Croatian Returnee Reflections: Maria Pokrivka, from Graz to Zagreb

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My parents, both from Croatia (mum: Zagorje, dad: Slavonija), met in Graz-Austria and decided to stay there. I was born and raised in Graz. My connection to Croatia was huge, spent all my Holidays there, 1st language, Croatian, and was part of the Croatian community. I studied economics in Graz and did 1 year Erasmus in Zagreb. At the moment, I am working for an elevator company in Zagreb in Human Resources. That is my first job since I moved to Croatia.



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.

After spending 1 year in Zagreb for Erasmus, I decided after I finish my studies in Graz, I will move there. Since then, all the smallest decisions I had to make were consciously chosen to help me come to Zagreb. As a “foreigner” in Austria, I just wanted to find my home, and that is what Zagreb gave me. About 5 years after Erasmus, I finally moved to Zagreb, and since then have never regretted it!



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

My family was definitely not happy about my decision and didn’t understand it. They thought Austria would give me a better life. My friends, on the other hand, felt I was doing the right thing, as they knew how long I desired to live there. 


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

Mostly from locals, as I had a lot of friends in Zagreb. All of them were really surprised about my decision, but again they confirmed to me that you could live very well in Zagreb.



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

My biggest fear was at the beginning, If I fail or it doesn’t turn out the way I thought. I just didn’t want to fail and move back. Well, it turned out great. I had luck working in a good environment, with good friends around me. The reality was better than the dream. 


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?

Not much has changed. My perception was if you find a solid job and have a solid income, you can have a very beautiful life. I honestly can’t think of anything that surprised me. 



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.

People. I love the warm, Direct and spontaneous mentality. Life is easy. The beauty of the country, and how close everything is. Literally every weekend during summer I spend it on the coast. Children are still children, they can be with their friends in the park the whole day, and you as a parent feel it s safe on the street. Buying your breakfast in the pekara (bakery) and enjoying it at a coffee house. I know there are also many cons, one of the cons that come to my mind are hospitals that are in a very bad state or a lot of corruption that affects the whole country.



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

Make sure that you learn the language abroad, knowing foreign languages in Croatia opens many doors. Buy your own apartment, don’t rent one. 


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

That is a hard one. But I think trying to connect them better in their hometown would make a big benefit. Whenever I’m telling someone in Croatia my story, they are very surprised and convinced that I am literally the only person who moved back, Because in the media, you only hear how people are leaving Croatia, but not that they are moving back. If the diaspora is better connected, they could help each other better. 



Thanks, Maria!

You can follow more stories in the Croatian Returnee Reflections series in our dedicated TCN section.

Would you like your returnee story – positive or negative – to be featured in this series? Contact [email protected] Subject Returnee.


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 will be out by Christmas. If you would like to reserve a copy, email [email protected] Subject 20 Years Book


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