jokes and swearing about the earth tremors are a classically Croatian response. Alongside the Croatian sense of humour and general tomfoolery, they have recently spilled over into an unexpected forum. The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre is a pretty serious institution. It was established in 1975 and has 84 professional institutes as members in as many as 55 different countries. Their app is a world leader for the public reporting of earth tremors. Although, in the hands of funny Croatians, it has of late become a bulletin board for declarations of love, statements of the surreal, an app for trading and dating.
“Matija, I love you” read one of the first comments in response to the latest aftershock, which occurred on Friday 25 September. “Nikolina from Jazbina, I love you,” declared another.
“I’m opening the bottle, is there any frightened girl nearby so that we can be scared together?” appealed one lonely chancer from the Kvatrić neighbourhood. Rather bafflingly, another simply wrote “Milk shake. Strawberry.”
This weekend’s corruption of the EMSC app is not without precedent. “Does anybody here have any yeast? Dubrava and surroundings” begged one local, several weeks ago. Another trader at least made reference to the earth tremors when he advertised “I sell chickens. They are small and stressed out – and will remain small! I buy chickens, too. But only those who are resistant to earthquakes.”