Eat your big meal of the day when it counts, don’t take coffee to go but do take plenty of vacation, visit with friends and pick up the tab, don’t eat sliced bread or visit newborns, pay your bills & milk at the same, and just text to pay for parking - it’s the best!
Read on to find out some of the best habits Croatians live by!
1. Big Lunch, Small Dinner
If you eat your main meal at 6 or 7pm, you’ll likely relax afterwards and not be overly active in the hours leading to bedtime. That leaves your big meal sitting heavy in your belly through the night.
2. Coffee - Don’t Take It To Go!
Croatians can drink a small mug of coffee for hours on end (as opposed to gulping down an extra large cup in 10 mins or less). Coffee is very much enjoyed, both for its taste and for the company it brings.
3. Start Earlier, End Earlier
An early finish just leaves so much more of the day free. Yes, it means waking up an hour earlier, but let’s face it - you’re going to be tired whether you get up at 6am or 7am. One hour isn’t going to make a huge difference in the morning, but an extra hour in the afternoon after work makes all the difference!
4. Everyone Gets 4 Weeks of Vacation
Croatians typically go to the coast for at least 2 of their 4 weeks, and some use almost all of it at once to have a wonderful stay by the Adriatic each summer!
5. Making Even More Vacation Time
6. Picking Up the Tab
If you have second round, the other person will probably fight you to pay, or they’ll pick up the tab the next time you’re out. It’s not about splitting pennies here, it’s about friends wanting to treat friends, catching up and enjoying each others’ company.
Check out our Croatian culture & etiquette blog post to learn more about this and other customs!
7. Soup Before Every Meal
8. NEVER Buy Bagged Bread
Fresh bread is part of most meals in Croatia, including breakfast. Read our recent post about what Croatians eat for breakfast to learn more!
9. Daily Trips To The Grocery Store
In Croatia, people tend to do little shops on a daily basis (or every other day). They pick up what they need for the next day or two, and that’s it! There is much less wasted food because you only buy what you know you’re going to need & eat over the next 24-48 hours.
There are many little grocery stores scattered around every neighborhood, so it makes it easy to run out and do a super quick shop.
It also helps to keep cupboard spaces under control!
Another plus to this, is not having to carry 100 bags from the store to the car, and then from the car to your kitchen. And then unloading those 100 bags and putting everything away.
Lastly, you don’t have to plan your meals for longer than a couple days, so mentally, it’s easier, too!
Daily shopping is super manageable, less wasteful and much less work!
10. Open Markets
Everything tastes a little (or a lot) better than store-bought and it makes a great stop after Spica in Zagreb on Saturday mornings.
11. Fish on Fridays
Regardless of the reason behind the habit, it’s a great way to build fish into your weekly meal rotation and eat it on a regular basis! Fish is super healthy and I feel like people just turn to red meat or chicken 99% of the time. This habit kind of forces you to switch it up and I’ve come to love it!
12. Obligatory Stew Once a Week
I’m not so much a fan of the huge pot of beans, but stews are great, so this habit makes the list!
A nice hearty stew throughout the week is also an amazing way to use up any veggies you have that are close to going bad, and you can really throw anything in there that you need to use up. Add some meat, beans or lentils and voila! You’ve got yourself a healthy, hearty meal in a pinch!
13. Meat and Cheese Platters
Croatians are genuinely worried about their guests being hungry (this also applies to their kids, any other family members, their pets, along with stray cats & dogs), so this is something they can prepare beforehand and put out right away to ensure no one will starve at their house!
14. Spica in Zagreb (or Saturday get togethers)
People typically use this occasion to dress up super nicely and stylishly (although not mandatory ;) to meet at the local town square and walk to a nearby cafe.
During spica (~9am-1pm every Saturday), the whole center of Zagreb is filled with cafes, which are all at max capacity, it seems. Saturday mornings are a cherished time for catching up with friends. What a great habit for your mental health!
15. Pay Bills at the Grocery Store
Every bill you get in the mail has a QR code, so the cashier just scans the paper, you pay the amount, and you’re good to go! I know most people use internet banking these days, but this is such a great option for those who don’t, and MANY people here pay their bills this way.
16. Pay Parking With Your Phone (Text Message)
It’s also great if you’re out somewhere and you’ve only paid for an hour, but you end up being stuck somewhere and you know you won’t make it back before your time runs out. In this case, you can just send a text and pay for another hour instantly! No more parking tickets - hooray!
18. Pregnant Women are Treated Like Gold
People are so kind to pregnant ladies, it’s unbelievable. If you step on a tram in the city, 5 people will instantly offer you their seats. If you are in a store and there’s a big line, everyone will push you on through to the front so you don’t have to wait, and they won’t take no for an answer.
You also get an ultrasound at each of your monthly check ups with regular public care, and the government forces you to go on maternity leave a month before your due date so you can rest and prepare for your baby.
(Croatians also have a superstition about going against a pregnant woman’s wishes - they say it will give you a stye in your eye! You basically have to do anything a pregnant woman asks :)
19. Babinje - Leave the Newborns Alone!
This habit is one of my favorites. Having given birth three times in Croatia, I so much appreciated this quiet time with immediate family only. It gave me over a month to heal, bond with my newborn, have my older babies bond with the new baby, and be able to peacefully establish breastfeed without people coming and going.
The best part is, you never have to say no to anyone’s request to come over, because no one ever asks or suggests it. Everyone respects this rule and gives new families a good amount of space in the beginning.
It’s also great because it doesn’t put any pressure on you to host anyone in those first weeks after childbirth.
And germs. It’s also great because it significantly reduces the number of germs coming into contact with the baby when he or she is so so new.
I’m not normally a germaphobe, but when I have a newborn baby, you bet I am.
Once the 40 days are up, extended family and friends slowly make their way to meet the new addition. Everyone is feeling a little more on their feet by this stage, and it’s easier to have people over.
In my opinion, everyone should adopt this tradition of babinje!
20. Hospital Visiting Hours After Birth (or the lack thereof)
Oftentimes, the nurses will even bring the babies to the nursery during visiting hours so no one can hold or get close to the newborns. They do this to protect them (especially through cold & flu season), and I love it (as I mentioned before, I’m a slight germaphobe with newborns).
From what I see on Facebook with friends back home, there are always so many people visiting and holding these fresh, teeny tiny babies in the hospital and it kind of makes me twitch. Colds and flus can be so dangerous for these little humans.
Visiting hours here are more of a quick visit to check in on the new mom and give her some company (with uncomplicated deliveries, mom and baby stay 3 full days in hospital after birth).
These are the top 20 Croatian habits I think everyone should start embracing! Croatians generally spend more time with family and friends, less time at work (than the west), they love to eat delicious food, sip strong coffee, and enjoy life!
What are some other habits I've missed? I know there are plenty out there!
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