Become a Zagrebian

Expats of Zagreb: An Englishman In Zagreb

If you're already mumbling famous lyrics of Sting's Englishmen in New York, continue while reading this month's expat interview with Matthew, who moved to Zagreb from London.
Matthew, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and why did you move to Zagreb? 

I came to Zagreb from Essex (East of London) in November 2016. It wasn’t long after Brexit was decided (best not to talk about this - still a sore subject), and I fancied a new challenge, as well as increasing my skillset from editorial to marketing. Oh, and the fact there was more than a week of sunshine a year also helped to confirm my decision! 

Image credit: IG englishmaninzagreb

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

It was a lot easier than I expected. To be honest, the Croatians I encountered were very welcoming indeed - teaching me local greetings and which food to try (Burek and Brudet) - plus they were made up when I swapped tea with milk for produžena kava (eng. long coffee)!

What are the main differences between the UK and Croatia? 

Well, for starters, you actually have proper seasons here! Plus, you have the most stunning beaches I've ever encountered. The people are also a lot more relaxed (no one ever orders coffee to go!), which is both a good and bad thing - I must admit that I really miss the buzz, arts and live music London has to offer.

Is there something that surprised you living here or was especially hard to get used to?

Apart from all the paperwork? Well, the language is proving pretty tricky to master, I must say.

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

To be honest, my knowledge was mainly based on Lonely Planet guides and watching World Cup '98!

Image credit: IG englishmaninzagreb

Was it hard to assimilate and meet new people and start friendships? 

Not really, Croatians are very open people and love to chat - especially over coffee - so meeting new people and starting friendships proved to be easier than expected.

What is your favorite thing about living in Zagreb? Do you have some favorite places to go to in the city? If so, tell us which.

Park Maksimir has always been a favorite of mine, both in winter and summer, plus the view from Sljeme mountain is stunning! As for a nice pint, there are several decent bars in town: from Kvart (next to where I live), plus Vinyl, Jagerhorn, and Old Pharmacy. 

Did you learn to speak Croatian since living in Zagreb? If so, how hard was it? If not, is it hard to communicate with others, not knowing the language?

I took a course last October, but I'm aware that I need to improve my Croatian as it's not up to the standard I'd like. I know the basics, but learning the padezi (Croatian grammar category) is proving more complicated than understanding Brexit! ;-) 

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

Live music, football culture, politics, cricket, strong tea with milk, unique British sense of humor... bloody hell, now I feel homesick! ;-) 

Can you maybe point out some general things about Zagrebians or Croatians which you find interesting or unique? 

I love how every part of the country has its own dialect unique to where they live, which (sometimes) can only be understood by those who live there! I also love how passionate Croatians are about food and drink: if I had a Kuna for every time a Croatian has said to me "Try my rakija, it's the best in Croatia!", I'd be at least 75 Kuna richer! 

Image credit: IG englishmaninzagreb

How much has your opinion of Croatia and Zagreb changed since living here? 

It's changed quite a bit, to be honest. I'm now past the honeymoon stage of living in Zagreb - it's more love/hate - lots of things still turn me on, but there's also a lot of things about the city/culture I'd like to change.

What are your plans? Do you consider Zagreb your longterm home now, or you're planning to move back to your home country? Or maybe somewhere else?

Yes, I'd consider this my longterm home now - I met my wife here, and we plan to start a family soon.

To get in touch with Matthew, visit his Instagram and LinkedIn profile.

Header image credit: D. Rostuhar, TZGZ

Author: Darija Ilić