Things Croatian culture has taught me- Part II
Source: “think” by withbeautiful.
Croatian culture has taught me many things about life, living, and most significantly, about who I am. You may have just read my first portion of the lessons I’ve learned so here I humbly present to you the rest of the things I feel Croatian culture has taught me.
Be slow and enjoy every moment
This word I hear often when I state that I must do something. Example:
“Thanks for lunch, I need to go home and finish my laundry.”
“I need to go the bathroom, I’ll be right back.”
“I think my house is on fire, I gotta go check!”
Ok ok, obviously this is an exaggeration but it all leads me to one of the best lessons Croatian culture has ever taught me: slow down and enjoy.
In American culture, we are fast-moving. We’ve got plans, things to do, and why not do them fast? And while that’s all great and dandy, there’s nothing I’ve learned more since I moved to Croatia than one thing: Life is meant to be enjoyed. And not just in the moments where you consciously say to yourself “I will enjoy this moment.” It’s in every day, in every moment.
Life is meant for us to move slowly. Yes, you still need to take care of the things you need to do, but what’s the hurry? Finish sipping your coffee. Smoke one more cigarette (or three). Watch the sunset. Stay a little while longer.
The laundry will be fine.
Your bladder won’t burst.
And hey, if your house is burning down, well there’s not much you can do about it now huh?
At least you enjoyed along the way.
I have so much appreciation for the entire Croatian culture for showing me this way of life. For those of you born and raised here, thank you. For those of you outside Croatia, I highly recommend coming to visit (or dare I say move?) to try life this way.
I promise you won’t regret it.
Stop planning every little moment
Part of this is directly connected to slowing down and enjoying. But I have to say- I never learned how to go with the flow so much as when I came to Croatia.
The Croatians fly by the seat of their pants more often than planning! Sure, they plan the big stuff.
But all the other social stuff? Most of the gatherings I found myself a part of was simply because I was called moments before to come, or because I wound up in someone’s apartment and slowly, one by one, others arrived, drinks were poured, and pretty soon we were in an unplanned, social gathering, laughing and talking and just enjoying ourselves.
And I don’t mean money of course- I mean quality.
I’m a planner. I can’t tell if this is my personality or the American part of me(probably a healthy combination of both) but Croatian culture strongly exemplifies what my best friend and I call “feels in the momes”, the shortened version of “feelings in the moment”.
Another way the Croatians do this is through their love of coffee.
Going to the mall? Stop for a coffee before.
Going to the hardware store? Stop for a coffee.
Going to the doctor? Hit the cafe car next door after your appointment!
What a better way to stop planning every moment of every day than to stop and have a coffee! This is why at every shopping center there is a cafe bar- seriously, I’m not joking you. The equivalent of their Home Depot(an American hardware store) has a cafe bar inside! EVERY store has one either INSIDE or right beside it. I’m slowly getting used to it but still, it amazes me every day.
So Croatian culture has taught me how to make a plan but veer off from the plan(at least for an hour or two) and that THAT’S what makes life ten times more enjoyable. Stop planning every moment.
Call your friend.
If they ask you to go to drinks, put down what you’re doing and head out the door.
Okay, not every time, but definitely more often.
There is no right or wrong, only different
I don’t think you have to live abroad to learn this. I think traveling shows this to you also. But living in Croatia, traveling, exploring this country and surrounding Balkan countries such as Serbia and Bosnia, I’ve learned one thing so strong and so true about life:
There is no right or wrong way, only different.
Now, I’m not speaking about strong moral issues. I’m speaking about ways of living. Let’s use an example.
American culture allows people to drive from the age of 16. Croatia driving laws allow you to drive at 18.
Croatia drinking laws allow people to drink alcohol at 18. American drinking laws prohibit consumption of alcohol before the age of 21.
Most of us are familiar with these differences between the U.S. and Europe. And while I’m not here to discuss those laws in depth, it’s just an example of something greater: neither society is “right” or “wrong”, they are just different.
I’ve also learned this looking at different people groups here in Croatia. You have very conservative groups of people here who devoutly follow traditional roles of marriage, husband, wife, and family. I’ve seen some families that only the men drive, the woman’s role is to take care of the home, and the man’s word is final. You have this in the States also, but I saw it in a different way here.
And what I learned, not so much from watching these traditional peoples but of watching those outside of these groups, is that people accept and even respect this way of living.
Because it’s not about what’s a right or wrong way to live, it’s just everyone is different. And this took me a while to wrap my head around, as in America I feel we often feel fierce about the best way to live, I learned, more so out of the comparison of my own culture to the new one I had entered, that nothing is right or wrong.
It’s just like that quote from one of my favorite books, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: