More than Words

Zagreb Expats: 10 Years in Croatia

Is one still considered a foreigner after 10 years of living in a country? For Marilia, a Brasilian that moved to Croatia ten years ago, Zagreb has become a home and a place where she is raising a family, but her Brazilian pride and the way of thinking has never left her. Read her story and find out more!

Marilia Coelho de Souza is a born and raised Brazilian who was brought to Croatia by the love of her life. She has been living in Zagreb for the past ten years so you can say she is a Croatian veteran by now but as she says, the love for her home country Brasil and the patriot feeling has never left her.

Image credit: Marilia Coelho de Souza

The move

I've met my husband Jerko while traveling through Europe after I've finished university. It was my first time in Europe, and when I met him, I had no idea where Croatia was.  But it was love at first sight as they say and after a month and a half, I decided to move to Zagreb. At first, I couldn't believe how small Croatia is. It was a real shock for me coming from a huge country like Brasil.

I first came here in February, during the winter and that was another shock for me as I wasn't used to such cold weather and snow! Even to this day, I can't stand snow and cold weather, so we never spend the whole winter here. We usually escape to Brasil or somewhere where the weather is warmer and come back in March. Which is a perfect combination if you ask me.

It's funny because my daughter, who is four and a half, adores snow. She jumps in it and has fun playing with it like of course all other kids here, but I  haven't been able to love it and enjoy it even after ten years of living here.

Croatian language

Marilia speaks Croatian amazingly. But it didn't all come easily to her.

When I came to live here, I went to Croaticum for one semester to learn Croatian. But I also decided to speak only Croatian from the first day and was very dedicated to learning it. After six months, I started to speak it fluently, but I have to say it took a lot of effort and drive to learn it so fast. I think that without knowing the language of the country you're living in, you can never fully emerge into society, so I wanted to learn to speak Croatian fluently as soon as possible. One year after I moved here I started giving Croatian lessons to Brazilians and through that, I learned, even more, especially grammar. It also helped that I started working at Faculty of Philosophy as a professor, so I was in constant contact with students and Croatian people in general.


During the World Soccer Championship, I've heard an interesting thing. Someone said that Croatians are the Brazilians of Europe. I could agree with that to some point even though there are some huge differences between us. People here are much warmer than for example Germans or Swedes, but there is also this heavy atmosphere in Croatia because people complain a lot. In Brasil, people are much more positive. Even though many of them don't have a lot, you can always feel that positive spirit. Everyone is extremely open and friendly, and even tough Croatians are friendly people too, you can't really compare the two. It is a different culture. That is what I probably miss the most, besides of course my family and friends, that positive way of living.

But on the other side, I love the slow Croatian way of living. The culture of drinking coffee for hours and hanging out with friends. In Brasil, everything is much more fast paced and that I don't miss. Also, what I love about Zagreb is that it is such safe place to raise a family. I don't have to worry if my daughter is playing outside in the park or if it is safe to walk the streets at night. In Brasil, that is very different, and you don't get that kind of security and quality of life.

Image credit: Marilia Coelho de Souza

Working in Croatia

When I first moved here, I worked in one teleoperating firm which was quite exhausting, but I've met some wonderful people there. After that, as I said, I worked at Faculty of Philosophy and taught Brazilian culture and civilization in Portuguese which is my profession. I also got a license as a tourist guide of Zagreb, and as my husband is tourist guide too, we decided to open a tourist agency, Kamauf Tours, which we successfully manage today. I also have a blog where I write in Portuguese about my life in Croatia. I’m also very interested in childhood development. I've finished some courses on educational therapy and development throughout childhood, and I'm currently attending a course for becoming a doula or a woman who leads other women through pregnancy and helps with the birth itself. I also started giving lectures on this topic in different associations of this kind, so I'm very excited about the future and where it will lead me. If you’re interested, you can find all the information about my work and lectures on my Facebook page, ''Mama core''.



Header image credit: M. Vrdoljak, TZGZ

Author: Darija Ilić