I get lots of queries from people who are thinking of moving to Croatia. Many have only visited Croatia for a week, maybe two, during the high season, staying in a hotel or renting a vacation home by the sea. Some have visited once or twice for an entire summer...but stayed for free at a distant relative's apartment or summer home. While the experience was probably fantastic...it was, nonetheless, artificial. Life in Croatia is like life in any other place. You've got work to do, bills to pay, sometimes it rains, or snows, sometimes it gets cold, sometimes the heating breaks down and can't be fixed for a couple days. Sometimes your car won't start. Sometimes you've got to go to the doctor or dentist or chiropractor. Sometimes you sprain an ankle and can't walk up the 45 stairs to your apartment. Sometimes your company shuts down and leaves you unemployed. Sometimes taxes go up. Real life.
There's an additional aspect to life in Croatia that visitors may not be aware of, and it is this: there is a distinct difference between life in the summer and life in the low season. Lots of places that are lively and crowded during the summer can actually be extraordinarily quiet during the low season. Yup. Especially the islands. So if your only experience of Croatia is Dubrovnik in July, or Mali Losinj in august, or Rovinj in June....and your idea is to move here and work at a cafe for the year while you bask in the sun...you'd better think again. many of the cafes, bars, shops, and even some hotels are only open from May-September.
So, before making any permanent plans about moving here, I strongly suggest the following:
-take an entire month off work. Yup, you read that right. An entire month (two is even better)
-rent a place in Croatia in the actual city/town/village where you believe you want to live. Don't spend a month in Dubrovnik, and then move to Zagreb. The places are completely different. Also, if you want to live on an island, then rent a place for an entire month on that island to see what happens during the winter months
-here's the kicker though: rent a place for a month during the lowest of the low season. In Croatia, I'd have to say that January or February is about right. Don't come in the spring or summer or fall. It is very nice during those months. Come in January or February.
And stay exclusively in your rental place. DO NOT travel more than 30 minutes outside of your rental place. DO NOT go to other countries, or other parts of the country. Trust me on this: you cannot judge what it is like to live in Croatia by spending 3 days here, and then spending the rest of your visit in Italy, France, Germany, and a side trip to the UK.
During your one month stay:
-buy groceries and cook real meals everyday
-buy cleaning materials and clean your kitchen, bathroom and do some dusting
-do your own laundry every few days
-go to the market
-visit a doctor,
-visit a dentist,
-get an eye exam,
-go to the bank to gather information on how to open an account and what type of account you can open based on your status
-go for job interviews
-get a shirt dry-cleaned
- get a hair cut
-check out apartment rentals with an agent
-call on any local friends/family members during the middle of the work-day often to see what they're up to
-check out language classes
-get yourself a public transit pass
You can't do all of the above in a 1 or 2 week visit. People need 3 weeks to acclimate to a new situation, so it will really be in the 4th week that you start to really feel like you live here. The 4th week is when you will know if you want to move here.
Also, hope that there is terrible weather during your stay. I mean terrible. The logic is this: if you can like living in a new place at its absolute worst time of year, then you'll love it during the best time of the year. But the opposite is not true....you might love a place during its best times....but absolutely hate it during the low season.
After your month spent here really 'living' like a local, you'll know if you want to live here full time. Or if what you really want is to just visit for a vacation during high season. Nobody can tell you the answer. Everybody is different.
I hope this helps anybody out there who is contemplating a move to Croatia. Come on over. Slam the doors and kick the tires. And take 'er for a spin. And let me know how it goes.