More than Words

Zagreb Expats: Discover Unique Zagreb

Theresa Khalil is an Egyptian who moved to Croatia's capital four years ago. In our interview, read about her transition to life in Zagreb and how she likes it here.

In June we talked with Theresa Khalil originally from Egypt, and these are her impressions of Croatia's capital after living here for four years.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and why did you move to Zagreb?

I am Theresa Khalil, an Arabic writer, documentary filmmaker, content creator and founder of, a platform for expats and English speakers through which they can discover the alternative face of the city and connect with each other through social, cultural and artistic meetups.  It is also a way to see Zagreb through unique eyes in some of the videos I shot here:

I am from Egypt. I was doing my masters in documentary filmmaking in Budapest when I met my Croatian husband online and moved to Zagreb to be with him.

Image credit: Theresa Khalil

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

It wasn't hard to move, but the first period needed lots of preparations for the marriage, the residency, health insurance, opening a bank account and all the needed documents and procedures to settle in.

I was living before in other European capitals so living in Zagreb seemed to be more peaceful. It is a small capital, and it was a bit disappointing that not much was going on when it comes to English speaking events. But that was my inspiration for unique Zagreb.

What are the most significant differences between your home country and Croatia? 

Egypt is a warm country, so the winter here is still not my favorite season. Cairo is a huge capital with more than 30 million inhabitants. I may say a big chaos while Zagreb is small and organized. I was mainly living in Sharm El Sheik which is a tourist city by the Red Sea, so I found the Croatian coast to be similar to Sharm's atmosphere which I adore, sea, sun, and sand!

Over the past four years, I met a variety of people, locals, and expats but it was difficult to build a deep connection with any, but I hope this will change as I continue living here.

The surprise for me was the health insurance system. It was great to have a health insurance, but the surprise was how long you need to wait to get an appointment or have an ultrasound or similar. You can wait for months! On the other hand, I found that the private medical service is not capable of dealing with complicated cases, so you end up being referred again to the governmental hospitals.  I hope this is a transitioning stage and this will get solved soon, as health is the most important thing.

What is your favorite thing about living in Zagreb and what don't you maybe like about it?

I love how Zagreb is green, in springtime it feels like heaven with all the flowers and cherry trees. I also like how it is easy to access so you can go from one side of the city to the other in an hour or less.

The disadvantage of a small city is that there isn't much competition, so you may find it difficult to get a high standard of service because there is not much demand or much competition.

Image credit: Theresa Khalil

Have you learned to speak Croatian? If so, was it hard?

I am learning Croatian, I studied at Croaticum for one semester when I first arrived, then I volunteered for an NGO to practice and now I have a private course, but still, my Croatian is very basic. I don't think the language is hard, but at this stage of my life, it is difficult for me to learn a new language after all those years. It is easier to learn a language at a young age and best at childhood. 

What are the things that you miss the most about your home? Except for family of course. 

I miss the food and the Egyptian television programs. As for the food, there are some shops that opened recently which offer Arabic food products and thanks to YouTube I can follow the Egyptian television programs and series. 

Do you see yourself living in Zagreb forever and what are some places in Zagreb that you would recommend to others?

Yes, definitely in summer, as for winter I am hoping to find a nearby warm country. I love English bookshops, so I spend lots of time moving from one book to another until I find the right one. Then, of course, the upper town and the main square of Ban Jelačić, where the trams pass all the time, a very busy area with beautiful cafes and old streets. I always go for a walk in the area and will probably end up watching a movie in one of the nearby cinemas.

Image credit: Theresa Khalil

Header image credit: M. Vrdoljak, TZGZ

Author: Darija Ilić