Sarah-Jane in Privlaka: "Croatia isn't all beaches. There is so much more here than that"

Expat interviews
  • Sarah-Jane in Privlaka
Published on 2014-01-30 at 00:00 by team
Sarah-Jane was living a very typical Australian life when she decided to move to Privlaka, Croatia with her husband and son to rebuild a house they inherited and make it their home.

Why did you decide to move to Croatia?

I packed up my very typical Australian life in May 2013 and shifted it along with my Croatian Husband and Son to rebuild the old house we inherited in Croatia & make it our home. I am a former finance marketing manager, who swapped the suited world of banking in Australia for the sunny seaside in rural Croatia.

How was the moving process?

For us it was mostly straightforward. We don't have our own house (yet), so we chose to ship only personal effects and a few household things we knew we'd need.

Did you face some difficulties to adapt to your host country (language, culture, do's and don'ts)?

We're still adapting - especially with the language. I do not speak Croatian, and my husband who does is gone 50% of the year. It's a struggle each day for me, but one I plan to overcome by continuing with my lessons.
I was very aware of most of the customs in Croatia, they are not too dissimilar to Australia for the broader things, and all of the idiosyncrasies are manageable. My favorite one is that Sunday is the day you can't do any 'work'. Yay, a washing free day in my house.

Being married to a Croatian national, did it facilitate the process?

Totally! Being married to a Croat meant getting my visa approved was a synch. Note, I said getting it 'approved'. Compiling the paperwork needed took months. And having been with him for 16 years, I already knew all too well about the food, basic language skills and what this rural part of Croatia is like. If I just landed here, it would have been different.

Did you find a job in Croatia?

I do not work here. I am fortunate to be a stay at Mum. Finding work in Croatia would be too difficult, both because of my lack of language and because of the economic situation here.

What surprised you the most in Croatia?

Just how slow everything is. Not just the paperwork side of things. But literally how slow the waiters are and how slow people walk. Coming from Sydney, it's still something I am trying to adapt too.

Could you please share with us something you like about Privlaka and something you don't like?

I love that here in Privlaka, there is enough space to grow your own fruits and veggies. We planted Olive trees and will be planting more soon, then will come our olive oil. I do still wish that there was a playgroup or kids community centre to be able to take my son too. That is one aspect of 'home' I did not really appreciate until moving here.

A common belief about Croatia, which wasn't right:

Croatia isn't all beaches. There is so much more here than that. I can't wait to get on the road and start exploring all that there is too see.

Is it easy to make friends in Privlaka?

So far yes. But I don't speak the language and there are only 2,200 people in the village. So no friends for me as yet. I do have an extended family, and a toddler so for now I am content.

What do you miss the most from Australia, your home country?

The cliché and the obvious - my family and friends. Especially my sister. I miss her dropping into my house and bringing with her a hot steamy cappuccinos and chatting about nothing while we watch trashy TV.

Tell us more about your day-to-day life in Privlaka:

I look after my son, grow organic food and am learning to speak Croatian and eating as much Dalmatian food as possible!

Why did you start your blog, Chasing the donkey?

Mostly to record the journey for family and friends, but now I do it for myself. It's so very cathartic and I feel like it's a place to clear my head and also a place to show off Croatia.

Which advice would you give to people wishing to settle in Croatia?

Bring with you lots of patience. Things can be so much harder to arrange or plan here than you may be used to. Everything gets done - it just takes time.

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