Let me introduce myself; I’m Šime Lisica, born and bred in Sydney, Australia. For those of you that already know me, there are a lot of you out there, then you already know what I’m about and what my character is as a human being, you will enjoy this. For the rest of you, I will attempt to give you an insight into that with the following interview.
I consider myself Australian-Croatian rather than Croatian-Australian. I was an entrepreneur from the second my beautiful mother gave birth to me. Both my parents are of Croatian descent from the Zadar region; they escaped communism to build a better life for themselves and their families both back home and in Australia.
I live by the sea in a beautiful village next to Zadar called Bibinje, although the Bibinjci will tell you that “Zadar je misto pokraj Bibinja… Ae” translated to “Zadar is a place next to Bibinje… True that!” funny sh*t right! if you are game, you should visit, or for that matter, stay the week.
I’ve been a fixture in the commercial Audio Visual & Lighting industries for 20+ years, working at an international level, I have covered the full spectrum of this profession; over the last 20 years, I’ve watched this industry change and grow while I have grown up alongside it.
I bought this wealth of knowledge and skill to Croatia, where I formed the company Audio Visual Group Ltd. While I was spending most of my time in Croatia from 2014 and before the pandemic, which ruined everything, I was working on-board cruise ships in Singapore during the dry-docking program; I have sailed several times in a consulting role while in the same period have also been lucky enough to work on-board superyachts in Greece with various other ship & yacht-based projects under my hat. Let’s just say, “I’ve been everywhere, man” I wouldn’t be able to cover everything in this short introduction, it’s true that thus far, I have lived a full life, I came to Croatia because I needed to start settling down.
In Croatian, they have a word for my previous life, it’s one of my favorite words next to “uhljeb” “uhljebisam” & “uhjlebistan” (the latter best describing the country I live in) I was what they call a “skitnica” or the closest English translation from Meriam-Webster that I can find would be “vagabond” – and I’m proud of it mate!
Vagabond – adjective.
- moving from place to place without a fixed home.
- a: of, relating to, or characteristic of a wanderer.
b: leading an unsettled, irresponsible, or disreputable life. (geez, that’s a bit harsh)
During and post-pandemic, over the last 20 months, my team and I, alongside our partners, have started a Music, Entertainment & Lifestyle channel called FitnessTV that is broadcast inside fitness venues, our pilot project started in July of this year where we completed our first installation at OrlandoFit in Zagreb, moving forward we are now starting to move onto additional venues, with the end goal of reaching 50 venues nationwide. I have fairly ambitious plans for this project, all while I have drained the life out of myself and my team to reach the stage that we are at today.
You can follow our progress on LinkedIn – it’s the only social network I engage with.
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.
I had secretly started planning my escape as early as 2010; I had started to grow disillusioned with Australia as I didn’t feel that it was the place for me. This, of course, caused several mental health issues where I was unable to identify who I was, I knew I was different, and I knew my calling wasn’t the Australian life, but I stuck it out for a few more years. In 2014 I started to take the decision far more seriously and increased the frequency of my time in Croatia, back then I established a foothold and began to conduct due diligence on a number of matters. My frequency in Croatia increased exponentially to the point where I was here 3-4 times a year. It wasn’t until early 2018 that the decision was final, and I was here for good.
2. What did your family and community back home think of your decision at the time?
My family always knew that I would be the one who was going to make the move, I never stopped talking about it, while I can’t say they were happy about my decision, in some matters, it was a necessity that I was present here on the ground whereas in others I know that they would have preferred I stayed in Australia.
I had a mixed reaction from my friends and associates, over 80% of the feedback back was negative. A lot of people called me crazy, stupid, or a lunatic, they told me I was throwing my life away, and they were highly discouraging while providing me with unfounded advice, or they laughed at me both to my face and behind my back, whereas the remainder was positive, encouraging, congratulative and respectable.
I recall back in 2019 when my good friends Adam (Sharky) and his now wife Ivana got married, I specifically made sure that I would be present at the wedding, I knew it would be the last time that I see everyone after living it up with the band and long hugs and kisses with my closest. I left quietly when I reached the top of the stairs, I looked out over the venue, and I knew in that very instant that I was turning my back on Australia for good. It immediately hit me pretty hard, knowing that this was the end of an era.
3. Where did you get your information about the realities of Croatia prior to coming?
As already discussed in the first question, I had completed a lot of my own due diligence through several different channels here on the ground, besides a lot of internet research, to be completely honest, no amount of prep work can make you ready for the hard-set realities this country can and will inflict on you. Like it or not, you physically have to be here and actively pursuing the goals you are setting yourself.
4. What were you most nervous about making the switch? What was your biggest fear, and what was the reality of what you found?
Fear is an interesting word, I only have fear for a few things in life, and one of them is God. I would prefer to replace fear with concern as that would be far more appropriate.
My biggest concern was how long things take to get done, I already had significant experience with the system, from one ridiculous piece of paper through to a whole project to build a house, everything just takes way too long! The reality of the matter is that it takes three to five times longer than what the initial estimate would entail.
Corruption is also rampant, until I learned the ropes, I was always concerned that people whom I met would be fu**ing me. Some of them did, some of them being my own flesh and blood, essentially causing me to have severe trust issues – you live, you learn. Not everyone is like that; there are good people here with open hearts and open minds, when you meet them then, you will know who they are. You just need to learn the ropes and ask members of the diaspora who have been here for a long period of time for advice; you can rest assured that they will be honest and upfront with you.
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 would say that I was having a bromance with Croatia for a very long time, I indeed had high expectations of this country, in the beginning, it was a love affair, but the bromance soon faded, and I came to realize that this is simply the next chapter of my life. This was back in a time when help was limited, and trust issues were rampant, so once the love affair was over then, I was finding it extremely difficult to adjust as, over time, the initial perception did not match the reality I encountered.
I could comment on a vast number of items that do not match the perception; I’m a very positive human being with a lot of energy, so that essentially would be highly negative of me and further discouraging to you, the reader. My best advice moving forward is to have no expectations at all, when you have no expectations, then it is difficult to be disappointed.
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.
If I didn’t think it was a good idea, then I wouldn’t be doing it. There are so many things that I love about the place, one of them is the peace and quiet. I absolutely love being next to the sea, especially now that the season is over and we come back to normality, if you removed me from the sea then I don’t know how I would function. I love the lifestyle as being here is a lifestyle choice, I love the good people here and the attitude they present, I love when I strike up a conversation with a random person, and I tell them I moved here from Australia, they are always in so much disbelief like I’m the only one, then when we talk it through, they understand and congratulate me for being so brave.
I have been lucky enough to inherit a vineyard, olive groves, and other agricultural lands. I remember all the way back to 1995 when I was 12 years old when my grandfather sat me on the tractor and drove me around to these places, he told me that one day some of this would be mine. While I didn’t fully grasp the theory at that stage, it stuck in my head, and I understood him. Over the last few years, I’ve grown very fond of being in the vineyard, under the olive trees, or looking after the chickens and turkeys. Fresh eggs are amazing, plus they are so entertaining at 06:00, if you told me 10 years ago that is what I would be doing, then I would have laughed at you, but of course, loving wine is a huge benefit when you know you have your own.
I’ve established this thing called “me time” it starts at 05:30 and extends through to 09:00, this is where I spend the time doing the above, I have time to think. Also, I’ve found that as long as I have the time to do the things that I love on the side, then I am far more efficient and happier during the day. It’s a complete disconnection from the digital world that has infiltrated my brain daily for the previous 20 years of my life, and that’s what I need to function.
Let’s move on to the dislikes; I have to bite my tongue because I will and already have upset several individuals and institutions, so let’s tone this down a bit.
I wholeheartedly dislike the Croatian banking system; it is designed so that individuals and businesses are unable to function correctly, I know for a fact that if I presented my ideas to an Australian bank, they would throw the money at me and then ask if I needed more, when I view some of the advertisements these banks put on the market or for that matter when I come out of a meeting with the bank then I am so sick to my stomach that I need to knock off some rakija to come good again!
Public institutions make up ridiculous rules and regulations, passing unfounded policies and by-laws only in their interest and not in the interest of the public domain, which is essentially whom they serve.
Incompetent timeservers, dogsbodies, and troglodytes, Croatia is rampant with these types of individuals; once you have encountered one of the above, I suggest that you move rapidly in the opposite direction.
There’s clearly a lot more; now I’m just getting upset, let’s move on.
7. What advice do you have for others thinking about making a move from the diaspora?
My advice is to follow your heart; if everything is telling you to move forward in this direction, if you have the itch, then you should scratch it, take the bull by the horns, and just do it. But not before you come up with some sort of solid plan which you are prepared to change and rearrange at the drop of a hat. I’m certain that you need to drop whatever emotion you have and be prepared to suffer disappointment. Nothing is easy; life is full of pain and suffering, if you lead into your future plans with a positive mindset, then you will attract what you want or need in your life.
Also, there is a huge community of diaspora and digital nomads who are already here on the ground in Croatia; there are various groups on WhatsApp and similar where you can connect with us and ask for help and advice but don’t ask for direction, that can only come from you internally.
8. How do you think Croatia can better assist those who are looking to return to the Homeland?
Excellent question, I’m going to draw upon an example of poor government policy that is currently active here in Croatia.
Towards the end of last year, the government announced an incentive called “I choose Croatia” or “Mjera Biram Hrvatsku,” where the offer is to Croatian citizens located within the EEA who have spent at least 12 months outside of Croatia then find it within themselves to return to Croatia where they will be rewarded with up to 200,000kn all to revitalize the demographic problem of citizens leaving the country to live and work abroad.
Essentially what the policy has done is further segregate the diaspora from Croatia, it’s only available to citizens who are in the EEA. Ok, so what about the rest of the world? With this policy, the government is suggesting that there are only Croatian citizens in the EEA. The policy is so poorly structured that as of May 2022, publicly available information shows that a total of 16 people have applied, of those 16, only 5 have been awarded from this fund – this in itself shows exactly how much confidence Croatian citizens have in this policy.
Various guidelines need to be followed, but it only appeared to be a band-aid solution that has been announced to make it look like the government is doing something, whereas the numbers have proved this to be a complete flop!
The question is, why don’t you open up applications for this incentive worldwide?
If you read the constitution of Croatia (an amazing living document), you will soon recognize that this does not align with various sections, it does nothing but segregate us further.
What about those of us who have packed everything up and invested our hard-earned money back into Croatia? There is no help for us! All we have done is prop up the false GDP figures.
I choose Croatia, so why don’t you give me 200,000kn to help offset the amount of money I have invested back into this country then I will show you what I can do with it.
Unfortunately, the only people who listen to the diaspora are the diaspora; we have no voice, we are just expected to assimilate, shut up and be good citizens while our leaders make the wrong decisions for us without public consultation.
God Help Us!
And that’s a wrap, thank you so much for taking the time to read this until the end, I only hope it was as entertaining for you as it was for me, my parting words to you are, be a good human being, stay safe and live life to the fullest as time is not your friend, time is material to performance, time is definitely of the essence.
Would you like your returnee story – positive or negative – to be featured in this series? Contact [email protected] Subject Returnee.
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