By Sara Z
Ever since leaving her birthplace of Rijeka on Croatia’s Adriatic coast to live in the Austrian capital Vienna, Sara has been observing with interest the idiosyncrasies in Croatian and Austrian customs and culture. Here is here latest blog about families and neighbours…
One thing I find interesting about countries that are geographically rather close, is that they are very different in terms of culture. Although I firmly believe that we are all quite similar, it sometimes seems bizarre how we notice small differences that actually make a big difference when we look closer.
Even though Croatia and Austria are no more than roughly 300 km apart and have been historically linked, I often notice variations in the culture. One thing in particular that stands out to me when I think of Croatia is that people are very family oriented and social. When we look at the differences between a collectivist and individualist culture, I would label Croatia as being collectivist.
Family and close friends come before anything else – they form the basis of the social structure. I love how Croatians remain close with their relatives, even with extended family members – like the 5th cousins 4 times removed or something. THEY ALL KNOW EACH OTHER. Or at least they know that the other exists.
Even though I left Croatia when I was really young and grew up in Austria, I still have that special and very strong bond with my family members in Croatia. And I know that the distance between Vienna and Rijeka is not that far, but people would think that if you only see certain people a few times a year it would only seem logical that the bond weakens. Well it hasn’t for me.
I feel like I’ve never even left. When I look at Austrian families who were born here and spent all their lives in their home country, many of them hardly even have a basis of a relationship with their closest relatives. Everyone here seems to be more focused on their own lives and achievements and often times view everyone around them as some sort of competition.
Even when you see casual conversations between neighbours, they often take place outside, in front of their houses. You’d have to be really close to invite the other in for a cup of coffee. Cut to 2 hours later, they are probably still standing outside talking. Come rain or snow. It doesn’t matter. It’s like playing the game “who will laugh first”. And I can tell you, they don’t surrender easily. As you can probably tell, I am exaggerating. But honestly, having a good relationship with your neighbors in Croatia is a true blessing.
Not only will you always have someone to gossip and drink coffee with, but you will have someone to count on. Whether you need milk or sugar, a ride to the store or the city, or any other kind of help – no questions asked. They would probably even kill a pig for you, if you’re extremely lucky and want to eat odojak at your birthday party. It’s a simple relationship. Fuss-free.