Zagreb, Croatia Report of what it's like to live there - 06/16/14

Personal Experiences from Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia 06/16/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Not our first experience; Reykjavik, Prague, Madrid, plus a couple stops in DC and 1 short time in Fort Lauderdale.

View All Answers


2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home is in Florida and it is usually two layovers - DC or Atlanta and then somewhere in Germany or Paris and then to Zagreb In all it usually takes about 15 hours or so.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

We have been here for 2 years.

View All Answers


4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Trailing spouse of an Embassy employee.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are basically 2 types, houses to the north and houses to the south, as they are doing away with downtown apartments. We live in a large house to the north of the city, closer to the International school and we have fruit trees and vineyards in our backyard. It is about 15 minutes to city center by car (very convenient) and about 30-40 to the Embassy depending on the traffic. The school is around 15 minutes away by car and 90 minutes by public transportation. From here, there is no public transportation to the Embassy as it is way south in the middle of a cornfield near the city landfill!

The other type of housing is close to the Embassy (5-minute drive) but not near anything else and in a pretty ugly part of the city. I have not been inside the housing - which are stand alone houses or town houses, only outside, and would say that I would not like to live there. It is a group of houses rented by the Embassy that are only a few feet away from each other with little yard and NO privacy at all. Usually, families with small children are housed there. In the north areas I think the housing is fantastic even if a bit far from the Embassy. You are really living in the country with great access to the city.

View All Answers


2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

A little cheaper than the USA if you stay away from lots of prepackaged foods. There is a great farmers markets downtown every day.

View All Answers


3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing really.

View All Answers


4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, KFC, and Burger King is just arriving, costs are about the same as the U.S. Eating out is fairly limited to grilled meats and pizza although now that Croatia is in the EU, we see some new places opening up. We have a favorite vegetarian place and 2 Italian restaurants we like. There is a burrito restaurant that is passable and a couple of new sushi places that are not great. For a really good meal at our favorite Italian restaurant, 5 of us ate for US$125. I can have 2 pizzas delivered to my house in 30 minutes for about US$10 to 12. Coffee bars and sweet shops are very good.

View All Answers


5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through the Embassy.

View All Answers


2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We have a cleaning lady come once per week and she costs about US$40 for 8 hours. We have someone cut the grass for about US$30 and it takes him 8 hours.

View All Answers


3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

View All Answers


4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Lots of places don't take credit cards but ATM's are no issue.

View All Answers


5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

View All Answers


6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None in the restaurants. But if you want to talk to neighbors or the taxi driver you will need some Croatian. Most people speak some English.

View All Answers


7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

For sure. Great lack of sidewalks.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Safe and affordable.

View All Answers


2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Anything is fine. The local roads here are in rough shape but the bigger roads and highways are top notch.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Available, not too reliable at peak hours.

View All Answers


2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I think it is pretty lax. Not sure about kennels.

View All Answers


Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I would say no. High unemployment and a real need to know a very difficult language. There are some opportunities in the Embassy for family members

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Probably a lot if you speak the language.

View All Answers


3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None, a completely safe place to live and travel. Not even pickpockets are a problem here. You rarely hear about crimes and feel completely safe on public transportation or downtown even in the late nights.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No special health concerns. Care is hit or miss and you will need to figure it out yourself as the Embassy has a poor record in healthcare recommendations. In the end you will probably find someone who can help you. For example, my daughter went to 6 dentists until she found a really good one. One dentist even drilled out the wrong tooth and another treated cavities with rubber cement. Still another said "if you sit with your legs crossed you will confuse your mind" and another "your teeth problems would be solved if you just found a boyfriend." These were not jokes, as Croatians really believe in wives tales and home remedies. A common one is "don't sit on a hard chair or you will catch a cold in your kidneys."

View All Answers


3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Very clean air, a little grass burning now and then.

View All Answers


4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

November to April is gray and rainy and some winters are pretty snowy. Last winter there were two really big storms and this year there was no snow at all. Spring and fall are lovely and summers are normally hot and in the 90's (F). The winters are foggy, wet and pretty depressing like all of central Europe in the winter.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Our daughter attended one year at the American International school and in a word - awful! The building is unsuitable for a private American school. By comparison, Prague and Madrid were modern, beautiful schools with very capable management and great extra curricular activities. The Zagreb school is old and run down (part of an old convent that is rented by the school) and has no decent facilities (like a gym). This year the director has changed and it is even worse than last year with unhappy teachers, a declining student body and horrible morale. We endured one year here but would have taken our daughter out and gone elsewhere if we needed to. Many students in the American school don't even show up for weeks at a time but still graduate. There is absolutely no discipline and behavior is deplorable. I have heard the best option is the British school but do not have any first-hand knowledge.

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None.

View All Answers


3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Private clubs are the only way to go for kids and for all kinds of European sports.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Not a very big community and in general pretty happy. The morale of the embassy staff fluctuates with management and now I would say it is mediocre at best.

View All Answers


2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Cafes.

View All Answers


3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Excellent for all.

View All Answers


4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No.

View All Answers


5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Internally, yes, as they are not far removed from the homeland war and have great prejudices against neighboring countries. But for U.S. citizens, no issues at all. If you have darker skin you are likely to get stares as there are not many non-whites here. But I don't believe you would be treated badly - only gawked at as a novelty.

View All Answers


6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Definitely the best part is the coast of Croatia. From Zagreb it is around 90 minutes to the nearest point and the Adriatic coast is awesome - clear, clean water. Just drive anywhere to the coast (it is all public) and jump in the water. Then climb out, get a pizza, and jump back in. Well, that's what I like to do. Then there are the old cities like; Split, Rovinj, Dubrovnik and Pula, just to name a few that are fascinating places to see and then go jump in the Adriatic!

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The coast is a jewel and after 2 years we are still exploring little ancient cities all over Croatia. Rovinj is a family favorite and Opatija, although touristy, is really nice and only 2 hours away from Zagreb. Any island you go to is quiet, peaceful and relaxing with lots of sun and warm water. Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg and Venice are all about a 4 hour drive away, just awesome!

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Just travel, travel, travel.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Zagreb is a small and quiet city with very friendly people. The lifestyle is easy-going and has a great cafe environment (sitting around drinking coffee and people watching). It is also fairly cheap to live here and close to many great travel destinations.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

Yes.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, for sure.

View All Answers


2. But don't forget your:

Swim gear and ski gear. There is good skiing very close by.

View All Answers


3. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

BBC video series on Youtube "The Death of Yugoslavia."

View All Answers


4. Do you have any other comments?

This is a very relaxing place to live with lots to do and see. I highly recommend the post and I have been to some other really nice places.

View All Answers


Subscribe to our newsletter


New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More