Is Croatia a good place to live
Living in Croatia 2021: Cost, Lifestyle, Permits & Meeting People
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Living in Croatia is a very different experience than a summer vacation. Some tips for paperwork, apartment hunting, work, friends, bank account, internet, and more.
Are you thinking of moving to Croatia? A few things to consider
You have just returned from a fortnight holiday on the Croatian coast and fell in love with the country. Living in Croatia would be a dream! How is it and how can this dream become a reality?
As a Briton who has lived full-time in Croatia since 2003, I can honestly say that I can now no longer live anywhere else. The Croatian lifestyle, good or bad, runs in my blood. Once used to it, you don't want to miss it anymore. However, living and vacationing in Croatia are as different as day and night (maybe even more).
Croatia is fantastically beautiful, its people are hospitable and because of the lifestyle it is the longing of all stressed executives. BUT if it is such a paradise, why is Croatia plagued by mass emigration, especially of the younger population?
Although I would recommend people to come and live in Croatia if they are looking for a change in their lifestyle, they should do it with their eyes open. Because this is a land of bureaucracy, corruption and limited job opportunities through conventional channels. Especially for foreigners.
Nowhere in the modern age is it perfect, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. I would highly recommend you to spend 6 months in Croatia before starting your life here. It's not for everyone, and once the summer beach tan fades, the reality can be a little harsh. Here are my thoughts after 15 years in the country.
Registration and residence permit
Your introduction to the joys of Croatian bureaucracy will undoubtedly start with noting what you must do by law. Go to your local police station, fill out some forms and enter the system! Total Zagreb provided an overview of the procedure, including a link to the online form. It's the same in the rest of the country.
If you are staying longer, you will need a residence permit. Residence permits in Croatia are one of the great complications in life. Each newcomer will have their own story, but few of those stories will be straightforward.
In my case, I applied for a one-year temporary residence permit every year for four years. After that (and after a simple Croatian language test) I got my permanent residence. In theory, this entitles me to the same rights as locals. I now have to renew this permit every ten years.
From conversations with other newcomers, however, it appears that my case went very smoothly. Others struggled with official advice, which varied from office to office. There is also a HUGE difference in residence permits for EEA citizens and the rest.
For some reason, Americans seem to have more trouble than anyone else when it comes to getting permits to stay in Croatia. TCN recently presented several examples including how difficult it is for American retirees to live in Croatia.
My TCN colleague Lauren gave an excellent overview of the residence permit in Croatia. I can only say ... good luck! !
Find an apartment
Finding accommodation is of course a high priority. If you are hired by a company, they can help you find accommodation. However, when you're alone, this can be a daunting task, especially if you don't speak the language.
You should also be aware of the impact of the tourist season on the rental market. Short term summer vacation rentals keep many families alive, and it is not uncommon for long term rentals to rule out the summer months. Even so, the possibility of year-round income is attractive as the tourist season is short.
Here is an overview of what you need to know when looking for an apartment in Croatia.
If you live in Croatia, you must have health insurance. As soon as you have registered your stay with the police, your next stop is the local HZZO office. Follow the link to find out what you need to do to get your health insurance. A more comprehensive overview of the health system in Croatia can be found here.
Living in Croatia - what are the costs?
Although Croatia is certainly not as cheap as it used to be, it is still reasonably priced compared to Great Britain, for example. After paying around £ 1.50 for my breakfast beer in the idyllic piazza of Jelsa in Hvar for years, a business trip to London in 2016 was quite a shock for me.
But that's only one side of the coin. The wages in Croatia are much lower than in the UK. Many families grow at least part of their food themselves. Much of our family's needs - olive oil, wine, fruits, and vegetables - came from home grown.
The reality is that Croatia is very affordable for tourists but very expensive for locals. Items that should have the same price in neighboring countries always seem to be more expensive in Croatia, and supermarket prices rise additionally in the summer season.
Imported goods are also much more expensive when bought in Croatia. In almost all cases, from buying a computer to buying a car, it makes financial sense to buy something outside of Croatia and then bring it to Croatia. Even if that means grappling with the bureaucratic joys of importing a car into Croatia.
Are you looking for a more comprehensive overview of prices in Croatia, from milk prices to apartment rent? Follow the link
Bank accounts, internet, phones and personal ID number (OIB)
The boring thing about life in Croatia - how to set up the bare essentials for everyday life. Learn more about how to open a bank account, connect your new-found home to the internet, choose a wireless carrier, and get a personal ID number (OIB).
How easy is it to find a job in Croatia?
If it were easy to find a well-paying and fulfilling job in Croatia, not so many young people would emigrate.
The sad truth is that many jobs are seasonal and poorly paid. Where jobs exist, they are usually reserved for family and friends. Nepotism is a big part of everyday life in Croatia, and connections are everything here. This includes a doctor's appointment, visits to the authorities and even tickets for the theater. Croatia works “preko veze” (via Connections).
Now that Croatia is in the EU, there is free movement of workers. While this means that EU citizens can work freely in Croatia, it also (which is more often the case) that Croatians can move to Germany and Ireland, for example, to start a new life.
The average salary in Croatia is very low compared to the rest of the EU (around 800 euros per month) and this is another reason for emigrating. I now live in Varazdin, near Austria and Germany. Everything from electricians to web developers is hard to find because wages are so much higher a little further west.
If a company didn't get you to Croatia, in my experience the best way to find work is through word of mouth. Get active in expat forums (see below), network via LinkedIN and be present.
Or start your own business. Being self-employed in Croatia brings a whole new layer on the beauty of red tape, but if you find your niche it can work.
Living in Croatia: Successful Expat Experiences
Can foreigners do business successfully in Croatia? The simple answer is YES!
TCN recently had a streak of successful foreigners who moved to Croatia when hundreds of thousands went in the opposite direction. I was stunned by the variety of experiences and niches that people had found in their Croatian paradise. Looking for inspiration? Check out the TCN range of successful foreign entrepreneurs in Croatia.
Digital nomads and cooperation spaces
In recent years, the number of foreigners moving to Croatia has increased significantly. For example, if I look at Split ten years ago, I could name most of the foreigners who lived there all year round.
In the meantime, however, there are new arrivals every week. A significant number of these appear to be digital nomads. Online life and Croatian lifestyle is a very attractive way of life (ask this blogger after 7 years on the keyboard, mostly in cafes on the promenade).
Another reason this is a winning combination is that it makes the Croatian dream come true. Live in Croatia and earn money abroad - perfect!
While Zagreb, as the capital, is the biggest magnet for foreign workers, Split also has its merits, for sure. The number of coworking spaces that have emerged in recent years meets this demand. It's a topic that TCN recently picked up. And if you are looking for a coworking space in Zagreb, here are 5 of the best.
Coworking spaces are also very social and a good place to meet people if you are new to the city.
The new visa for digital nomads in Croatia came into force on January 1, 2021. This is an exciting opportunity for non-EU / EEA remote workers to work in Croatia for 12 months. And some have already taken the opportunity.
Meet Melissa Paul, holder of Croatia's first digital nomad visa.
And if you want to see how great the lifestyle possibilities are with the new visa, meet the first official digital nomad on Hvar, a marketing professional from San Francisco with a new address in Croatia: From a short stay in Hvar to a successful visa for digital nomads .
Would you like to apply for the visa? You can do this online now.
Living in Croatia: International schools in Croatia
If you are planning to live in Croatia and you have a young family, your options for international schools are limited to Zagreb. Nevertheless, there is nothing better than integrating the children into the local school system (ideal for learning Croatian!), International schools are initially limited to the capital. There are also international kindergarten options.
In February 2021, the opening of the first international school in Split was announced. In February 2021, the opening of the first international school in Split was announced.
Learning a language: is it necessary?
Can you survive in Croatia without learning the language? Yes. Should you at least learn a little Croatian? For sure.
Aside from being polite, make sure you understand and speak at least a few words so that you don't miss out on the experience of life in Croatia.
Almost all young people speak English fairly well and you can get around in larger urban areas without any problems. The exception is in these beautiful bureaucratic buildings while you are trying to deal with the authorities. These are often ruled by the old guard, whose English is not that good. Or maybe they do, but they don't feel the need to be helpful.
A few Croatian words will go a long way with the locals, even if you are not a linguist.
Find out more about learning Croatian in our Language in Croatia section.
Making Friends in Croatia: Some Online Groups
How do I get to know people in a new country?
Meeting people in Croatia is very easy. I've found it to be a very sociable country with its coffee culture. But I think it is best summed up by the young TCN employee Mira Maughan. Mira recently wrote an excellent first article for TCN, entitled "Living in Croatia: Reflections of a Foreign Teen - A Year in Zagreb". The article gives a very nice introduction to the ease of meeting people.
There are of course plenty of other resources for meeting people. Total Zagreb has a good overview to find expat groups and events online.
A simple Facebook search for expat groups in your city or region gives you several options. Noteworthy are the official Facebook pages of “Expats meets Split” and “Expats in Zagreb”, both of which are very active and inviting. There are several active members who provide newcomers with selfless advice and assistance free of charge.
Making Friends in Croatia: Some Online Groups
For the first ten years of my life in Croatia, I lived in an idyllic bubble on the tourist island of Hvar. I couldn't understand why the locals were complaining all the time and why many emigrated. This place was paradise!
And then I got to know the real Croatia. I would say that 80% of foreigners, if not more, fall in love with Croatia and see only the beauty (mostly tourists). About 15% get involved in the country, start businesses and then get discouraged by bureaucracy and corruption. This is what Croatia describes as “perfect for a two week vacation, but a terrible place to live”.
And then there is the 5% who go through all of this and eventually find nirvana, make peace with Uhljebistan and focus on the best that this country has to offer. And that's a lot. It took me 15 years to get there, here you can read more about "The 3 learning phases for a foreigner in Croatia: love, hate and nirvana".
Don't try to change Dalmatia, expect Dalmatia to change you.
The negative attitude in Croatia
As much as I love Croatians, they are Olympic champions when it comes to complaining. Few, oppressed by corrupt leadership and limited economic opportunities, dare to hope for the best every day.
New initiatives are often mocked and attacked without getting a chance. There are MANY positive success stories in Croatia, but it is a true saying, "A Croat will forgive you everything except success." As a result, many of the successful people keep their positive stories under the radar. The result is the perception that everything in daily life in Croatia is negative. It is a vortex of negativity that shouldn't be like that. Good stories need to be celebrated more.
What is a "Uhljeb"? An introduction to the mighty state "Uhljebistan"
It took me 13 years here until I heard the word "Uhljeb" for the first time and heard of "Uhljebistan", the nepotistic state within the state here in Croatia. And as I learned more about Uhljebistan, I understood the negative attitudes of many of my Croatian friends much better.
First-time visitor to the mighty state “Uhljebistan”? For more information, see Welcome to “Uhljebistan”: A Foreign Appreciation of the Cult of “Uhljeb”.
The Croatian lifestyle compared to Western Europe
A few years ago a school friend I hadn't seen in 25 years sailed to Stari Grad. It was great to meet and get to know his family. Life was good for him. He was a partner in an accounting firm, had his own boat and a big house outside of London, and obviously made a lot more than me.
And yet, when he told me about his weekly routine and the 6am commute to London, the cost of travel, mortgage and childcare, I realized how lucky I was to have found my Croatian paradise.
Croatia is a very relaxed country where life can be perfect if you can protect yourself from bureaucracy and corruption. You may not get materially rich, but it is unique in Europe in terms of quality of life. Think of the billionaire and the fisherman. If you can prepare for its quirks and get your expectations right.
Why don't you give it a try?
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