Is a Foreign Resident Opinion Less Valid than a Diaspora Opinion?

Total Croatia News


March 5, 2020 – Opinions about Croatia vary considerably, with the viewpoints of those living here often at odds with many in the Croatian diaspora. But is the opinion of a foreign resident of a country less valid that someone from the diaspora who has never lived here?

Which questions were you asked most last year? 

I am guessing that the two most popular questions to all of you were the same – how are you and where are you?

For me there was a third question, which was almost as frequent – what do you think about Brexit?

I was born in the UK, lived there for the first 19 years of my life, but apart from university and 5 years running my own wine business with my father, I have lived abroad for the rest of that time. 

How did Brexit affect my life (apart from having to listen to British friends debate it endlessly when we met up)? It took 18 minutes of my life when I changed my driving licence at Varazdin Police Station. That’s it. 

Having not lived in the UK now for 20 years, I have little real understanding of the daily realities there today. I go back every 2-3 years to see family, and every time I go, it feels a little bit less familiar. I am ok with that, I made my life decision to travel the world and experience new cultures. And now, having visited 96 countries and lived in 10, I have found the perfect spot in rural Varazdin County with my lovely Dalmatian wife and two adorable kids. 

I still follow the news from the UK, the politics, the business, sadly my commitment to Aston Villa. But do I understand the issues of daily life in Britain today? Less and less. 

I meet or am contacted by LOTS of foreigners who live in the country of my birth. Many Croatians of course, but also from other parts of Europe and the world. We have moved in opposite directions, and it is always interesting to share experiences. And when I talk to these people, I hear a lot of criticism about the land of my birth – the racism, the lack of culture, the crime, the failing NHS, the aggression towards immigrants. I find these experiences real and genuine, experiences that have been molded by real-life experience. To me, hearing these experiences educates me about the realities of modern Britain, invites me to consider my native country from a different perspective, and provides me with a more rounded view of Britain today and how it has changed from the Britain I left behind 20 years ago. 

It has changed a lot. And not for the better, if the general tone is to be believed. And if I asked myself which opinion of the UK was more valid – those of a foreign resident who has been living the daily grind for 20 years, or someone who was born and raised in Britain but chose to live elsewhere and have limited contact with the mother ship, clearly the views – even the critical ones – of the foreign resident are far more relevant. Rather than standing up patriotically defending my country from a foreign resident who had the audacity to live in my country and then feel entitled to attack it, I am a realist and know that things aren’t perfect, and that criticism – especially constructive criticism – is healthy in society. 

One thing I would definitely not say is – if Britain is so terrible, why don’t you f*ck off back to Warsaw, Bucharest, Sofia, Zagreb (fill in the appropriate city)? As far I see things, if someone makes a decision to live in a country, pay taxes and accept and embrace the limitations of their host country, they absolutely have the right to criticise what they see as wrong. 

And so we come to Croatia, where I change my diaspora hat for that of the foreign resident. 

As we have long ago established in Is a Foreigner Allowed to Have an Opinion in Croatia? foreign opinions are very welcome in Croatia – as long as they are positive. As soon as something critical appears, the invitations to f*ck off to whence you came come pouring in. 

My recent editorial Traditional Values or Perpetuating Division? Shaping the Young Croatian Mindset was widely read and widely commented on. As with most articles of this type, there were very polarising views – some strongly agreed, some violently disagreed. I am fine with that, as all debate is healthy. One of the strongest reactions was from a Croatian Facebook page in Sydney, called Cro2000 Media, which labelled TCN as a subversive and dangerous portal, with one of the commentators confirming that I and a ‘female buddy’ he had met in Dubrovnik were both working for MI6. I must say that I like this description – it does make me sound quite the all-round action hero. I guess this is perhaps why people are so disappointed when they meet me in person… You can read the full post from Cro2000 Media here


The relationship between Croatia and its diaspora in Australia is one of the weirdest I have ever come across anywhere. They are without doubt among the proudest, most patriotic and generous (in terms of supporting the Homeland) Croats on the planet, many of them descended from victims of persecution by Tito. Surprisingly, for such patriotism, a large number don’t speak Croatian at all apart from a couple of phrases, most have never lived in Croatia, thereby experiencing the realities of life here, and a large number have their real Croatian experience shaped by a 2-week summer holiday on the beaches of the Adriatic. 

But in terms of opinions of this diaspora and a foreign resident like me? It seems that only one opinion is valid. And it is not mine. 

Every time discussions like this start online, there is the typical reaction from locals living in Croatia to the diaspora. The main argument is that if you want to have an opinion about the country you love, you should try paying taxes and living here. It is a curious thing that the diaspora have the vote (3 MPs in total) but are not required to pay taxes. If my opinion is worth anything (I know it is not), I am fine with the diaspora having their opinions, voting and not paying taxes. The generosity of the diaspora during the war saved Croatia, and the 2 billion euro sent to the Homeland each year is actually bigger than Croatia’s annual foreign investment. And in terms of the vote, an incredibly small number do vote – just 40,000 in the recent presidential election (24,000 of which were in Hercegovina). A lot of local people tend to brush over this important aspect of a very complex relationship. 

It would just be better for all concerned if you are going to voice an opinion, to do it on a subject you actually know something about. Come on over and spend some time in Croatia, live it a little and learn that the perceptions you grew up with are actually very different on the ground. 

Everyone is different, but I personally would be embarrassed to start lecturing a foreign resident of the UK about all things British having been out of the country for 20 years. Debate is healthy, but a prerequiste is understanding the issues being debated. 

At least in the irrelevant opinion of this foreign resident.


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