Last summer, I’ve been been living in Croatia’s capital for two months and just like everyone abroad, I was pretty surprised by some things. Most surprising of all was the fact that there was something surprising. I thought it was going to be same as being home. Or at least unnoticeably different. And while most of the things were (I mean, there are things that aren’t common for people from my area and people from other areas of my own country and yet they can be seen here), there still were some I found interesting enough to write about. So, here we go!
- Everyone knows names of the streets
Before I came to Zagreb, while looking for a place to stay during my time there, I had contacted a woman who then asked me where the agency I was going to work at was situated. Of course, I had no idea, since I had never visited it before. So, I checked it up online and told her the address. Immediately, she said she knew where it was. And the conversation continued.
Upon arrival, while talking to people, or listening to them talk in the tram, or anywhere else, I realized not only my house-owner knew all the streets in the city, but everyone else did too. And I don’t mean few main streets. I mean EVERY single street there is.
Later on, I figured the reason for that is (or at least it might be) the fact that the names of the stations (both for trams and buses) are generally named by the streets. Including all the little ones. Which is actually a great idea, because even I learned some of them during my short staying.
2. Smart street name boards
Street name boards are one of those things you don’t even notice unless they’re extraordinary in any way. These here don’t have any eye-catching design, but are still extraordinary, if you ask me. In addition to the names of the streets, every board has an explanation as well. An explanation on why that something the street has been named after is important, whether it’s a person, a country, a city, an event from the history, or something else. Which is pretty educative and cool, at the same time. Bad thing, on the other hand, is the fact it’s only written in Croatian, so tourists don’t benefit, but it still has thumbs up from me!
Edit: I visited Sarajevo after writing this post and noticed a similar thing there, too. Love it.
3. Love for sports/active life
I’ve already mentioned this in one of my Instagram posts. Whether it is the lake, parks, or just regular streets, people are running, cycling, sailing, doing stuff. There are posters for upcoming running races everywhere and all of my work colleagues have registered for one. There are some of them who go running or swimming before they come to work, and some that do it afterwards.
I have never in my life seen so many active people. Like, seriously.
4. “Thank you”s on every corner
Being surprised by this is actually a bad thing, because it means “Thank you”s or “You’re welcome”s as basic politeness indicators aren’t present at the place I normally stay. What makes this even worse is the fact I live at two different places and none of them have the same characteristic.
The fact that people don’t realize a smile, few nice words, or a seat in the tram/bus can make someone’s day makes me seriously sad. I mean, just try it and I’m sure you’ll never stop again!
5. High service quality
Directly related to the previous point is the fact that workers in service sector are really polite. I mean, of course there’s a certain (but small) percentage of people who are rude for no reason. I remember this one time when a driver in the tram was acting like an absolute idiot replying extremely rude to the people asking questions about the route of the tram (there was a lot of work on the road meaning the routes changed frequently so nobody really knew which tram goes where). There’s people like that everywhere.
However, the waiters, people in the shops, or pretty much anywhere I’ve been were really nice and polite while offering good quality products and/or services.
Why is this such a big deal for me?
Because my hometown, Bihać, has extremely high tourism potential and was lately being visited by a lot of tourists. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean service quality has improved. I remember times when we went to a restaurant asking for a dish the waiter didn’t even know was served, but we did, because we ordered it quite often. I mean, all those non-polite waiters don’t even need to be mentioned, right? And this isn’t only the case in my hometown. Service industry just isn’t developed in Bosnia. Well, not as much as it should be.
There are foreigners in every corner of the world, of course. There’s a zillion of Arabs in Bihać, for example. And a lot of Europeans in Ghent. And just as many Syrians in Turkey. But they all continue they lives as foreigners there. Or at least that’s what I’ve observed.
Here, on the contrary, I’ve seen people merge their identities. For example, there was a Korean in the tram speaking Croatian, pretty much as a Croatian. And Bosnians speaking with Croatian accent. And so on.
This might lead to a higher tolerance for foreignism. Which means you don’t get those spooky looks simply because you look different. Whether it means you’re black, have purple hair, are wearing a hijab, or anything else. People don’t really care. And that, my friends, is what freedom tastes like, if you ask me.
7. Obeying rules and laws
The reason I found this strange is probably because of the fact I come from another Balkan country in which this isn’t always the case. We, people in the Balkans, have the tendency to think every Balkan country is the same. And trust me, I’ve got used to people not obeying rules or rules being broken for people to do something.
On the other hand, I am quite a rule-following person (sometimes maybe even too much). So, this was really satisfying for me. For example, if there is a law stating what you have to incorporate in your company’s web site, than that is what you do.
Of course, people around me argued about this topic stating laws aren’t applied. Or at least not on everyone. While this is the case pretty much everywhere around the world, there is still a noticeable difference between here and back home, definitely. They can argue whether their system works or not, but one thing is for sure; it works more than ours does.
8. Love for graffiti
I’ve met with the Graffiti Street in Ghent during my Erasmus period. It’s the only street in the city where drawing on the walls is legal. That’s why it’s covered with different pictures and drawings of highly talented people.
However, before coming to Zagreb, I had never seen so many writings on the walls of a city. There’s quotes, love messages, signatures, confessions, and so much more on every single corner. I don’t think there’s a street without a wall that hasn’t been victim of someone’s scrambling.
I mean there’s even a campaign aiming in helping protect the facades. Nothing else should be said.
That’s pretty much it.
Till next time!