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. Sara will be blogging for us about the differences, and at times similarities between the two. Her first article is all about volume and conversations…
One thing that I miss incredibly not living in Croatia are the loud conversations everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere! At home, in cafes, on the bus, EVERYWHERE. Of course there are exceptions and I can not speak for all of Croatia, but from what I have experienced coming from a Croatian family and frequently visiting my hometown (Rijeka), people like to talk and they like making sure they are heard! I myself am a very loud talker, which sometimes people in Austria like to remind me of, and I miss having loud conversations that out of nowhere turn into heated discussions on random topics.
It is especially fun when the whole family comes together and everyone talks to everyone at the same time. I think it’s fascinating how my grandma can be engaged in one conversation but at the same time answer my question about what’s gonna be for lunch that was directed towards my grandpa – being in another room. That must take years of practice.
Also going anywhere by bus is a joy. I find it to be truly informative and highly effective, as I am being updated on somebody’s neighbour’s new hairstyle (which apparently doesn’t suit her at all), the economic situation and the weather, AND I am being transported to the city. I love how everybody is engrossed in a conversation with the person sitting next to them, and how they all inform each other on what they have been up to or which market stall to get these delicious fish for tomorrow’s lunch.
I truly believe that Croatians are the masters of small talk. They seem to have no trouble striking up a conversation with pretty much anyone anywhere. I find that to be truly pleasant. In Austria I rarely see people randomly starting to talk to each other. The trains and buses are usually very quiet and everyone is minding their own business. They are reading books, typing away on their phones or just looking out the window, but not talking to each other. And if they happen to sit next to someone they know, their conversation is usually so quiet, that you just can’t eavesdrop without leaning in and looking too obvious.
While I can easily adapt to both norms, depending on where I am, I do find the loud Croatians more entertaining and pleasant than the quiet Austrians. Another thing I have noticed is how spontaneous Croatians are. When you meet someone while strolling through the city, you casually agree to go for coffee. And they are usually always up for coffee – as if they have nothing else planned for the day (which they probably don’t, except for going for coffee).
In Austria people seem to have tight schedules. They are rarely up for spontaneous meetings, as they are always busy or in the middle of something – on their way to the gym, on their way to the library, or about to go meeting somebody else. Come to think of it, maybe they just don’t feel like talking to you, so they make up excuses. I will look into that 🙂
All jokes aside, Austrians like to plan ahead and get things done. Whether you prefer one or the other mentality, I am glad to be able to continuously experience both.