Top 10 List for Phrases You Need When Moving to Dalmatia.

By: Mrs. Chasing the Donkey

Here is a list of Croatian phrases you won’t find in a travel guide.

Have you heard the tale about the expat who moved to a new country and found communicating difficult? Of course you have, it's got to be one of the hardest things for any expat - the language. Well, have you heard the tale about the Australian who moved to Dalmatia, Croatia and not only had to learn how to say “hi” and “good bye” but also had to learn the local slang for what people are referring to when they say something about a donkey and his male anatomy in the same phrase.

It seems that (most) Dalmatians just love to shorten words, sing and as I have come to learn: swear, and swear a lot! Below are a list of a few phrases you'll find handy here in Dalmatia. Just a word of warning, a few might offend, so apologies upfront if you find yourself blushing.

Katastrofa

Catastrophe. With the same meaning in English, but not used for an ACTUAL catastrophe. It's instead used to exaggerate your point.  You'll hear this in the coffee shop, at your friend’s house and your 80 year old Baba {Grandmother} will say it when the wind is blowing (Croatians have an irrational fear of the wind). Don't panic. It's not actually anything to worry about. Nothing of any kind. Ništa {nothing} to see or worry about. Feel free to use it as an exaggeration to highlight how you feel when you arrive at the bakery and you're told that they just sold the last Krafna of the day - katastrofa!

Ne mogu više, hvala

If you plan to visit your Croatian family and friends here in Croatia for a meal, it's a wise move to ensure that you do not eat a big meal leading up to your visit. Your Croatian friends and family - especially the older ones will be throwing food at you left right and centre. The same goes for drinks. You'll have to try all of the seasons finest offerings no matter how much you say you're no longer hungry. Hungry or not, the food and drinks will keep on coming. Inevitably you'll reach the point where you will fear that undoing your button on your pants won’t be enough and that you may just actually explode. At this point you can reach for the phrase Ne mogu više, hvala!. Which means you can't take anymore. Just do not over use this phrase or use it after just one slice of cake and a rakija, as they may not believe you.

Nemoj me jebat

Not the most polite of the phrases you'll hear, but trust me you will hear it. Maybe not heard in the shopping centre or any formal situations, but if someone is telling tale that just seems too incredible to believe, you'll hear the other person say nemoj me jebat. To keep this PG, it's important to use your imagination a little. Dalmatians like to swear, so keep that in mind. You should know that you'd use this phrase when in English you'd want to say are you serious? But it translates to do not (add expletive here) with me. You get the idea right? If not reach out to me and I'll explain.

Boli me kurac

Ohhh dear, here we go again. My wonderful Dalmatian husband says this phrase constantly, and again it contains words that I cannot type exactly.  I told you Dalmatians loved to swear - did I not? You'd say this phrase when you simply do not care about what the person is telling you or what is going on around you. Although the literal translation makes zero sense to that use at all. It actually means that you have a pain in your nether regions of the manly kind. Like I said it makes no sense, but trust me, if you met my husband or his Dalmatian friends you'd need to know that phrase.

If you like a slightly more polite version is boli me ona stvar which translates to, that thing hurts me, and once again makes no sense. However it’s simply used for saying, ‘I don’t give a damn.

Živjeli

This is an important phrase if you plan to share a drink with a local. Before you take your very first sip of your local home made wine, or the heart stopping Croatian brandy known as rakija, you'll need to shout the phrase ŽIVJELI!!! Which is Croatian for cheers! It's also accompanied by the pounding of the glass on the table, and THEN you may take your first mouthful.

Kako da ne

The literal translation is how yes no. Which of course means nothing obvious. I heard this a few times before I realised that it simply means of course. Like when you ask your wine loving best friends if they would like a glass of your finest domaće vino {homemade wine} they would respond kako da ne {of course}. 

Čaću ti jarca

Do you have stubborn kids? Well you may want to keep this one handy then, as it's mostly used when your kids are being stubborn mules. Although I still can’t see why as it's a terrible phrase. It means (add expletive here) your goat Father. That's right you heard it correctly. Sometimes it’s best just to not say some of these phrases, but rather just know what they mean when you hear them. I think that this is one of them.

So there you have a few phrases that you'll hear in Dalmatia, and if the Dalmatians you meet are like my family they'll love you even more if you say one back – just be careful who you say them to!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingMrs. Chasing the Donkey is an Australian expat living in Croatia. Blog description: I am a Mum & wife, now expatriate. I packed up my very typical Australian life and shifted it along with my Husband and Son to rebuild the old house we inherited in Croatia & make it our home.
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Contest Comments » There are 57 comments

Sue Sharpe wrote 7 years ago:

Informative and amusing - I have learned so much from this blogger about life as an expat in Croatia!

Greg Seymour wrote 7 years ago:

As I settle in my new home of Costa Rica I am finding these local phrases to be essential to understanding what the native speaker is REALLY talking about. Amusing and Informative list for Croatia.

Constance wrote 7 years ago:

Wow!! What wonderful insight to the language and it's significance to the culture as well as the people of Dalmatia, Croatia!! A great read!

Thrifty Travel Mama wrote 7 years ago:

Hilarious! I love these kind of lists that you'd NEVER find in any language or guide book.

Farrah wrote 7 years ago:

Ok, so first I have no idea how to pronounce these words- I will need your help. I really need help with the one and stubborn mules though because, um, hello! You know my situation and I could really use this one. Should I ever make it to see you- I'll be prepared!

Frankaboutcroatia wrote 7 years ago:

Funny one, Sarah-Jane. You did your research, and I can confirm that you went with the light ones. Languages are interesting.

Kim wrote 7 years ago:

That is some funny stuff! I find here in Costa Rica it is much the same, with their crazy slang and use of verbs. I often do not same things correctly and it translates into something I probably shouldn't have said!

Michael wrote 7 years ago:

She sums me and the things we say here perfectly! Živjeli moja Žena (cheers my wife)

Adelina wrote 7 years ago:

I only know 2 words in Croatian: hvala and Živjeli. Clearly I will need to work on the rest of them for the next time I'm in Croatia!

Lunaguava wrote 7 years ago:

As a big fan of languages and their madness, I must say this list just made my day. All expressions are wonderful, but I was quite taken by the simplest one: katastrofa! I'm from southern Europe, and our culture is very much prone to exaggeration and hyperbole, so this fits right in. Next time I'm at the local bakery here in Guatemala and they don't have my favorite sweet bread, I'll be sure to exclaim Katastrofa! Great piece, kudos!

Wendy wrote 7 years ago:

These sorts of lists should be added to Lonely Planet travel guides ha ha!

Sharon wrote 7 years ago:

Thanks for your amusing post. I hope I get the chance to use these phrases one day lol

Mikki Kojakovic wrote 7 years ago:

Sarah Jane I love these soo much, you have enlightened me as there are a couple of new ones for me :) So even within Dalmatia we have our sayings for our own parts :) Bravo !!!

Ute Limacher-Riebold wrote 7 years ago:

This is a great article, Sarah-Jane! This kind of advices should be included in every guide to Dalmatia. Language is so important to understand the culture you're living in. Well done! Hvala lijepa! (I hope that's right?...)

ANa wrote 7 years ago:

You nailed it! And I have to say you used some of the more polite ones, there's plenty more and not all of them are so "clean". I think that's one of the few language areas my husband does NOT have a problem with.

Samantha wrote 7 years ago:

Heh You always need to know how to say "cheers" in any language! SO interesting to learn about other languages especially one very different from your native one.

Štefica wrote 7 years ago:

Great article! Once you learn a few key naughty words in Croatian it is amazing how much you hear them all around you. It's surprising how often the word pizda is thrown around, I've even heard kids saying it. I got some good laughs from my Croatian family showing them a picture of US politician Jeb Bush at a podium with a big sign that just said "JEB".

Judith wrote 7 years ago:

Great (and funny) post! I have Croatian friends, I'll try to remember some of these phrases, they will be surprised! Only problem: I am not sure about the pronounciation :)

Ruth Seba wrote 7 years ago:

Looks like those language lessons are really paying off! Nice one Mrs Chasing the Donkey.

Cordelia wrote 7 years ago:

Love it! Ok I realise that enjoying your post because you call your husband a Dalmatian is utterly childish but hey - I am a child at heart! My favorite phrase is definitely Kako da ne. I think we could adopt this in Thailand - for slightly different reasons though. yay and good luck!

A Brit And A Southerner wrote 7 years ago:

This is a really awesome post and extremely helpful for anyone heading to Croatia! I have never ventured to Eastern Europe or any of the Balkan nations but I sure will bear this information in mind whenever we get a chance to explore what is clearly a beautiful country. Love the humor that you have incorporated into this post also.

Traveling Curiously wrote 7 years ago:

I always make it a point to learn a few basic words. This way you can better connect with the locals!

Globalmouse wrote 7 years ago:

This is a brilliant list and so funny. I can't wait to visit Croatia and try some of these out!!

Carly Gibson wrote 7 years ago:

What an awesome post! I can only imagine how hard it is to learn a new language as an adult. Learning and picking up on 'slang' would be even harder I guess. Well done for learning so much so quickly. You'll have to teach me a thing or two when we come and visit. Learning curse words in another language is always so much fun!!

Nat wrote 7 years ago:

Now this is a USEFUL post! And it also tells me the Croatians are rather creative when it comes to their insults: @$%! your goat father? Love it!

Ace wrote 7 years ago:

Fantastic. Anything related to local "colorful" words or drinking phrases are essential as far as I'm concerned. =)

Rita Rosenback wrote 7 years ago:

I feel I am no well prepared if I ever end up in Croatia! I love 'koko da ne' :)

I love katastrofa, it's my new favourite word! Besides, Polish people love swearing as well, and I was able to understand a lot of what you quoted!

Unn Susnic wrote 7 years ago:

Thanks! Looking forward to the next 10. Not always easy to understand the phrases so again, thanks.

Casey Bahr wrote 7 years ago:

Nice list Sara-Jane. These words and phrases show how vivacious and colorful the people are there. Much different demeanor than the "tranquilo" Ticos here in Costa Rica.

Tina wrote 7 years ago:

these really are very polite! common words I heard all the time and initially didn't find in my phrase book (I don't have a Dalmatian one, only standard hrvatski) were, of course, "polako" and the ubiquitous "čeka, čeka". But I won't repeat some of the things I heard in the summer of 2008, when Croatia lost to Turkey on pks in Vienna!

Ante wrote 7 years ago:

We are reading the text same as it writes I'm croatian so that's why I said "we". If some of you ever come here come in Zadar. :) Have fun

Leanna @ Alldonemonkjeyt wrote 7 years ago:

I love this post! So funny! At least they told you whether to say these phrases in polite company or not. I have friends who traveled abroad and were purposely taught naughty phrases (but were not told that they were) so that they then unwittingly repeated them in very inappropriate situations!

Ann wrote 7 years ago:

I thought I wrote once already this morning, but I didn't see it... So... I love getting this kind of insight into places. I'm curious, do you use any of these phrases?

Jenny And John In France wrote 7 years ago:

Great post, as somebody as already said, these are the kinds' of useful phrases and tips that are needed in a guide book.

Stonecold Mike wrote 7 years ago:

Hey SJ, being Dalmatian, I commend you on hitting some of the prime phrases for everyday life there on the coast! Classic. Keep up the great work

Pim wrote 7 years ago:

Hi SJ, what about "Jebentibogati". It was one of my earlier "discoveries" in Croatian language. To me it sounded nice, almost Italian. However, as I started to use it, my wife (who speaks much better Croatian than I), told me it was a curse, meaning God damn it. Not to mention "pitsko mater", "ajde oe koerats" and alike. Most funny however was when I had to learn counting. But that story I'll tell in my blog. Poz(-dravi), Pimkovic.

Joe wrote 7 years ago:

You left out the most salacious ones that only happen when folks are arguing about whose grandfather did what to whose mother... But those would be hard to translate...

Anna Belkina wrote 7 years ago:

I love these! I feel all ready for my trip next year! I thought "Boli me kurac" was going to be more like Russian "it's like a sickle to the [email protected]" (it's not - this means that you really, really dont want to do something, so much so that it's painful) but after playing around with an online Croatian dictionary, I realized the more or less the literal translation, etymology and meaning of this expression, and yup, a Russki version employs the same, um, concept/structure/imagery.

Brian wrote 7 years ago:

Excellent info. We need all the language help we can get!

Nick Vlacic wrote 7 years ago:

:D It's awesome to see a non-croat view on some of our phrases... Though, to be honest, aussies have some weird phrases as well!

Duckster wrote 7 years ago:

Love this post, thanks so much Mrs Chasing the Donkey. Very handy for me as an Aussie girl with a Dalmatian husband to be. Especially right now while we have his Mama visiting for the holidays. *Not* that I would dare attempt any of the naughty ones in her presence. But more likely I will hear them amidst the family chatter and be able to identify them more easily. Fingers crossed my future mother in law doesn't feel inclined to mention my very own dearly beloved "goat father" ;-)

Our Adventure In Croatia wrote 7 years ago:

well done Mrs CtD for picking up the lingo so quickly, quite an essential asset to fit in the country... do you say all those phrases with a strong australian accent?? ;) Good luck with the competition!

Betty Popovic wrote 7 years ago:

Good luck Mrs CTD in the competition ,it is with great love that you wrote this list,with so much enthusiasm and respect ,It would indeed be so easy to have a different view about the phrases ,Dalmatians are very dramatic indeed ....

Amanda @ MarocMAma wrote 7 years ago:

I think anyone who is choosing to become an expat should practice and memorize several key phrases that are important in that culture. Makes life much easier, and can get you out of tricky situations!

Angela wrote 7 years ago:

Loved your piece. I would love to visit Croatia someday and use these phrases!

Iva wrote 7 years ago:

Fun and frank as always! Love reading your blog, Mrs Chasing the Donkey and hope you win the competition. After all, crossing the oceans to move to a small Croatian town, no matter how cute the place is, takes the definition of being an expat to another level... or better yet another dimension :)

CroAnte wrote 7 years ago:

To be more accurate, the phrases are: Nemogu više, fala and Živili (ikavica in most of Dalmacija)

Jess wrote 7 years ago:

I want to add random Croatian phrases into my conversation now - especially 'katastrofa.' It just sounds so woeful and dramatic.

Yelena wrote 7 years ago:

Haha I love that the list includes profanities - not your usual phrasebook but one which should probably be expanded!

Kristen Wimberley wrote 7 years ago:

CtD does it again! She truly is one of best Expat bloggers out there. Honest, funny and pro-Croatia all at the same time! These phrases are fantastic. Thanks for another great article!

Anna wrote 7 years ago:

This was really interesting, funny how so many of the phrases have swearing and would sound so weird in english! It will definitely be useful if i ever find myself over there!

Lisa wrote 7 years ago:

Thanks for sharing this! It sure will come in handy when I visit my friends who are moving to Croatia soon.

Foz wrote 7 years ago:

Great article! Handy for those who need to know the phrases!

Mia wrote 7 years ago:

Awesome, it really made me laugh - how accurate this is. :)

Hannah wrote 7 years ago:

I love learning how to say cheers in the different languages of where I go! Pronoun since them is a whole other matter but practice makes perfect ;)

Apartmani Boric Podgora wrote 6 years ago:

Mrs Chasing the Donkey you have really thrilled me and make me smile! For it is quite interesting to see from your point of wiew as moving into Croatia from another culture! Well done!

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