Canadian Expat in Croatia - Interview With Gabriella

Published: 11 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Croatia
Originally from Canada, Gabriella Papic is a writer who moved to Croatia with her husband where she is always on the hunt for gluten-free food, fresh figs and just-pressed-olive oil. When she's not working on polishing her novel-in-progress, she writes about her adventures in adapting to a new culture, cooking new foods, and learning a language that is proving be just a tad bit more difficult than she imagined. Gabriella's expat blog is called Zagreb Diaries (see listing here)

Meet Gabriella - Canadian expat in Croatia
Meet Gabriella - Canadian expat in Croatia

Here's the interview with Gabriella...


Where are you originally from?
I'm from Canada.

In which country and city are you living now?
I'm living in Croatia. My first few years were in Zagreb, and now I'm in Istria much of the time.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been here almost 5 years and I'm planning on staying as long as there are fresh figs and olive oil available.

Why did you move and what do you do?
My husband had business in Croatia, and since I'm a writer who can work from anywhere, I trailed along.

Tkalčičeva Street in Zagreb.  An entire street lined both sides with charming cafes.
Tkalčičeva Street in Zagreb. An entire street lined both sides with charming cafes.
Did you bring family with you?
Just me and my husband.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Well, moving to Croatia was a little like moving to another planet for me. The culture and language are quite unique.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It was easy to make new expat friends at the various language schools I attended. But unfortunately, they were short-lived because most people eventually left the country. Now, I mostly socialize with locals and a couple expats.

A huge squid, caught in the Adriatic sea, and purchased at the local fish market.  Made for quite a tasty risotto.
A huge squid, caught in the Adriatic sea, and purchased at the local fish market. Made for quite a tasty risotto.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The best things to do in Croatia are eating great food and traveling. The fresh and delicious food is always an unexpected delight for visitors who didn't know about the excellent dishes served up all over the country. Then there's the stunning scenery within the country which changes from place to place (mountains, seaside, hills, flats, pebbly beaches, grand old cities, etc). And traveling to other countries is very convenient. Everything is just so close.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I really enjoy the food, the climate, the environment and the people.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Compared to Canada, Croatia is rather expensive. But compared to other European countries, I think things are slightly more expensive.

On the island of Hvar, complete with sunshine and crystal clear blue water.
On the island of Hvar, complete with sunshine and crystal clear blue water.
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The language is a tough nut to crack if you only know English. Croatian is very much like Latin! They have these things called cases. What's a case? Well, in English, we have who and whom, me and I. Those are cases. And everyone gets them confused in English. Croatian has 7 cases!!! And they change depending on number and gender. That's a lot of new grammar to understand!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Before moving here, come and rent a furnished place in the city where you plan on living for a solid month. And come in January, which is the most off-season month of the year. After a month, you'll have a realistic expectation of the place. I meet too many people who came here for 2 weeks in July and stayed in a hotel on an island. And then moved to Zagreb (which is inland) and got upset over the cold and grey weather in the winter months.

There are many majestic and beautiful old villas in Croatia.  This is just one of them in Zagreb.a
There are many majestic and beautiful old villas in Croatia. This is just one of them in Zagreb.
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Honestly, aside from the embarassingly long time it is taking me to learn the language, the hardest thing for me is losing new friends when they leave the country. Expats tend to find each other rapidly in Croatia and instantly become very very close friends. When they leave, it is heartbreaking.

What are your top expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn as much of the language as you can BEFORE you arrive.
  2. Leave lots of your furniture behind because living spaces tend to be smaller here and your California king sized bed probably won't fit anywhere!
  3. Don't drive on the highway until you are seriously confident with your driving skills. Posted speed limits on some roads are 130kph, and often people are going much faster than that.
  4. Don't assume you can get a bank account while you are still a resident of your home country. Call ahead with the bank in Croatia and find out if/how you can set up a bank account.
  5. If you are not from an EU country, be sure to get medical insurance from your home country before you arrive.
  6. Jobs are extraordinarily scarce. Secure your employment BEFORE arriving. Your chances of finding a job that pays enough for you to live here are razor-thin. In my experience, the number one reason people end up leaving Croatia is because they couldn't find a way to make finances meet.


Me and my Croatian dog, Dusty who understands English and Croatian
Me and my Croatian dog, Dusty who understands English and Croatian
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is mostly about life in Zagreb, my daily routines, my gluten-free recipes, and lots of info about learning the language and my experience at the Croaticum school at the University of Zagreb. I'm planning on starting an new blog soon about my life in Istria.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
You can visit my blog and leave a comment.

Gabriella blogs at http://www.ZagrebDiaries.blogspot.com which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Zagreb Diaries has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Gabriella, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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