Become a Zagrebian

Expats of Zagreb: A New Life in Zagreb

If you're interested in why Alicja and her boyfriend chose to settle in Zagreb in a fierce competition of beautiful European cities, read our blog post and find out.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and why did you move to Zagreb?

Hello! My name is Alicja, and I come from Poland. I've always liked the idea of living in a different place for a couple of years and then jumping to another country to start a new adventure. I would have never said that Croatia and Zagreb would be the one I would like to settle down for good. The person, guilty for „dragging“ me to this amazing country is my boyfriend. We were both living in Ireland, and at that time, we were deciding on where to „jump“ next. Initially, our idea was to head to Berlin and start a new life there, but Rimac Automobili came along. I'm quite certain that Mate Rimac is responsible for many of the expats' stories nowadays. Igor got an offer from them, I found the University I would like to attend, and here we are. Happier than ever.

Image credit: Alicja Wieczorek

How hard was it to move and get used to living in a different country?

It wasn't hard at all. Croats and Poles are extremely similar in many ways. What is very funny, Igor, as Spaniard, finds many similarities to his country as well! It was way harder for me to adapt to the Irish way of living than to Croatian. I think it is because Croats, just like Polish people, are very straightforward and honest, so it is very easy to maintain healthy relationships, without thinking that someone is fake.

What are some of the differences between your home country and Croatia? 

I think that there are more similarities than differences, but something that struck me is how people spend their free time. In Poland, most of the people stay at home, watch TV and browse through the Internet. Here, it feels like everyone is out, having a coffee or a beer. I absolutely love seeing seniors having a drink together on a summer evening. I wish Poland was a bit more like that. What was and still is hard to get used to is the fact that smoking is allowed in bars.

Image credit: Alicja Wieczorek

Did you know much about Croatia and Zagreb before moving here?

During our decision-making process, we did some research on the Internet, watched a couple of videos about Zagreb, but that's it. I'm actually happy that we didn't know too much because it was nice to explore every single bit of Zagreb on our own.

What is your favorite thing about living in Zagreb?

Peacefulness and safety. It's amazing how safe Zagreb feels. I can't compare it to any place I've ever been to. And when it comes to favorite places, we like walking around Zagreb, going through different street each time, walking around Park Zrinjevac, but let's focus on the most important part of „Places in Zagreb“ – food. My personal favorites are Karijola and Rougemarin, but we also enjoy going out for a beer and mazalice to Medvedgrad.

Did you learn any Croatian since living in Zagreb? 

No, and I have a very legitimate excuse for this one – everyone speaks English! When we were planning to come here, I was quite sure that I will learn the language in a year or two, but the fact that most of the Croats speak perfect English makes it very hard.

Image credit: Alicja Wieczorek

Except for family and friends of course, what do you miss the most about your home country?

I know it may sound a bit funny, but I love cooking, so it's a big deal for me! I really miss having a big variety of products in the shops. I feel like here, in order to find all the necessary ingredients, I have to go to many different places.

Can you maybe point out some general things about Zagrebians or Croatians? Was it hard to assimilate and meet new people?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that Croats really enjoy having coffees and cigarettes! They are also very chatty and approachable. It is a struggle for me sometimes, especially in the open markets, such as Dolac, as most of the people assume that I speak Croatian fluently. They start a conversation and all I think of during those moments is: „Sorry, Moj Hrvatski nije dobar“ :) . Fortunately, most of the people speak English at a great level, so it's super easy to have a nice conversation with a stranger in the middle of the day.

Do you consider Zagreb your home now or you're planning to move back to your home country or somewhere else in the future?

I definitely consider Zagreb as my home, and I'm leaning towards staying here for way longer than I ever thought. 

Header image credit: M. Gašparović, TZGZ

Author: Darija Ilić