Croatian Returnee Stories: Stipe Barac, from Denmark to Rijeka

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After 3.5 years spent in the land of hygge, which states for the Danish philosophy of enjoyment, this is Stipe’s story of why he has exchanged Denmark with Croatia.

Born and raised in Rijeka, after living in beautiful Zagreb, Stipe moved to Denmark to study. He got enrolled in branding and marketing studies at one of the most prestigious Scandinavian design schools in the lifestyle sector.

But why he came back and how he sees Croatia, he expressed vividly in this interview. Feel free to read and share your thoughts.

1. You made the switch to Croatia. Tell us a little about the decision process and how long it took for you to get on the plane?

Life in Denmark is decent, and I feel blessed that I had an opportunity to study abroad, and this study experience has definitely enriched my life profoundly. I’ve studied in an international environment and met people from all over Europe and the world. According to the Associate Professor and culturologist Anatolie Cantir, Denmark is the happiest country in the world with the unhappiest expats.

From the very beginning, I intuitively felt that Denmark would only be a stopover in my life and that I would not settle my life there. I realized that I see myself in Croatia and that I would like to bring at least a part of what I learned in Denmark to Croatia. I think that’s the right path for me at this moment.

I see enormous potential in Croatia, and I believe that it is the task of us young people, to change this country for the better and contribute to its development. If everyone leaves and moves to the West, who will develop Croatia?

Since Croats are among the tallest men in the world, try to find me in the photo.


Photo: Graduation celebration with colleagues from Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Canada, Iceland and the Netherlands 

If you thought I was the one in the middle, you’re right! True tall Croat!

2. What did your family and community back home think of your decision at the time?

My family has always been supportive of most of my decisions, so they supported my return to Croatia.

On the other hand, my grandparents spent their entire work life in Germany, and they clearly suggested that I might consider returning back home. They experienced what it is like to feel like a stranger in a foreign land. I agree with that.

Some of my friends had a divided opinion, they didn’t really understand why would I return, although they felt contented that I would return back. Some of them live in the belief that the grass is greener somewhere else. But, is it really? I think the grass is green in Croatia.

I understand that economic conditions might be better somewhere else, but not necessarily, because I believe that Croatia also has a lot of potential that is waiting to be developed. It is a country of undiscovered opportunities.

For instance, what I’ve learned in Denmark is that the Danes are resourceful, assertive, and know how to use their potential. In terms of energy, the Danes are leaders in green energy, so you’ll find windmills in almost every village. I like their simple approach to life and business. They saw that the wind was constantly there. So, they learned how to make windmills and install them all over Denmark. Now, they sell windmills all over the world. Even the Danish government has decided to triple the number of windmills in Denmark in the coming years. Not doubling, but tripling! Typically Danish – extreme, ambitious.

How can Croatia do something similar, but something that suits our needs and our circumstances? On the Croatian coast, the number of hours of sunshine is high, and this could be our enormous source of energy, literally every hamlet should have a mini solar power plant. Croatia could triple the number of solar power plants and show its ambition! Croatia, please, make bold moves!


Photo: Windmills in every village in Denmark

3. Where did you get your information about the realities of Croatia prior to coming?

I often read the experiences of other people who moved to Croatia, mostly the experiences of returnees. Through LinkedIn, I was inspired by people who succeeded in Croatia, and they encouraged me that it is possible to succeed in Croatia. I’ve learned that it is not necessary to live abroad to live a prosperous and abundant life. I strongly believe it is possible in Croatia too! And no one can dissuade me from that!

4. What were you most nervous about making the switch? What was your biggest fear, and how was the reality of what you found?

I was most afraid of the mindset and the system that rules here in Croatia. I would like it to change for the better, for people to be more open and optimistic, nicer and kinder to everyone, to develop their talents and not depend so much on the opinion of others.

I believe that young people are brave, that they want to make bold moves for Croatia. I like how more and more people are getting involved in entrepreneurship and want to contribute to the creation of modern Croatia. LOVE IT!


Photo: Stipe with his colleague Ana from Canada

5. Think back to the time before you arrived. What were your perceptions about Croatia and how were they different from the reality you encountered?

I spent the summer holidays of 2022 in Croatia, and the more time I spent here, the more I was sure that I wanted to move back, and it was only a question of the day when I would move. In September 2022, I moved completely.

Before I came back, I had a deep conviction that Croatia is a country of untapped potential. That it is a country where many things can be better, and I want to contribute to that development. I had this attitude before my return, and I still have this attitude. I seriously plan to make my contribution in the field that interests me, which is sustainable design and business.


Fotografija: Predstavljanje brenda UCKA

6. You are still here, so obviously the pros outweigh the cons. Tell us about some of the things that you love about being in Croatia, as well as some of the things you don’t like.

Yes, I am in Croatia for a reason! After I returned, I joined the Startup Incubator in Rijeka, where I am developing a sustainable sportswear brand called UCKA Sportswear. I am focused on creating tights and tops from recycled materials, and I hope that we will soon release our first collection. Stay tuned!

Feel free to follow our journey at @ucka-sportswear.

When it comes to other things that I love about Croatia these are definitely our fresh and delicious food, relaxed people, pleasant climate, and that we have mountains!

Considering Denmark, which is a flat country with the highest peak Møllehøj – 171m, Croatia is a miracle! I missed those mountains so much that when I climbed to the top of Kamenjak and saw the beautiful view of Kvarner, I almost cried!

Furthermore, I am bothered by the disorganized system here in Croatia and the corrupt government. I assume that is one of the reasons why so many young, educated people leave. I feel deeply sad about that. From where I am standing, the current government will lose the elections in the next period because they are not leading Croatia in the right direction and are not working in the public interest.


Photo: Beautiful view from the top of Kamenjak, Rijeka

7. What advice do you have for others thinking about making the move from the diaspora?

I would like to use this opportunity to encourage all people who live abroad and are considering returning back home, to do that!. Every person is valuable, and everyone who returns will surely contribute to the development of Croatia!

8. How do you think Croatia can better assist those who are looking to return to the Homeland?

When many people return, they will certainly be looking for a new job, and the HZZ should step in to help people find their way on the labor market. On the other hand, I think that the media should actively invite people to return and report on good and successful stories in Croatia. This will create a positive climate in society.


Thanks, Stipe, and enjoy your time in Croatia.

You can follow the TCN Croatian Returnees series here.

If you would like  to contribute your returnee story, please contact [email protected] Subject Returnees

You can subscribe to the Paul Bradbury Croatia Expert YouTube channel here.


What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning – Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.



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