Foreigners Self-Isolating in Croatia: Do You Feel Safer? Paul from UK in Jelsa, Hvar

Total Croatia News

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April 8, 2020 – Do foreigners in Croatia feel more or less safe sitting out COVID-19 here than in their home country, and what are their experiences? A new series on Total Croatia News, with TCN boss Paul Bradbury, originally from the UK and now in Jelsa on Hvar, as the 31st contributor.

Oxford University recently published some research on government responses to coronavirus which showed that Croatia currently has the strictest measures in the world. While inconvenient, this is a good thing in terms of reducing the spread of the virus, and I am certainly not alone in my admiration of the official Croatian handling of this crisis in recent weeks, both in terms of action and communication. 

But what do other expats here think? And how does it compare with the response in their home country? Would they rather sit this one out here or there? A new series on TCN, we will be featuring expats from all over the world to see what their views are on life in corona Croatia rather than back home. So far we have heard from expats in Croatia from Romania, USA, Ireland, UK, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Singapore, Holland, Canada, India, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Latvia, China, Honduras, Hungary, Moldova, South Korea, Japan and Germany. Next up, me. Several people contacted me, asking if I would write my experienes from Jelsa on Hvar, so here it is. 

If you would like to contribute to this series, full details are below.

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

Well I can’t say life is dull. 

We are doing really, really well, and I am so proud of and grateful to my amazing three girls.

When school closed down for a fortnight recently, we had a big decision to make. Did we stay in our house in a village in Varazdin, or head back to Jelsa on Hvar, where our previous home turned holiday home, turned cancelled bookings was a much better option. Dalmatian sun, the terrace, the Adriatic. 

Of course, if we were to go to the island, we would have to employ strict self-isolation. The reality was that this was going to take longer than 2 weeks for sure, perhaps two months, perhaps longer. To be cooped up in the house in the village near Varazdin, or to at least be able to enjoy the sun, the terrace and the view of the Adriatic. 

We held a family summit, and we all agreed – let’s go to Hvar. 

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(The evening ferry to Sucuraj and last glimpse of the mainland. Who knows when we will see it next?)

And from that moment, family unity has been magnificent, and I am so proud of all three of them. Mum managed somehow to pack everything up and squeeze it into the car, not knowing how long we would be gone. We have everything we need. We drove to Drvenik to try and make the ferry to Sucuraj, and with Taliah’s GPS updates, we made it with 7 minutes to spare. 

And since then, I have not met anyone outside the family, chained to my laptop on the couch for 16 hours a day on average, with 30 priceless minutes by the sea to rescue my sanity. 

The girls have been magnificent, and it can’t be easy for them, especially now that online schooling in Croatia is the new norm – a totally new concept (and you can see their impressions of online schooling in the video interview they did, above). 

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(No gin and tonic but plenty of lemons)

There are seven of us in our self-isolation unit. My wife and kids are with me in our apartment, and my sister, mother and father-in-law below. The three ladies are doing incredible things in the kitchen, and my punac is bringing amazing produce from the field where he works all day. This has brought us much closer as a family, and morale is high. No attempted murders to report – yet. 

Professionally, it has been a tsunami of events, emotions and experiences (as it has been for everyone, so there is nothing exceptional about my story). I lost every cilent I had, 100% of them, in three days, and Adsense and the family field is keeping us alive at the moment. But I think that particular curve has flattened, as yesterday, we got our first new client! I lost a lot in 2008, but as I have almost nothing to lose this time, this will not affect me as much as others. And I look at other, dear friends who have worked much harder than me and built up fabulous businesses, with textbook planning and execution. But the corona effect didn’t make it into the textbooks of business planning. 

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Mentally, I am very strong and focused, and I need to be. The fantastic support network of the girls, the Dalmatian sun streaming through the windows, and that precious 30 minutes by the Adriatic each evening are all essential, as are three online stress relievers. The irreverent messenger chat with my two fave TCN ladies, Dani and Lauren, is where we all let off steam, the chat between Lauren, myself and the Jurgen Klopp of science, Igor Rudan, fills me with joy and my belly with laughter. Igor truly is the funniest man I have never met. 

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And then there is the Facebook wall of Marko Rakar, whose combination of hilarious memes and brutal truths about what is coming make for addictive viewing, and I check in twice a day. 

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And I certainly need that support network to keep our three news portals together in Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia. In addition to the crap we are all going through, I have one writer who had suspected corona and got tested (thankfully negative), another whose elderly mother has just caught it, , having to reduce staff due to no income, threats from the authorities forcing me to unpublish an article they didn’t like (which subsequently appeared on other Croatian portals 2 days later – and are still live) with the promise of fines, trying to keep tabs on the mental health and stress of my writers who are being unbelievable in their dedication and application, a writer resigning a few days after the earthquake. And dealing with the abuse and inflamed emotions of our readers at a time like this, where the loose use of a word (which happens when you are chained to your laptop from 05:00 until 22:00 apart from lunch and that 30 mins by the sea) is taken as a personal attack by someone. 

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(One of the pillars which keeps me sane – 30 mins a day)

I am used to being responsible for everything in Croatia, from Bleiburg to Hajduk not winning the Champions League, but this is a VERY challenging time to be a writer, and I have to think about every word I publish (which has never been my style). Add to that the fact that corona has changed language. I posted a story about a ‘super positive Moldovan wedding planner under quarantine on Murter.‘ The only association with the word positive these days is not a happy one, someone pointed out. You can read more in Realities of Running an English News Portal in the Corona Era.

But overall, I am doing great, and I am focused on trying to give the many, many people depending on TCN the very best and most accurate news, which is only possible due to my two amazing teams – at home and my TCN colleagues. 

Oh, and I am growing a beard for the first time in 25 years. 

It looks terrible. 

What do you think about the economic measures the government is taking, are they helping your business?

Unlike the last question, I don’t have much to say on this one, as I have not had time to look into it in detail. I will qualify for 3250 kuna a month for the next two months I understand, but my friends from Glas Poduzetnika (Voice of Entrepreneurs) made their feelings known by demanding the resignation of the Minister of Economy, as well as highlighting the fact that an alarming statistic that 93% of private businesses in their group will go bust within 3 months without significant help. And how does the Mighty State of Uhljebistan respond? The chart below is private-sector job losses since the start of the crisis (source last Friday) on the left, public sector job losses on the right. It is why I believe that North Korea and Uhljebistan and the only true corona-proof states in the world (and yes, this is an attempt at humour to prove a point – have to be careful with my words).


When did you realise that corona was going to be a big issue? 

I started following the story in mid-January, and I asked Iva to do a piece on January 25, 2020, our first coverage, What is Croatia Doing to Prevent the Spreading of the New Coronavirus? This was three days before King Vili became Health Minister. Interesting reading, isn’t it? Forrest started his excellent daily updates the next day, and we were fully informed. 


Like many, I misjudged the seriousness of corona. We came out with the first ever corona map of Croatia on March 9 (thanks to my amazing wife). Back then, there were just a few cases in Rijeka, Varazdin and Zagreb. I was aware of the panic and anxiety that was out there about flights and tourism. And so I thought it would be helpful to the tourism industry to show the situation with the airports, as well as the surrounding countries, which all had very few cases and no deaths. The readership was huge on this article, second only to the Zagreb earthquake breaking news I published 15 mins after it struck. The big discussion was whether or not to include the horror show of Italy in the map. As the aim of the map was to clarify and reassure, I decided to keep Italy off the map. In hindsight, that was probably a bad call. 

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On March 22, I posted this on Facebook, which explains my timeline. This is the article mentioned – From Shanghai to Seoul to Zagreb: Why I Felt Safer in China.

What is your impression of the way Croatia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

I feel that I am in the safest place in Europe right now, in terms of the health threat (not so sure about the economic apocalypse which is coming). Who would have thought that the Croatian government could pull this off so superbly? And in our fascinating series interviewing expats from all over the world on how they are coping in Croatia (30 submissions so far), I don’t think there is one who feels less safe in Croatia than they would be back home. You can see the series here

I will be contributing to the fund to build statues of Vili and Alemka on Ban Jelacic Square when all this is over. But I also think it is important not to forget just how lucky Croatia was to have such a corrupt previous Minister of Health (let’s add the word alleged here, in these sensitive times), and there should be a third statue for the investigative journalists whose stories on the erstwhile minister’s property portfolio led to his replacement by King Vili. It should not be forgotten that while the former minister was holding press conferences in which he told us he was paying his lawyer 500 kuna an hour to help explain he had done nothing wrong, a bus full of Chinese tourists, including 18 from Wuhan, had arrived from Milan and was taking in the sights of Plitvice Lakes, Zadar and Dubrovnik.  

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Croatia doing better/worse?

 Yeah. Next question. 

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(TCN media HQ)

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

I have been an aid worker in many hot spots in my career, including arriving 2 weeks after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. I have never – ever – seen a crisis management and communications performance that comes close to what the National Civil Protection Headquarters is putting out. It is beyond impressive. And I would add to that the outstanding contributions from scientist Igor Rudan, whose texts are among the best on the Internet on corona. I have to pinch myself sometimes that I am in a fun chat with him and Lauren, as he is advising the Prime Minister and Health Minister on how to keep Croatia safe. And then to see that not only is Lauren now his official translator, but Igor insists the English version of his texts appear on TCN first. Thank you Sir – for everything! You can read Igor’s texts here.   

If the government could apply this transparency and open communication to its other ministries in the post-corona era, what a country Croatia could be. 

What’s the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation?


The fridge at one of my favourite restaurants in Croatia – Durina Hiza in Varazdinske Toplice. Thankfully, owner Nikola Bozic is bringing the fridge to us with this outstanding steak delivery service. He is coming to Split on April 17, so I need to figure out a way to get my order to Jelsa from there. Check out the new delivery service here – it will grow and add more quality local producers. I hope it becomes the future of how we food shop in Croatia. 

I was missing my blogging bathrobe, until I mentioned that this to my wife. She then opened a drawer and produced it. Quite how she managed to put EVERYTHING we needed into the car at very short notice, I will never know. Amazing woman – thank you, wife. 

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis. 

That I am not very good at growing a beard.

About others, I have learned a LOT, but perhaps best not to elaborate here. I already have a special talent for inflaming emotions. Suffice to say that I have a clear idea of who I do – and who I don’t – want to hang out with on the other side. And some of the don’ts have really surprised me. 

I suppose the most important thing I have learned is that when you have two foundation rocks such as my amazing family and my amazing TCN team, everything else is easy to deal with. Thank you both. 

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TCN is starting a new feature series on foreign experiences of sitting out COVID-19 here in Croatia compared to their home country. If you would like to contribute, the questions are below. Please also include a para about yourself and where you are from, and a link to your website if you would like. Please also send 3-4 photos minimum to [email protected] Subject Corona Foreigner

If you would be interested to record a video version for our partners please let us know in the email. Thanks and stay safe. 

Foreigners Self-Isolating in Croatia: Do You Feel Safer Than in Your Home Country?

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

What do you think about the economic measures the government is taking, are they helping your business? (PLEASE IGNORE IF THIS DOES NOT AFFECT YOU)

When did you realise that corona was going to be a big issue? 

What is your impression of the way Croatia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Croatia doing better/worse?

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

What’s the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis. 

TCN has recently become a partner in Robert Tomic Zuber’s new R+ video channel, initially telling stories about corona experiences. You can see the first TCN contribution from this morning, my video from Jelsa talking about the realities of running a news portal in the corona era below. If you would like to also submit a video interview, please find Robert’s guidelines below 


The video footage should be recorded so that the cell phone is turned horizontally (landscape mode).

There are several rules for television and video news:- length is not a virtue- a picture speaks more than a thousand words

In short, this would mean that your story should not last more than 90 seconds and that everything you say in the report should be shown by video (for example, if you talk about empty streets, we should see those empty streets, etc.).

How to do it with your cell phone? First, use a selfie camera to record yourself telling your story for about a minute and a half. Ideally, it would be taken in the exterior, except in situations where you are reporting on things in the interior (quarantine, hospital, self-isolation, etc.). Also, when shooting, move freely, make sure everything is not static.

After you have recorded your report, you should capture footage that will tell your story with a picture, such as an earlier example with empty streets.

One of the basic rules of TV journalism is that the story is told in the same way as a journalist with his text. Therefore, we ask you for additional effort. Because we work in a very specific situation, sometimes you may not be able to capture footage for each sentence of the report. In this case, record the details on the streets: people walking, the main features of the city where you live, inscriptions on the windows related to the virus, etc.

The same rules apply if you are shooting a story from your apartment, self-isolation, quarantine. We also need you to capture footage that describes your story.

When shooting frames to cover your reports, it is important that you change the angle of the shot (in other words, shoot that empty street from several angles). Also, when shooting a detail, count at least five seconds before removing the camera to another detail.

The material should be about 5 minutes long (90 seconds of your report + frames to cover your story).

After recording everything, send us to Zagreb, preferably via WeTransfer to [email protected]



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