Two idyllic weeks on a Croatian beach is very different from the realities of full-time living. So what is it really like to live in Croatia as an expat? In a new series on TCN, we meet expats who have lived here for 5 years or more, to find out from them the good, the bad, and the ugly of 12-month living in Croatia. Next up, Andy and Cindy Elder from England.
1. Tell us firstly how you came to Croatia? What motivated you to choose this slice of paradise and how long have you now been here?
We met 17 years ago on a dating site after both of us having been widowed. Andy was already into sailing and had a dream. He wanted to retire early and buy a boat to live on and travel. He took me on several sailing holidays, including around Dubrovnik, so I could see if I would enjoy that life. On our last trip, we decided to hire a catamaran. I thought it might be more comfortable to live on, instead of a monohull. There weren’t many places that had the second-hand make and model we wanted, but Croatia was one of them. It seemed ideal, as the others tended to be in the Caribbean, a bit far to organise from England! I was still working, so Andy made a trip to Split to see the boat, sent me the photos, and we fell in love with it. He then made several trips by car to finalise everything, the last one coming back only a day before our wedding! We spent our honeymoon on our catamaran “Two Can Play”, and then went back to get everything packed, and either drove it back here, or delivered on pallets through a transportation company. I don’t think we would have made such honest and helpful friends anywhere else. Must have been fate to come to Croatia. We’ve never regretted it.
2. Looking back, what were your perceptions and expectations?
We expected to stay here a year, then sail onto Greece and further. There was so much to see that we decided to stay another year to see the rest of the coastline, and a few places inland by car. Then Covid hit. We decided that it was better to stay here, visiting places we knew, knowing people who could help (we got our resident permits after Brexit with A LOT of help from our friend in Split! We have a doctor and a dentist. Andy is currently in hospital in Zagreb after having to wait 2 years because of Covid to get surgery to repair the blocked main artery in his leg. Another story for another time maybe!
3. After 5 years here, how have those perceptions changed. Do you now view Croatia differently?
We didn’t think we would love it here so much that we would still be here 5 years later, Covid or not. Even after 5 years, there are still places we would like to visit. We didn’t realise just how rich and diverse the history is. The people here are so friendly, helpful, and generous. We do think, however, that our friend here in Split might just sabotage us ever leaving the country!!!
4. After your time here, the 3 things you love most about Croatia?
First: The people. We have made the most amazing friends here, in Cavtat/Dubrovnik, Split, and Zagreb. The best friends you could possibly have. We just wish your language wasn’t so hard. I can speak German and some other languages enough to get by. The Germanic and Latin-based words I can just about handle, even the Slavic ones, but the rest? We still keep trying though!
Second: The food! I am always telling people that the best beefsteaks are in Croatia, and their pizza is better than in Italy
Third: The history. An almost intact Roman arena older than Jesus? Roman artifacts everywhere? Places that look like Venice or Vienna? The history and beauty of this country is hard to beat.
5. And the 3 things you would like to change.
First: Not so many stamps! It’s a common joke of ours to make fun (lovingly) of the bureaucracy in this country. Need a document? Go to 5 different places, and get it stamped in each place. Then maybe you can get or do what you need.
Second: Need your car M.O.T.? Spend all day queueing up to get it passed.
Third: Arrange for someone to come to fix or install anything? Don’t expect them to turn up on time, or even on the same day.
6. Given your experiences, what advice would you give to any would-be expat thinking of making the move?
Go for it! Life is not a dress rehearsal! If you make friends here, they are so kind, helpful, and caring. Just learn that things happen slowly. There is a bit of a “manana” attitude to life here we find both wonderful and infuriating! Think of how long any officialdom should take, then double or triple it. Worth it in the end.
7. The most beautiful place in Croatia, and why?
We can’t really just pick one, it’s a beautiful country! We love Split, it’s alive still in the winter, and not too cold. However, it’s a bit too cold and damp to stay on our boat in the Winter, so for those months we stay in an apartment in Split. It’s great that we can go out to dinner, the movies, and see friends. Lots of great places nearby we can visit by boat or by road. Trogir, Krka waterfalls, Sibenik, Zadar. All beautiful and wonderful. Zagreb for the culture. Tesla museum, museum of illusions.
Otherwise, we both love Pula. Amazing that the Roman arena is still so intact, so beautiful! Anchoring in Cavtat, life, but a quiet bay. Visiting Dubrovnik. The views when walking the wall. Sailing by the city to see the walls.
8. Your favourite moment of your time in Croatia?
Again, can’t really just pick one. Watching the sunset from our boat. Never gets boring, and never looks the same way twice. Anchoring by one of the smaller islands or villages and watching the stars. The first time we were invited to a party even though we can’t really speak Croatian. Being told by our friends that we are Split locals, family, like one of them. Fireworks here on New Year’s Eve. Nautical flares, firecrackers, anything goes! Crazy, but fun. Same watching a Hajduk game.
We thought English fans were supposed to be a problem, but the Torcida? Throwing flares on the pitch, setting fire to their seats? Incredible to experience. Anchoring in a bay overlooking the arena in Pula. We are British, on a South African made boat, listening to Tom Jones performing in Croatia in a Roman arena. Can’t get much more international than that!
Also, check out our friend’s yacht if you’re in need this summer! Yachts | Astarea – #1 Yacht & Charter in Croatia (astarea-yachting.com)
Are you an expat who would like to be featured in this series? If yes, please contact [email protected] Subject Expat
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