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Croatian Etiquette Introduction

By Iva Ralica

Etiquette is defined as a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group.

So what are some of the basic ‘expected social norms’ in Croatia when it comes to things like greetings, birthdays and being invited to dinner.

Meeting

(photo: RTL)

When meeting someone for the first time, people usually shake hands. It is, however, less common among teenagers. Greetings with kisses, one of each cheek, are usually reserved for family or very close friends.

It is also accepted for men to kiss on each other on each cheek. A hug is also a perfectly accepted greeting and very common for girls.

Coffee

The unwritten rule in Croatia is usually who ever does the inviting for coffee foots the bill at the end.

It is not unusual however, especially among the younger generation, to split the bill. If you don’t split the bill and one person takes care of it, then the next coffee is on you. So make sure you have a good memory.

When it is not clear who invited who and time comes to pay the bill, there is also the ‘etiquette’ of arguing who will get the bill. The ‘no, I’ll pay’ game of tennis back and forth is usually solved by literally shoving the cash in the waiter’s hand.

Birthdays

Birthdays are sometimes a surprise party prepared by friends. But, more often, the birthday boy or girl will organise a party.

Whilst in some cultures it is custom for the person having a birthday to be shouted drinks or dinner, that is not the case in Croatia.

The etiquette here is that the birthday girl or boy will pay for dinner or drinks. Those invited are only expected to bring gifts.

Dinner

When invited over to a normal dinner party or BBQ guests are not expected to bring any food over but gifts such as wine, coffee, wine, chocolates, wine, sweets, wine…you get the idea.

If its a family dinner then bringing a plate (usually homemade cakes) is a norm.

But you should also bring a gift when invited to someone´s house. If you are not prepared for the first time, be sure to take one the next time, as we say.

We don´t start eating until we are all at the table. Some say grace, some don´t, it depends on the families, but it´s really not nice to start eating before everyone is seated.

When eating, saying NO It´s a big NO-NO! Because if you can´t eat anymore, and you say that, the host will think you didn’t like it.

Or that you are ashamed to say you are still hungry, and then you will have your plate full again. And if you don´t eat that as well, then we will know you didn’t like it and that you think the host is a lousy cook.

Doctors

After seeing the doctor who has looked after you it is ‘polite’ to bring a small gift as a way to say thank you.

Again, usually coffee, candy (specific bombonjera), wine or chocolates.

Shops

The one expected social norm when entering a shop is to announce your entrance with a ‘dobar dan’ (Good day).

Usually directed at the shop assistants but can also be directed at everyone in the shop at the time.

Even though I don´t see anyone, or the place is crowded, I usually greet, it doesn’t matter if anybody hears or not. I do.

When you leave the store you should always say goodbye (doviđénja).

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