Motherhood

16 Surprising Things About Parenting in Croatia

Parenting in Croatia

For the past two years, Amanda and Cameron Marshall have been raising their three young children in Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb, after moving from California. In today’s Motherhood Around the World interview, Amanda shares their favorite holiday tradition, the food that makes her do a double take and Croatians’ answer to anything that’s ailing…

Parenting in Zagreb, Croatia

On moving abroad: When Cameron got an Olmsted Foundation scholarship — which immerses American military officers in a foreign culture and language — we were asked to list all the places in the world where we’d like to live for a few years. Croatia was a top choice, and being here has exceeded our wildest dreams. Cameron is getting his master’s degree in history at the University of Zagreb, and I’m staying home with John Shea, 3, Grace, 2, and Georgia, 6 months. (I’m also a former journalist working on a cookbook about our experience in Croatia.) Cameron’s program encourages us to spend the full two years in-country, without coming back to the States. So we haven’t made any visits home, which has allowed us to truly immerse ourselves in this incredible place.

Parenting in Croatia

Parenting in Croatia

On learning the language: Croatian can be difficult for a native English speaker because the pronunciation is so different and the words all need special endings. I’ve studied a lot, but I still make mistakes all the time. When we first arrived, I spent a full day at our neighbors’ backyard farm calling the man “aunt” instead of “uncle.” He kept chuckling and goodheartedly rolling his eyes at me. I didn’t put it together until after I got home that night! Cameron is fluent now — all his university classes and assignments are in Croatian — and our kids speak well for their ages.

Parenting in Croatia

On the power of coffee: Coffee is at the center of Croatian culture. The typical drink is a strong brew mixed with milk — similar to a latte — and Croatians often drink many cups a day, all day long. The ritual is less about the coffee itself (though it is amazing) and more about having a reason to meet up with someone to chat, catch up, date, do business or even propose marriage. Our friends joke that literally everything happens over a cup of coffee. If you say you’re busy, people will tease you: ‘If you can’t do coffee, you have to get your life in order.’ I love to see so many people sitting together — not working on their computers or staring at their phones — talking, laughing and being present over coffee. Every morning after I finish my cup of coffee, two-year-old Grace takes it and dramatically breathes in the scent.

Parenting in Croatia

On local foods: My husband has learned to make delicious palačinke, or Croatian crepes, for breakfast every morning. The kids love them topped with fruit or Nutella. We also enjoy the most incredible eggs from our neighbors’ chickens (we used to have some, too, but they were killed by a weasel!). They are so fresh and natural that their yolks are bright neon yellow, which stuns and delights us every morning. When harvest time comes at the end of summer, ajvar is made and canned. It’s a delicious condiment made from grilled peppers and eggplants that we eat by the spoonful when our friend brings it over. Overall, the cuisine here varies by region. In Dalmatia, on the coastline, it’s heavy on seafood. In continental Croatia, meat is the staple. You’ll find the best local truffles in Istria. But anywhere you go in the country, the food and wine are incredible. The approach is ideal for children, with its focus on fresh, simple dishes.

Parenting in Zagreb, Croatia

On housing: We are renting a house from the U.S. government in Šestine, a residential area just north of the Zagreb city center. Truth be told, it’s the biggest house we’ve ever lived in and probably ever will again — with a pool, balcony, views and a lovely backyard. Our neighbors have all lived here for generations, since the days when it was a peasant neighborhood. Now it’s considered an upscale village separate from Zagreb, but it’s just a five-minute drive downhill to the center of the city. Our landlady built the house with foreign embassy families in mind, so it has an open floor plan, similar to many American houses. Typical Croatian houses and apartments are very compact, and the rooms are sectioned off from one another to keep them warm during the winters.

Parenting in Croatia

St. Mark’s church in Zagreb.

Parenting in Croatia

Visiting vendors at an outdoor market in Zagreb.

On daily routines: As a family, one thing we love here is all the magnificent churches. We wake up and go to sleep to the sound of their bells. Our kids call them ‘our bells,’ and they know when it’s dinner time, bath time and bedtime based on when the bells peal! Our morning ritual is going to the local market and visiting the same stalls each time. The families all know us by name and give our kids hugs and free fruit.

Parenting in Croatia

Amanda’s neighbor tends to his backyard grape vineyard.

Parenting in Croatia

Harvesting figs in the backyard.

On relating to the land: We noticed right away that backyards serve a different purpose than they do in the States. Instead of cultivating open lawns or building swing sets, the Croatian families we know use their backyards like home farms. We have learned so much from our neighbors about making wine, pruning fruit trees, canning, and raising chickens — and all in our own yard! Our kids love picking fruit from our trees. It’s also very common for people to have extended family members in the country who make their own olive oil or wine or have fruit orchards or pigs to share with their relatives in the city. So, even Croatians who live in urban apartments are often still quite connected to the soil.

Parenting in Croatia

Amanda’s friend Zvonko prepares a lunch of chicken “peka,” the traditional Croatian way to slow-cook meat and vegetables in a clay dish with an open fire.

On hospitality: My own grandparents came from nearby Bosnia and Herzegovina, which prepared me well for living — and eating — here. Hospitality is of upmost importance in Croatia and the Balkan countries. If you say no to seconds and thirds, you are breaking mothers’ and grandmothers’ hearts! Anytime our children go to someone’s house to play, I know without a doubt that they will be fed. When we stop by to say hello to our older neighbor, who lives alone on almost nothing, he always brings out whatever he has. The best thing you can do in a Croatian’s home is to sit down and eat and drink everything that’s offered. As they say before digging in, uživajte! (Enjoy!)

On mixing generations: While living here, we’ve loved seeing different generations socializing — it’s not uncommon to have multiple generations living under the same roof; for grandparents to care for their grandkids while parents are at work; and for whole families to hang out together all the time. Our three-year-old goes next door to our neighbors’ house almost every day and experiences the older generations as a Croatian child would. They’re a middle-aged couple, and their 80-something uncle lives with them; none of them speak English. Our son helps them in their orchard and plays with their German shepherd. We literally hand our children over the fence to them, and they spoil them with huge chocolate Milka bars. They call themselves our kids’ “grandparents.”

Parenting in Croatia

On drinking alcohol: Alcohol — especially wine and the brandy rakija — is an integral part of everyday life. Whenever my husband and I hung out with friends when I was pregnant, they’d always offer me wine. When I requested water instead, they’d look at me quizzically and explain that wine is good for your heart and good for your baby! Rakija is seen as a key answer to just about everything, in parenting and every stage of life. Is your baby teething? Rub some rakija on his gums. Not sleeping? Let her stick a finger in your cup to try. Are you feeling sick? Drink some rakija. Want to give your love life a kick? Take a shot first thing in the morning! Many families make their own rakija. Every time one of our children has a birthday, our next-door neighbor gives us a tall homemade bottle. He says my husband and I deserve a drink!

Parenting in Croatia

On date nights: Cameron and I have a weekly date night, which allows us to try Zagreb’s restaurants. This seems to be more of an American idea than a Croatian one — most couples we know save eating in restaurants for special occasions. Instead, a husband might go out for beers with friends one night, and his wife will go out for drinks with friends another night; they take turns watching kids at home. Certainly, Croatians are no less social, but a babysitter would be a splurge. From an American perspective, we have been thrilled to hire students to babysit during our date nights, and the going rate here is $7 an hour.

Parenting in Croatia

Easter in Zagreb.

On holiday traditions: Croatia is a predominantly Christian country, so the major Christian holidays (Easter, Christmas) are the biggest annual celebrations. My kids’ favorite tradition is ‘holiday boots.’ Instead of hanging stockings, Croatian children leave their boots on a windowsill for Santa. On December 6th, they’ll wake up to candy inside if they were good over the past year. If they were naughty, they’ll wake up to a tree branch inside (meant for a spanking!), left by Krampus, the half-goat, half-demon evil version of St. Nicholas that is part of European folklore.

Parenting in Croatia

Gracie, 2, in Zagreb’s St. Mark’s Square.

On playing outside: Soccer is the national sport and is played every possible place — grass fields, asphalt, medieval town squares, you name it. Packs of children are always playing and talking outside with siblings, cousins or friends. I don’t worry as much about my own kids running around because it’s such a community-oriented culture. I’ve noticed that Croatian parents and grandparents are totally at ease stepping in to help a stranger’s child, or they’ll grab a child without blinking if they’re about to run near the street. In the States, people seem way more reserved about intervening. I’ll find another adult here gently putting their hand on my daughter’s back while she climbs a ladder on the playground or even telling her sternly to be careful, without worrying they’ll offend her or us.

Parenting in Croatia

Raking leaves in front of the chicken coop.

On superstitions: There’s a real fear here of propuh, which translates as ‘a draft of air.’ My husband and I are accosted regularly for not dressing our children warmly enough anytime the temperature falls below 70 degrees. Amazingly enough, it isn’t just grandmothers that approach us, it is bewildered strangers of every age. When our friends come over, they bring their own house slippers and can never hold back from commenting with wide eyes when our kids are running around barefoot in the yard. We have to explain to various people on the street why on earth our kids have taken off their shoes while riding around in the stroller on a hot summer day. As an American from southern California, this always remind me that I am a foreign mom here.

Parenting in Croatia

Dubrovnik.

Parenting in Croatia

Pag Island.

Parenting in Croatia

Zadar.

On regional travel: With Cameron’s scholarship travel stipend, we’ve been able to explore different parts of the country. Croatia is full of hidden gems. We take road trips, which is easiest with kids, and we’ve rented apartments and stayed with friends. Our favorite spots have been Istria, a peninsula on the Adriatic sea; Pag Island, where Croatia’s celebrated sheep’s milk cheese comes from; the Kutjevo wine region in Slavonija; and Dubrovnik, the gorgeous seaside city. The vineyard visits have been particularly fun for our family. They’re small and family run, so you get to spend one-on-one time with the winemakers. Vineyards are actually some of the most kid-friendly places here, with the winemakers’ grandkids running around and every age welcome to explore each nook and cranny.

Parenting in Croatia

On learning Croatian values: The Croatians I’ve gotten to know well are among the most warm and optimistic people I’ve ever met. They have a great sense of humor and know how to enjoy life, despite the economic difficulties in this country and the shadow of many regional wars over the past 70 years. I love how when we bump into one of our friends and say, “We should get together soon,” they reach the next day to make plans — life here revolves around these connections. All our friends work — both parents — because they have to, and even then they say it can be tough to get by. I’ve learned so much from the authenticity, frugality and resourcefulness of the people here. Thanks to living in Zagreb, we now find endless uses for cheese rinds, chicken bones and vegetable peels. These are values we hope our family keeps after we leave Croatia.

Parenting in Croatia

Thank you so much, Amanda!

P.S. The full Motherhood Around the World series including moms in Iceland and Abu Dhabi.

(Photos courtesy of Amanda Marshall, except overhead Zagreb photo via Time Out and overhead Dubrovnik photo via TripAdvisor. Top photo taken on vacation in Dubrovnik.)

  1. Mary says...

    My uncle was an Olmstead scholar and I was able to live with him and his family for one of his two years in Leipzig. It’s a fantastic program, and being able to stay over there just for that year (I was 17) was a life-changing experience for me. I’m so happy you and your family have this opportunity!

  2. Stephanie Sullivan says...

    Amanda Marshall,
    We could not love this, or your family more!!! xo
    Stephanie

  3. Jas says...

    Thank you very much for such beautiful description of Croatina and Zagreb. It’s good to be remained how is good here, in Zagreb.
    If we ever met, coffee is on me (also Croatian expresion, I don’t know is it translated) :-)).

  4. Alyson says...

    What a great post! My husband and I were married in Croatia last year. It holds such a special place in my heart! Amanda is so right about the locals there; they were some of the most kind people I have ever encountered. We did a wine tour that was AMAZING! (If you all are still there you should try it http://www.insiderholidays.eu/wine-lovers-tour-of-peljesac-peninsula-2) Thanks so much for this lovely post!

  5. Oh God, don’t get me started on the propuh ‘phenomenon’…I grew up (in Croatia) hearing from my mother, “Nevena, close the [insert room] door, can’t you feel the propuh streaming in?!” Um, NO, crazy lady. And now at 32, it seems that the old platitude about everyone eventually turning into their parents rings oh-so-true: I feel the damn draught too if, say, a door in one room is open and a door in another, too . Mother 1, me 0. Check and MATE, mama, check and maaaate.

    (Quite frankly I’m stunned that M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t yet made a gripping, tense horror flick about propuh, AKA The Draught.) (Oh wait, he kind of already did…that insipid fiasco The Happening, anyone?)

    Jesting aside, I totally did a double-take when I saw the heading of this piece – it sure was a treat! I grew up in Croatia (Karlovac, a measly 45min drive from Zagreb), and even spent some chunks of the war living in Zagreb when things got too scary in my hometown. (We emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in July 1994, but I visit Croatia/Serbia/Bosnia relatively often, because DUH.)

    Oh, and get this, Karlovac? A town on FOUR rivers, yo. (I know, right?!) Not only that, but all four are so terribly gorgeous, clear and glittery that it borders on ridiculous. (Very handy before and after summer sojourns to the Adriatic.) Like, geez, leave some for the rest of the world, why dontcha.

    Dammit, Amanda, your post made me nostalgic. Bwah! It looks and sounds like you guys got very much ensconced in Zagreb; it’s pretty fantabulous that you got to have this adventure! (For the briefest of moments, I almost wished I could live in Croatia again.)

    My husband (also from Croatia) is a palačinke master – he and Cameron should totally have a crêpe-off, hahah! I grew up eating a lot of wonderful homemade food…and there was many a childhood moment filled with eating scrumptious nosh from under the peka. Mmmm! (My maternal uncle has a badass peka in his backyard.) In terms of the coffee culture, it went as far as us kids eating ‘bijela kava’ (white coffee) – torn pieces of 2- to 3-day old bread covered in steaming, diminished-with-loads-of-milk Turkish coffee. Growth: very much NOT stunted. Hee!

    The December 6th holiday is Sveti Nikola (i.e. St. Nicholas, or St Nick’s Day). In fact, sometimes parents include both pressies AND a šiba (tree branch) in kids’ boots, just for kicks, and the šiba is usually a very pretty golden or silver. (Who knew Krampus was so schmancy…) And yes, my folks always had a preternatural fear of me and my brother being cold, so we’d walk through our apartments with always-slippered feet, cotton undershirts tucked into our tracksuit pants, and so on. Fun times.

    As for rakija, it’s true – it pretty much heals all, apparently. Magical elixir and the be-all and end-all. Sometimes it’s even dabbed on scratches or cuts. (Been there, done that. Shudder.)

    I lived in Croatia until I was almost 10, and one of the many wonderful things about growing up there was the obligatory holiday on the Adriatic Coast every summer – most of the time you’d stay for a month. No, that’s not a typo. A MONTH of swimming, lazying, sunbaking with olive oil[!], snoozing in the shade under tall pine trees, splashing around, gelato, water slides, delectable seafood and Italian-style pizzas, holiday houses, campervans; lather, rinse, repeat. Le sigh!

    Pardon me while I teleport myself over to Dalmacija…nnnnnnnow.

    • Nevena,
      This is so fun for me to read because now I get it!!! Thank you so much for sharing your stories – I am sitting here laughing out loud!
      With love,
      Amanda

  6. Lorraine says...

    Loved reading this Amanda! Loved that I was able to visit you in Zagreb and loved that I know exactly what you mean in some of the observations you make. Thank you x

    • Lorraine! Thank you!! I am so, so glad you came and visited us and were so gracious to our family whilst I was trying not to puke every 5 minutes pregnant with Georgia ;) We hope to get to see you again in NC!

  7. Katie says...

    I am an American expat in Greece and the propuh is a very real thing here as well. We were on our holidays last week and my mother-in-law began scolding my toddler for not wearing his socks inside the house. I kindly explained to her it is mid-August and 100+ degrees outside – why does he need socks? Oh, because she felt a cool draft from the window and the tile floors are cold! Told to me like it is the most logical thing in the world. Hahaha

    • Hahaha YES! Oh my gosh thank you – that is too funny! Did you move to Greece for good?? Do you like it!? Thank you for the chuckle;)
      Amanda

    • Katerina says...

      As a Greek I totally get your mother-in-law. I was raised hearing that, too, and now that I have two kids, I catch myself being also afraid of the draught : ) Actually, in Greece it is a classical joke, the mother who still worries that her (adult) child will catch a cold for not being well dessed…

  8. Daynna Shannon says...

    This post, this one, in the series contained so much joy and gratitude and made me not only want to go to Croatia for an extended period of time, but also to befriend Amanda and her family! What lovely people. What a lovely outlook they have. And everyone around them, too. Before she even mentioned how optimistic everyone was and how they knew how to live life, you could already FEEL it. I rarely comment on these types of posts but couldn’t help myself. This family and this country touched me.

    • Lorraine says...

      Amanda is a friend of mine (we met via her blog!) and I was lucky enough to stay with her and her gorgeous family (one babe in her tummy) in Zagreb last September. I will never forget it. Such a beautiful family.

    • Daynna,
      Thank you so much… that is just so generous and kind of you, I don’t even know what to say! I hope you get to visit Croatia one day – it has it’s problems to be sure, but there’s a thousand other special things I could say about it. I am so thankful we’ve gotten to call it home these past years. Thank you again for leaving such a sweet comment!

    • Aww Lo! THANK YOU! We’ll be waiting for your next visit! :)

  9. We were in Croatia for a couple of weeks with our kids last year and I found myself thinking that it would be a great place to live. So fun to read this!

  10. Joanna says...

    I think this may be my favorite one yet, and wow this sounds magical.

    • Thank you, Joanna!! They’ve definitely got some of the simple joys of life down pat — strong family, home, connection to the land, tradition, community of all generations, humor, coffee, wine…

  11. Tajna Maric Langlois says...

    This is an amazing story. It is very inspiring knowing other people love Zagreb as much as I do – other foreigners of course. I myself am from Australia and have come to Zagreb to learn Croatian as my mother is herself a Croatian but unfortunately didn’t teach me the language.

    I love the country, the city, the people, the life. Not only that but I am here to stay :)

    Tajna Marić Langlois

    • Tajna,
      That is awesome. I’m so happy you get to stay here! We would stay much longer if we could. But I hope we’ll get to move back again (we leave next week:( I laughed reading that your Mom didn’t teach you — mine didn’t either (my Grandmother is from here) and I jokingly yell at her often for it!! It’s a tough language but I so admire that you’re here to learn it. May God bless you in your life here! I wish we were staying longer so we could meet up!

  12. Tanja says...

    This post warmed my heart. My entire family is of Serbian descent (which has a very similar culture to Croatia) and although I live in North America, it reminds me so much of my childhood and especially of visits to my grandparents farm in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After such a short time in the country, Amanda has eloquently described the fundamental values of the culture in the region. Everything you described – from the coffee and food, hospitality and superstitions represents my childhood and reminds me to make sure I instill those values and that beautiful way of life to my children. Thank you so much for this post!

  13. Sarah says...

    I actually think that propuh is a worldwide phenomenon outside of the US- my husband is Lebanese, and I’m sure I laughed the first time he blamed a sore elbow on the breeze. Sneezing? Must have been cold at work. Your hip feels weird? The temperature change walking to your car did it. His family truly believes all of this and I will never be able to wrap my head around it…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it’s fascinating to hear from different countries!

      we’ve heard about this focus on dressing warmly from parents in italy, guatemala, croatia, etc. — whereas in more northern countries with much colder weather, they seem to be more comfortable with kids being cold sometimes. in england, where all my relatives live, little kids often wear shorts in rainy, cold weather, and no one blinks when a child has a runny nose, it’s just part of being a kid!

      and i remember the mother in norway said this:
      “[Kids at school] spend a ton of time outside, mostly playing and exploring nature… they only go inside if it’s colder than 14 degrees. They even eat outdoors — with their gloves on! When I was worried about my son being cold, my father-in-law said, ‘It’s good for him to freeze a little bit on his fingers.’ That’s very Norwegian — hard things are good for you.”

      so interesting!

    • Jana says...

      We also here in Latvia have this phenomenon it’s ‘caurvējš’ – and all grannies warn you about it because otherwise you will catch a cold…
      And warm wool socks is a must for every kid!

    • Sylvia says...

      Yes! Canadian here, and we had to play outside in the cold everyday of the year as a child. Even when it was -20 F (-30 C). Can’t recall a single time we were held inside for it being to cold out!

    • Aysegul says...

      I am Turkish and the fear of cold is a big thing in my country too. Younger generations try to break it but when your baby is out without socks it’s a panic moment for even strangers on the street. Another huge thing here is putting a hand knit vest on your baby as soon as he wakes up from his nap regardless of the season (almost). Otherwise the world will collapse or something. Therefore the minute you announce your pregnancy all women of certain age around you start knitting vests and slippers for the baby:) My husband is Canadian, we live in Turkey. We started to take our baby out for strolls as soon as he was born. He’s a winter baby and every time we took him out for some fresh air it gave my dad a heart attack!

    • Janine says...

      Portuguese here. My grandmother has never stopped scolding me for walking around the house barefoot. As she says, “The cold will get into your feet!”

  14. Great! Very interesting post!! regards from Italy

  15. Carrie Brass says...

    LOVED this one! so fascinating – would love to travel there! i wonder how hard/easy it would be to travel there?

  16. Johnny says...

    When former collegues and dear friends ask why I left Canada nine years ago to live and raise my family in Croatia…I will from now on share this amazing article, because it is exactly how you described it…just amazing and simple…

  17. Morgan says...

    I always enjoy this series and I especially appreciated, as a mother of three myself, reading about a family living abroad with three children. The pictures are breathtaking.

  18. Alexia says...

    Loved this post! Now I need to visit Croatia. Out of curiousity, is Amanda’s husband going to be re-based back in the US with the military? Beautiful family! 💗

  19. Erin says...

    I just LOVE this series, please keep them coming!!

  20. golden earth girl says...

    One of my favorite posts ever, how dreamy! I just want to move there right now.

  21. I have heard about the importance of coffee to Croatians, but it is almost as popular and essential of a drink everywhere else. Anyway, I would love to enjoy a cup – or more ;) – of that Croatian milk-mixed coffee someday.

  22. Loved this Amanda! My husbands grandfather was from Croatia (and his grandmother from Russia) and I recognize the ideals and values that you describe in him. He was one of the most gregarious men I knew. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  23. Lanna says...

    What a wonderful write-up of a great country! I’ve read every blog post from Amanda and I still learned more about her family and life in Croatia. We were able to visit last fall and had an amazing time and were blown away by the food, wine and idyllic scenes. I’m still giving away Croatian gifts to friends and family!

  24. I love the photos and your writing!
    Great job x
    -Daria

  25. Hannah says...

    I just wanted to thank you for this post. My boyfriend is a captain in the Army and we have been dating long distance. The mileage between us, the field trainings with limited communication, and his very scheduled career has sometimes been making me feel a little worried about our future. I know this post was supposed to focus on parenting, but I saw the beauty of this military family’s new adventure and time together. Even if this does not happen for us, it was encouraging to be reminded about some of the wonderful possibilities and not just the hard parts.
    Thank you!

    • Hannah,
      What you describe is exactly how we started out. It scared me half to death at first wondering what our future would hold but we have had so many amazing adventures together literally all over the world. During the years we’ve been a continent away from our families (5 yrs now!) we’ve grown tremendously in our marriage in our own family. There are periods of great frustration and loneliness (months of training and being separated and of course looming deployments) but overall I wouldn’t trade the ride we’ve been on together for anything. You should encourage your boyfriend to apply for the Olmsted Scholarship – it has been the opportunity of a lifetime. Please email me if you ever need anything- I think every military spouse goes through what you described!
      With love, Amanda

  26. Wow!! This is so magical! Thank you for putting Croatia on the emotional & cultural map for me, Amanda and Cup of Jo team!

    • Thank you, Mel! It’s truly a beautiful country – the land and the people!

  27. Stephanie says...

    I am also a California mom living in Zagreb! We live just a hilltop over from Amanda! She describes life here so well — I would have commented on all the same things (but maybe a little more snarkily — propuh and all the ridiculous temperature related causes of illness drive me crazy!) Kudos to their family for embracing all that Croatia has to offer! xo Stephanie

    • Hi Stephanie!! I wish we were here longer to meet up… are you in Gracani? Time got the best of us, it went way too fast!

    • ha! love this follow up. What a small world!

    • Stephanie says...

      Hi Amanda — we are in Remete! Rats — are you leaving Croatia? I’m around more or less this month (waiting for school to start!!!!). We may pop out to the islands one more time, but not sure yet. Happy to meet for a coffee if you have time! I think someone mentioned you have a blog — can I contact you though your blog? Cheers, Stephanie

  28. I am so thrilled to see Croatia on here!! I am married to my dream guy – the Croatian Sensation and we are headed back to his hometown of Zagreb tomorrow for a month!

    (Follow along on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/speakathometonight)

    We lived there for several years (and got married in the capital city as well) and this spoke to my heart so much. I learned Croatian to speak to his family (who doesn’t speak English). They make rakija, sausages, and grow their own food too and I absolutely love it!

    Love seeing this beautiful family embrace the culture and immerse themselves so fully!

    • Stephanie S Bell says...

      Nikki,
      I’m a Croatian American but I’ve never heard Croatian Sensation. That’s great!
      Stephanie

    • Morgan says...

      You mean you’re married to Toni Kukoc?

    • Emily says...

      Haha, Morgan, when she said, “Croatian Sensation” I thought immediately of Toni Kukoc. I had SUCH a crush on him as a teen (He is 6’11”, you guys. And SO handsome). When I found out he was married with kids I was devastated!

  29. This is such a fascinating series and I loved this post! I’d also be interested to hear about their experiences with health care in other countries. Thanks for sharing!

  30. So on my list of places to go. Great read, thanks!

  31. Kylie says...

    This was a dream to read! I love and miss Croatian culture and hospitality; reading this brought me right back to what I love! Truly a one of the most beautiful places.

  32. Janet says...

    Amanda, thank you for sharing! What a beautiful life.

  33. Dana says...

    I love love LOVE this series, and am thrilled to see a post on Croatia!! My boyfriend is Bosnian, and this beautifully illustrates so much of what he’s told me about life in former Yugoslavia. Also, we are traveling to Bosnia and Croatia together next week (my first time!), and this made me even more excited to experience the culture. Thank you :)

  34. You skipped one but magical place called “Baranja”. Northeast of Slavonija, across river Drava. Cuisine is influenced with Hungary and its spicy food mainlu based on hot paprika. Star meal is famous “fiš paprikaš, (aka fish stew) and game stew called “čobanac”. In Baranja there are hundreds of orchards of apple, peach, pear, hazelnut, cherries, plums and mostly of all, grapes and vast vineyards. The best vino comes from this small region and you have dozens of small family held wineries.

    If you would like to highlight Baranja, please drop me an email :)

    Cheers, Stipe.

  35. Beth says...

    I absolutely love this series, Croatia is such a beautiful country! It would be amazing to see the experiences of some same-sex parent couples reflected in ‘mother(or father!)hood around the world’ to see what the experience is like in different countries.

    • Isabella says...

      Yes!!

  36. Daniela says...

    I am happy to read about Croatia on Cup of Jo. I am croatian, living in Zagreb and love and read Cup of Jo for years now, so this is such a pleasant surprise.
    Lijep pozdrav svima i dodite u Hrvatsku (kind regards to all of you, come visit Croatia)

    • Daniela, bok iz zagreba!!! VOLIM svoj grad, VOLIM hrvatsku :)

  37. What an idyllic lifestyle. I love that she’s truly immersing herself in Croatia.

  38. Iva says...

    OH MY GOD! I am from Croatia! :)
    I almost choked with my coffee when I read the title. I’ve been reading Cup of Jo for years, and to see my country featured is really so very thrilling.

    I am currently living in Zagreb and finishing med school, attending the same University!
    Originally I am from Slavonia, which is so so beautiful.
    Croatia is a very special place because we are really small (population of 4 million people!), and in that small area you can see every possible scenery you can imagine – mountains, sea, golden fields, wineyards, lakes..

    Everything Amanda wrote is absolutely true about our life philosophy, propuh is the worst enemy, to the point where my professors have the need to teach us that “Propuh never killed anybody and don’t let anybody convince you otherwise”, haha! But you can’t convince the grandmas, ever.

    The language is hard, I have to admit it, we sometimes don’t get it ourselves and I believe that the hardest part is that the words are changing their form as you change the context. For example – djevojka is a word for a girl, and then you go like this – djevojka, djevojke, djevojci, djevojku, djevojko, djevojkom..aaand it all just means girl :D.

    Take my advice and get your hands on ajvar, you will not regret it, it’s magical. I go through a jar in a week, by myself.
    Rakija has a very special place for us in Slavonia, grandparents keep bottles of it stored for 25, 30 years – for their grandchildren’s weddings!

    We enjoy our coffee time, and are very serious about it haha. You won’t see this image anywhere in the US, so try to imagine it – you are walking in Zagreb downtown and you literally can’t find a single table available in any of the numerous coffee shops, in the middle of the working hours!

    Thank you for this, Cup of Jo, I am very happy that you chose our little piece of heaven to be featured here! :)

    P.S. Sorry if I got some things wrong, English is obviously not my native language. :D

    • Iva, you made me laugh outloud!
      I am literally trying to take back two crates full of ajvar to the States with us! I love it so much I started making it myself in our backyard here in Zagreb- grilling the roga peppers and eggplants, letting them slow cook on the stove for hours… I cannot get enough of it, ha!
      I agree with you, Croatia is a little piece of heaven. It has been just that to our family and we will miss it so much when we have to leave, especially the wonderful friends we have made here. My Grandparents are from a village near Sanski Most so being in Croatia has truly felt like home to me.
      With love, Amanda

    • Karinny says...

      Lovely comment!

    • Miruska says...

      You got everything right Iva, your English is excellent. I am from Sarajevo myself, living in Canada, and can agree with everything the interview and you said. It is amazing that propuh is the biggest problem in Sarajevo as well (I am 45 and my dad still scolds me for not wearing an undershirt and destroying my kidneys), and rakija is indeed a cure for everything (I never got used to drinking it). Ajvar is the best thing and I now make it myself here (not as well) but I can’t live without it. It is great to see a foreigner reminding us why our countries are so great, when we often see nothing but problems.

    • Iva says...

      So nice and exciting to read your comments, thank you all for writing me back! :))

    • Oh, Iva…story of my LIFE. Heh heh. I echo everything you just said. (And I too almost choked on, well, AIR when I saw this article.)

      I grew up in Karlovac and came to Australia July 1994, but spent patches of the war living in Zag-Zagi-Zagi, not to mention that we’d visit our close family friends in ZG, like, aaaall the time given the proximity. Your comment totally gave me the warm fuzzies! (I’ve been back to the Balkans six times since emigrating.) (Two of the articles in the link under my name are about life back home, actually.)

      Zagreb is just forever one of my all-time favourite cities. (Kad bih mogla, sad bih se teleportirala praaaavo na Ilicu ili na Cvjetni trg, npr. A ne bi skodilo ni na more, pravo da ti kazem!)

  39. Margot says...

    Ha Ha! The scary Balkan draft syndrome! We suffer from that too, over here in Romania! I have a lot of foreign friends who simply cant understand what is up with THE DRAFT! I enjoyed very much reading this piece, since it sounds so familiar. This not only describes Croatian life, but also Romanian. Long live the Balkans!

    • Joanna says...

      As well as in Poland!

  40. Meri says...

    I´m a croatian mom of three…it was so great to read this! I live and raise my children on island Korčula and I wouldn´t change it for anything, island life is so good for kids, fresh sea air and healthy homegrown food…and all that freedom. I love your blog, I have been reading it for 5 years and I´m so happy to see posts about my country.
    And yes, we are all afraid of “propuh” hahahaha
    xoxo Meri

    • Meri, propuh makes me laugh on a daily basis! Not a day goes by that my neighbors don’t tell me (even on hot days with a breeze) to cover the back of my neck and keep shoes on my childrens’ feet. Haha, so great!!
      We love your country dearly.
      With love, Amanda

    • YES to propuh! Also – dressing for the calendar! I’ll never forget the time I dressed for the weather instead of the calendar and wore shorts on an unusually warm day in March in Zagreb and all of the kids in the store were pointing at me and saying “bose nogi, Mama!”

  41. Beautiful post! I discovered this beautiful country thanks to it, and kudos on learning the language!!

  42. Jasna says...

    Fabulous post and so accurate (I am from a neighbouring country and know Croatia very well)! Loved it!

    • Thank you so much, Jasna!

  43. CG says...

    It seems the air-draft thing is cross cultural. I’m Chinese American and my aunties still(!) give me a hard time if they think my 12 year old isn’t dressed warm enough. When we were in China, strangers on the street (mostly kind hearted grandmother and auntie types) would wag a finger, or tsk at us and give us their thoughts on how poorly we had dressed our then 14 month old baby. Even when we thought we’d done a decent job of dressing her in a onesie, and long sleeve shirt and leggings in warm and humid Guangzhou someone would eventually tug the baby blanket or towel out from the diaper bag and drape it over her while she was pressed up against our body in a carrier!! Hahaha!

    • Trish says...

      I live in Ireland and my aunties and granny did exactly the same thing to my son (now 19) when he was a baby. Every time I left the room someone would pop another layer on him :-) I guess they didn’t have central heating growing up !
      My Nana also used to say ” you will get a cold in your kidneys if you wear a short skirt on a windy day OR if you sit on a stone step while wearing a skirt and no tights ”
      🤣

  44. Amy says...

    How does one be gracious while visiting these incredibly hospitable countries if they have allergies or intolerances? I haven’t been able to have caffeine or much sugar the last few years without a moderate reaction, and while in North America it’s common to have foods you can’t/won’t eat, I get the impression that if I get the chance to travel again soon it would be difficult to explain this without seeming rude or being misunderstood (language and cultural barriers). I do miss coffee and desserts greatly, but I wouldn’t enjoy my travel very much if I spent it with headaches and nausea. Do you just suck it up? Do you attempt to explain? Do you avoid social interactions where someone would offer you anything?

    • Rebecca says...

      This is something I have wondered about too, as my daughter and I have both recently been diagnosed with celiac disease. I’d love to hear any strategies!

    • Amy,
      My Mother-in-law sadly can’t have gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, you name it… but she spent a month with us in Zagreb and Istria and did just fine. There is a lot of meat in continental Croatia that is often prepared simply – each time we double checked in a restaurant to make sure a meal wouldn’t hurt her, we were always met with kindness and helpfulness. There’s also vegan and GF restaurants popping up in Zagreb lately. I don’t think you need to worry about offending anyone here – Croatians are pretty laid back people. Hope this helps :)
      Amanda

    • Cazmina says...

      I think in countries especially where food is such a huge part of socialising and hospitality, they tend to be quite accommodating because they don’t like the idea that someone would have to miss out. According to this article, Italy would be a good place for you and your daughter to travel, Rebecca:
      http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/gluten-free-food-in-italy-the-land-of-pizza-and-pasta-is-remarkably-clued-up-about-catering-for-9670164.html

  45. Rebecca Smith says...

    This was so cool to read! I’m 1/4 Croatian but my living family members were born in the states, so I have much less connection than I’d like. Anyone have any tips on how to start learning Croatian if your city doesn’t have classes? It’s not a popular language to learn here but I’d love to try :)

    • Hi Rebecca! My tutor here in Zagreb (who is now my close friend!) does online courses. She’s a fantastic teacher. Here’s her website/contact info:
      http://www.crotogo.hr/

  46. becs says...

    I just love your white shirt style, Amanda! I like to go simple on top, colorful on bottom as well. You’re inspiring me. :)

  47. Karen says...

    Now I have to go make stufffed cabbage and krempita!
    Karen

  48. Emmanuella says...

    Why am I living in Los Angeles instead of Zagreb?

  49. liz says...

    A controversial post but one every single woman would want to read… alcohol during pregnancy. What do people *actually* do?! I think most American women drink a little during pregnancy but would not like to admit it. Drinking during pregnancy, like mentioned above, is commonplace in Europe and other countries around the world. I didn’t drink during my pregnancy, but I was at dinner with my girlfriends and they all said they did! I was shocked and realized I missed out. Ha!

    • Stacey says...

      The teratogenic effect of alcohol is most dangerous in the first trimester. Alcoholic women who drink throughout pregnancy may also have other risk factors, like poor nutrition, smoking, and foregoing prenatal care. Prevailing medical practice preaches complete abstinence, but a glass of wine once or twice a week after the first trimester in an otherwise healthy and well nourished woman is not a high risk behavior.

    • I go completely off alcohol during my first trimester, always have, but if I fancy a glass of wine on a Friday night after that then I have one. I nurse it and savour every sip!! Gin is huge in England right now and it was my drink of choice before falling pregnant with number 3 but for some bizarre reason I wouldn’t be comfortable drinking spirits…? Wine, I’m OK with?! I dream about gin at the moment though!! People over here and pretty relaxed about it, you can have a glass if you like and if you totally abstain then that’s cool too…!

    • LOR says...

      I think that would be an interesting post as well. I’m 8 months pregnant and after my first trimester I drank a half a glass of wine once a week with a meal. From what I’ve heard that is okay.

    • My midwife said to avoid it the first trimester and then if I wanted one glass (4 oz) wine after that, I could have one daily. I never drank much prior to pregnancy but it made me never feel guilty for enjoying the occasional glass of wine during 2nd & 3rd trimesters.

    • bes says...

      my midwife told me “American doctors will tell you not to drink anything. Europeans will say have a drink every day. I encourage you to go somewhere in between.” I didn’t drink at first (morning sickness prevented it anyway) but had a half glass of wine or beer with dinner often in the last half of my pregnancy. Relaxed mom is better than stressed mom, before or after pregnancy IMO.

    • Christie says...

      I highly suggest the book expecting better. It has a great analysis of the science behind alcohol and pregnancy.
      For my part, I drank after the first trimester with both of my kids, and now I’m 8 months pregnant and have done the same. I usually have a very small glass of wine with dinner most nights. Drinking wine helps your body process the alcohol and very little will make it to the baby. My family completely supports my decision as my mother and mother-in-law (and grandmother, and aunts, etc…) all drank alcohol during their pregnancies. It didn’t used to be a big deal until society decided women really can’t be trusted to make these decisions on their own.

    • Christie says...

      Sorry, above I meant to say “Drinking wine with food.”

    • Rebekah says...

      I would have 1-2 drinks per week when pregnant ( but rarely even that many…we just don’t drink much alcohol in the first place!). My midwives have never objected. :)

  50. I love this series!!! You’ve done such a wonderful job in picking a diverse group of women and asking questions that really get at their experience. It has inspired a series I started on my own blog, where I feature moms on a weekly basis who are sharing lit, music, and art that interests them. Thanks for the motivation!!!

  51. Julie says...

    I really enjoyed this! Sounds like a wonderful experience for Amanda and her family.

  52. rox says...

    I really enjoy the motherhood around the world series and I’ve learned lots of interesting facts that I throw around in conversation to sound smart! I have one comment and I hope no one at the wonderful cup of jo team takes it the wrong way, but… I’ve checked every single post since you began writing them, and the VAST majority of the writers are women who followed their husbands to wherever it is they live now.
    Which, of course there’s nothing wrong with that, and I’ve actually done it myself! But I’d love to see a few more… I don’t know, women-centric families? A few posts where they moved because of her job? Or to follow her dream?
    I recently became aware of the “trailing spouse syndrome”, and how there are so many more women following their husbands than the other way around (even if they have more earning power) and it’s made me ultra aware of this

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Thank you so much for your comment. We are always trying to find a range of women to profile for this series. In case you’ve missed any, we have published a bunch of Motherhood Around the World pieces on women who moved for their careers. Here are a few:

      A ballet dancer who moved to Sweden for work: http://cupjo.co/1VBTaup

      A foreign correspondent who moved her family to Korea for her job: http://cupjo.co/1HLs3qp

      A single mom in Iceland who works for the U.N.: http://cupjo.co/29Khuf9

      A working mom who moved to the Netherlands for her job: http://cupjo.co/1L3hTYd

      A working mom in Spain who followed her dream to move there after college: http://cupjo.co/1OLzT7q

      Thank you so much for reading!

    • Rox,
      I didn’t make it clear above, but I’ll share it now after reading your comment… this was actually MY dream. I wanted my husband to get the Olmsted Scholarship more than he wanted to get it ! He puts me first, even in this. He listens to my passions and desires and they become his own! And vice versa (though if we’re being honest, it’s usually much more of him graciously wielding to me ;) It has been an amazing gift to be here with him and our family, and I am literally living out my dream job of being his wife and mother to our three kids.
      With love, Amanda

    • and by wielding, I mean yielding, ha :)

  53. justine says...

    My dad and grandma are from Montenegro and they always talk about drafts, chills and cold. My dad will say: “I’m not feeling too well. I caught a draft and now I have a cold bladder” – what does that mean?! Haha. And my grandma: “How is work? Is it warm enough?” (I work in an office building). They make me laugh. Also…. reading about Krampus reminded me of a hilarious Christmas episode of The Office (US). Fun read, thanks for sharing.

    • MCNorthwest says...

      Now I’m curious what your dad is talking about as well! Love it.

    • Jem says...

      Both parents from Montenegro and yes! The A/C blowing on you in a car counts as a “draft” as well. Meanwhile my dad kept the thermostat at a glacial 62 all winter. It’s especially bad when my parents are around my kids, because they’re never dressed in enough layers.

      Really enjoyed seeing this look at my neighbors to the north — so many similarities, especially the food and use of backyards for family farms, chickens, etc.

    • Anna says...

      Hy, Justine. My dad is from Montenegro too (my so called soul home, all my relatives are here, can’t wait to see them next year), but he moved (like many at that time during70-80’s) to Slovenia, neighbour country of Croatia. I’m born in Slovenia, living here… btw Slovenias love Croatian seaside 😁

    • Hahaha, I’m from Serbia (neighboring country to Croatia with a very similar language) and I’ve never questioned the notion of bladder that had caught cold. That’s what happens when you catch cold but don’t cough or have a sore throat–basically you just pee a lot and/or feel you have to go to the toilet all the time. Not so pleasant!

  54. Laura says...

    Loved reading this post! I really connected to the food part because we live in a rural place in Tennessee with fruit trees and a garden in our back yard! We don’t have chickens yet, but after reading her description of those eggs, sounds like we need to jump on that train. :)

    • Sasha says...

      We raise back yard chickens in Montana and love it. Chickens are really very easy to care for and the eggs are truly wonderful. Having chickens also taught my children about death….so important to build up those emotional muscles imho. Chickens die more frequently than other pets (even when you don’t slaughter them).
      One of the best parts is how they waddle/run up to you when you get home, they are so happy to see you (& be fed). Ours especially love my husband, as he is the designated “chicken boss”.

  55. Patrice says...

    I love this piece! I am 1/2 Croatian. My Grandparents immigrated to the United States from Dalmatia, in the 1920’s. I have always wanted to visit, but have not yet had the opportunity, it is on my bucket list. I have had several relatives visit over the years and this is exactly how they have described the culture. My mother often told us stories that her mother told about life in the old country, if anything is true, it is the hospitality of the people and always being fed! Hvala!

  56. I would never want to leave! They’d have to send me back to America kicking and screaming. What a dang dream… *sigh*

  57. Vicki says...

    This post brought me back! I spent ages 5-8 (85-88) in Zagreb because my dad was a foreign service officer. As a child I loved it we had an orchard in our backyard and loved it! Strangers doted on us and gave us candy for sure. We loved ajvar and all of the grilled meats. I so want to go back!

  58. I loved this post! We are going to Croatia next month for a wedding (in a fortress. WHAT.), and this is making me even more excited to visit this beautiful country. I can’t wait!!

    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

  59. So happy to see Amanda and her family! We are fellow Olmsted scholars in Berlin, Germany (we spent our first year in Izmir, Turkey) and have loved hearing about Amanda and Cam’s experience in Zagreb. They definitely have immersed themselves completely in Croatian culture and it has been such fun to watch!

    • Thanks, Sarah!!! And we’ve loved watching you guys make a home in both countries so seamlessly!

  60. Meagan says...

    I did a semester in Hungary during college and we spent a few nights in Croatia. Right after we crossed the border into Croatia, our host, Janos, stopped the van and told us he needed to make a quick stop at his cousin’s house. He walked into her cellar with 4 large, empty water bottles and emerged with 4 bottles full of homemade white wine! It was totally normal for him but we 20-something college students were charmed for sure!

  61. Ana says...

    Wow! I’m from Croatia! I never thought I’d see a post here about Croatia. :D Great!

  62. Sandra says...

    This was really interesting! One thing I wondered was how they handle not seeing their U.S. families for two years with such small children since they don’t go back to the U.S. Does their family come visit them? My mom would go through grandparent withdrawal if she had to wait 2 years to see our son…

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Sandra, I’m sure Amanda will reply to comments when it’s daytime in Croatia, but in the meantime I can tell you that, yes, they’ve had family from the States visit them in Croatia since they’ve been there.

    • Hi Sandra! Both sets of our parents have been to visit, my Mom has been twice, and my parents were here for a whole month when our third baby was born here in Zagreb! The time seriously flies and there’s been so many great things to take in about Croatia that we’ve been just fine :)

    • Sandra says...

      That is so sweet of you to answer! We have always talked about living overseas fora bit, but maybe it is because our parents are older (we are older parents) that we were never able to pull the trigger and just do it. Thank you for letting me live vicariously through your adventure!

    • Sandra, thank you so much for asking – it was kind of you to!

  63. amber says...

    One of my dear childhood friends is from here. I spent a few weeks in the mid 90’s ( college days) with her and her family. This wasnt long after the war which caused them to flee and come to America. To go when it was still in the aftermath was both frightening and beautiful. The country was full of warm kind people, the beaches were amazing, and the food delicious. So cool to see modern day photos of the neighborhoods as they have rebuilt this 20+ years later. Thanks for this post!

  64. Mara says...

    Croatia is a magical place — thank you for covering it in this series! I’m wondering how Cameron managed to learn the language fluently in such a short time? What an accomplishment!

    • Anna says...

      I wondered that too! That’s amazing!

    • Hi Mara!
      He went through a year long intensive language training at the US military’s linguistics school before we moved here and has since been going to Zagreb University for the past two years while meeting regularly with a tutor so he’s very comfortable in the language! Meanwhile I butcher it, haha;)

  65. I’m from Bulgaria, a lot of what’s described here applies to most of Eastern Europe. My (American) husband and I have been married for almost 11 years and one of our recurring arguments is over the cause of colds – is it the draft or a virus?! One will never know.

    • Tina says...

      I married a Romanian!! Same arguments here. My inlaws want to kill me when I have my children barefoot :-)!!

  66. Lindsay says...

    My favorite series! Yay! Reading this was a treat after I finish work today and before I walk in the door to kiss my kids,make dinner, walk the dog.

    Thanks for the ME time :)

  67. Jess R. says...

    I have enjoyed reading these posts, but I have found it interesting that it is always taking the perspective of an American expat and their perspective having been transplanted into whatever country is being profiled. Often it sounds like a glossy version of what it’s probably like to live there, especially for many native citizens.

    • Michelle says...

      I love reading these but have to agree. They aren’t really “parenting around the world” stories, but more accurately “American parents living abroad” stories. Still interesting, but more like a travel series. An exception being a recent one from a woman who’d married and settled in her husband’s country (can’t remember exactly but it was in Africa). She was really living as an immigrant to that country, not a visitor.

      It would be interesting to balance this series with stories from immigrant parents living in the US; I’m sure they would have many insights into how parenting in our culture differs from practices in their home countries.

    • Kellyn says...

      I think I remember CoJ saying how American expats are used because they notice the differences. For example, if I told you about parenting in America – I’d be at a loss of where to start since it is all normal to me, I wouldn’t know what people would want to hear. But expats are experts at American culture so they can pull out the tidbits that we’d find remarkable.

      But, as someone else mentioned, it would be neat to hear about the experience of immigrants to the US who compare to their home countries. Especially on the things that surprised them about parenting here! For example – something that Americans fret over that’s not a big deal in their home country (like the draft example above).

      But – in all, I’ve really enjoyed how CoJ does this series.

    • I agree! I am an immigrant from Slovenia in USA (Missouri). I loved reading on Croatia as it is a neighboring country and so similar to my own culture. I enjoy perspectives of Americans abroad but would be so interesting to read what other immigrants observe in USA.

  68. Lisa says...

    Love this!
    I went to Ukraine a couple of years ago, and there everyone who lives in cities has some place in a village, where they grow fruits and vegetables (just in case … the memory of famine is still very fresh). I wonder if that’s why in Croatia everyone grows food in their gardens?

    • natalja says...

      No, its because it brings people pleasure to grow and water it and watch it fruit. Also because its 100% organic and free, and good for you!

    • MB says...

      It’s interesting you mention that. I have family in Spain that lived through the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and the aftermath (widespread poverty and lack of food). Part of the family came from a rural community and never went hungry. The other half were city-dwellers and all talked about how they dreamed of getting a small yard precisely because of their experience in the 1940s. Their visits to the “rural-dwelling” cousins was when they’d be able to eat! To this day they still talk about why everyone with a yard should have a little orchard.

  69. Anne says...

    Croatia has long been on my list, but this may have just sent me over the edge. Besides the beauty, I would loooove to be more resourceful with my chicken bones and cheese rinds!

    • Amy says...

      Cheese rinds are excellent in soups and sauces – toss them in and let them slowly melt to add flavour! Depending on the rind/sauce/time it may not dissolve completely; in which case it’s a softer, chewy, cheesy rind to fish out and snack on ;)

  70. My father is Croatian, and I can see so much of my relatives in your description. I’m glad you’re having a lovely stay and embracing the local culture. The part about drafts is so true!

  71. McKenzie Cunningham says...

    So glad you featured Amanda! I recommended her back when you had a call for parents in Eastern Europe. Because of her blog I visited Croatia in May and loved it! I echo what she said about the coffee culture for sure – in Zagreb many areas were pedestrian only, partially because the cafes spill out onto the streets. At any time of the day, you’d find locals sitting outside with friends, talking over a cup of coffee, maybe a pastry as well. No one offers coffee to go! A takeaway? Always make time for a cup of coffee and a person, and enjoy it – don’t be looking at the clock or rushing off to the next thing.

    • Lauren E. says...

      A friend studied in the Netherlands for a few months during law school and said the same thing about coffee! Everyone looked at her like she was crazy if she walked into class with a to-go coffee cup. Coffee is not for drinking on the go! I love that.

    • Hi McKenzie!!! Thank you so much… I agree!! I really hope to be able to still do this when we’re back in the States!

  72. jen says...

    Yes, please. To all of this.

  73. Well now I want to move to Croatia.

  74. andrea smith says...

    Hello,
    In future PAW posts, could you have the mothers comment on some aspect of diversity? So many of these posts are written by white, heterosexual women, I wonder how it would be like to parent in Croatia or some other country if your child is a person of color, a religion different than the country’s majority or your family unit is not composted of a mother/father.

    Thanks!

    • d says...

      second this!

    • Vicki says...

      I like that the women are sharing their own experiences in their own voices, and I think you’d lose some of the author’s personality and spontaneity if she told someone else’s story. But of course that’s not to say you couldn’t look out for a greater variety of storytellers.

    • t says...

      This doesn’t at all fulfill your request but I want to say that when my wife and I traveled in Croatia we didn’t experience any discrimination. We didn’t bring our children on the trip but we talked about our kids constantly (two weeks away from our 1 year old twins -how could we not) and no one batted an eye at our modern family. We felt very comfortable there.

      Obviously traveling in a country and living in a country are two very different things but I just wanted to share my limited experience. As a lesbian couple obviously there are many parts of the world where we can’t comfortably/safely visit. Croatia isn’t one of them.

  75. i love this series! And I want to go to there.

  76. Gillian says...

    Thank you for linking the Olmstead Foundation! My husband is active duty and we are really hoping to go overseas on our next tour, I immediately sent him the link after I finished reading!!

    What a beautiful place to live and such a cool opportunity!

    • Yay! Oh please APPLY!! It has been one of the greatest blessings for our family! We are still in awe at what a wonderful program it is!

  77. june2 says...

    Wow, Croatia is in the air…I literally had a tiny, gorgeous town in Croatia up on Google earth when I took a break to read CoJ, because I was checking out the location of this super cute Airbnb:
    https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3076453, discovered while surfing around Instagram, lol. And now I remember that I randomly watched a Anthony Bourdain show featuring Croatia just the other day…How odd!
    And now this post! I must be craving the ocean, those beaches look awesome.

    • Meg says...

      I stopped in Split on a cruise once. Lovely town. I say go visit if you can!

  78. Samantha says...

    Coffee and wine? Where do I sign up??

  79. brianna says...

    Beautiful photos. Adding Croatia to my travel list!

  80. d says...

    What gorgeous photos.
    And what an idyllic life. I wonder though whether Amanda (especially for being a journalist) purposefully chooses to gloss over Croatia’s recent troubled history, and is life really this light for the every day Croat?
    My best friend is from Zagreb and when we visited her family, the war of independence and Croatia’s long battle for independence was still pretty fresh for everyone. My friend as an adult will still hide indoors any time she heard firecrackers as they remind her too much of the bombing.

    • Sam says...

      D, I was wondering the same as I read. I love this series but always wonder why motherhood sounds so out-of-this-world idyllic in each profile. Some of these pieces do a better job than others at describing the cons of raising children abroad (in addition to the pros). Some moms even include things they miss from the U.S. and I always like that (it reminds me to be grateful for specific things that I might take for granted here).

      The older neighbor she mentions who lives alone on “almost nothing” is a glimpse of ordinary life, but I wish there was more. I’m interested in what it is actually like raising a family in a foreign place, warts and all.

      Maybe as a foreign family it’s possible to be insulated to some extent from poverty, political strife, and regular, everyday struggles. But is it possible to be completed removed?

      As a mom, is it lonely living in a place where you have yet to master the language? How do you explain the tumultuous history of a new place to your kids? If you have neighbors who have nothing, what happened and how does this touch your lives, if at all?

      Being a mom is tough and maybe it’s easier in other countries, but surely there are still challenges. I love learning about these countries and celebrating them, but would also enjoy learning about the real challenges of living there and learning tips/tricks for navigating them.

    • Sanja says...

      I live in Croatia, the war ended 22 years ago, and while the memory is obviously fresh, it doesn’t take up so much of our daily lives anymore. Life goes on.

    • E says...

      Not exactly what you requested, but there have definitely been some posts in this series that were critical of the country they lived in. Look up the piece on Norway!

    • G says...

      I follow Amanda’s blog pretty regularly and she does have some posts commenting about Croatia’s violent history. It’s definitely not the focus but she addresses it really well in a couple of posts. I just think it’s more of a family/lifestyle blog than a history one, which is is totally fine with me :)

    • ellen says...

      Maybe you haven’t been reading CoJ long enough, but a few years ago, when one poor woman featured in the series dared to write about a few negative aspects of her adopted country and its history, she was completely annihilated in the comments. If I remember right, she asked Jo to take the piece down and Jo honored her request. I can’t imagine anyone addressing any controversies or negatives, modern or historical, after that. So I’m guessing that yes, she purposefully glossed over that and I can’t blame her.

      I find these pieces a highlight of the blog, but I’ve started to feel like the comments are a low point, *always* peppered with a bunch of politely-worded complaints that the series either isn’t sufficiently diverse or the writer isn’t paying sufficient attention to what are, in the commenter’s opinion, the most pressing social politics of the country/region. Why do that? Do people really think Cup of Jo should be a completely different blog with controversial geopolitical and sociopolitical analysis? Or have we come to a point where we can’t read anything without formulating a “here’s how you should do it better” response?

    • Sanja, you responded perfectly, much better than I could have.
      Amanda:)

    • Hi “D” and Sam!
      I get why you’d wonder that. But we have had an overwhelmingly wonderful experience these past 2 years in Croatia. We LOVE this country. Is Croatia perfect? No. Are Croatians perfect? No. Does the average Croatian have to deal with the stagnated economy? Yes. Is there political and societal corruption? Yes. But these things have not been central to our family life or to raising our children here. What IS central throughout this beautiful country: strong families, tradition, connection to the land, community… We have befriended and lived amongst Croatians who are unbelievably generous even when they have little, retain an awesome sense of humor despite circumstances, engage in passionate yet civil discourse often with far greater civility than we do as Americans, and truly treat you like family after you’ve become friends. The war, economy, and politics would have felt out of place here.
      Amanda :)

    • Cazmina says...

      I completely agree with Ellen.
      By the very nature of this series – a short tale of *one* family’s experience – it is going to be biased and not all-encompassing, and that’s ok.
      Entire books have been written on the social and political history of every country in the world, so expecting a 2000-word parenting piece on CoJ to delve into those murky and complicated waters and provide a detailed, nuanced and balanced analysis that wouldn’t leave them and the featured family open to howling criticism is asking too much.
      CoJ could spend a year only posting interviews with people from one country and it still wouldn’t cover every single experience and opinion of people from that place. I for one am delighted to read these small snippets of one family’s experience.

    • Christie says...

      I love Ellen’s response to this.

    • Emilie says...

      Thank you for writing that Ellen, I completely agree! I’ve noticed a similar pattern with the beauty and outfit posts. In the comments there are always negative/disappointed remarks about the budgets, body-type, even careers of the women portrayed.

      CofJ team, I think you’re doing a phenomenal job of coming up with interesting (and diverse!) content. Thank you!

      I know there is a series on personal finance in the works. I hope commenters will be kind and respectful of the people who choose to share such personal aspects of their lives with us.

    • Maja says...

      I’m from Bosnia (Republic of Srpska) and it’s always make me sad when I read how much western families enjoy in our beautiful-developing countries, but we can’t see it because we are overwhelmed by everyday socioeconomic problems. Of course they see only good things because they are so privileged here, that’s the fact, like it or not.
      Yes, Balkan has very violent history, but as someone commented before life goes on… I spend my holidays in Croatia and always have great time.
      But I’m glad how Amanda captured not only Croatian values, but Bosnian and Serbian values also (well, we all had been one state) – importance of community, connection to the land, coffee time, rakija, draft/propuh :) …
      P.S. Amanda, come to Bosnia, we don’t have beautiful seaside as Croatia has but we do have amazing nature, great food and most generous people.
      P.S.S. Sorry for my rusty English.

    • Patti says...

      EXACTLY what Ellen said. One of the reasons I read this blog is to better understand a perspective different from my own. It would be impossible (and, frankly, tedious) if Cup of Jo tried to incorporate every nuance and every possible perspective. The complaining commenters should start a blog! Be the change you want to see, etc.

    • Jeanette says...

      I’m late to this party but felt compelled to respond to this thread about “negative” commenters. While I agree with the many comments below that CoJ does a good job of explaining the aim of the PAW posts, and that the authors are free to share their experience without taking into account every nuance and perspective, I also note that critical commenters have, for the most part, been a small minority and respectful. I’ve appreciated CoJ’s equally respectful and thoughtful responses to the critical comments.

      I’m grateful for the oasis CoJ provides in an otherwise mad Internet world. I would enjoy this website less if the posts were followed by only positive, affirming comments. So, kudos to all for being gracious and respectfully articulate even when — or rather, especially when! — a comment (or post) annoys us.

  81. Megan F. says...

    Oh my gosh! I read your blog all the time and it was so fun to see another Olmsted family on here!

    Amanda, I can definitely tell you’re enjoying every minute. We were in Leipzig, Germany through 2015 so it looks like we just missed each other. We spent 10 days driving down the coast of Croatia after time in Zagreb and loved it! Have a wonderful, wonderful time. The Olmsted program is amazing.

    • Megan! HI! Oh it’s so great to find other Olmsted families! Thank you — we are going to be thankful for the rest of our lives for this gift — the best part being time with Cam. I hope your transition back into normal military life went well – I am going to miss my man like crazy!!!

    • Megan F. says...

      We miss Europe tremendously and are trying to figure out a way to get back. It was definitely a challenge getting used to him being gone again–turns out we really like spending a lot of time together. Who knew!? ;-). It was a magical time in our lives for sure. I hope the move goes slowly and your transition is smooth. You’ve got this!

    • Megan F. says...

      slowly=smoothly. Yikes! No one wants a slow move.

  82. t says...

    Croatia is one of the most beautiful and welcoming places I have ever been. This post makes me want to go right back. I am pretty envious of Amanda’s two year stay.

    I am curious how it was giving birth in Croatia (if she did) and what differences she experienced.

    • NM says...

      I would also be interested in hearing her thoughts on the differences between pre and post natal care/childbirth/maternity leave etc… thanks.

    • Ivana says...

      Giving birth in Croatia is like giving birth to any of European countries😊.. Maternity leave lasts one year or three years when you have twins or three or more children. The first six months the state gives you the same amount of money as when you’ve worked, and the other six months it’s lower amount od money but the government increased in 2017 a little bit that amount 👍👍! Greetings from Zagreb😚, Ivana

    • My insurance covered delivery only at the private clinic in Zagreb, which we were calling the “boutique hospital” – it was honestly the best hospital experience i have ever had in my life but it is completely different from the state-run hospitals, which I have no experience with and can’t speak to. Thanks for responding Ivana since you know much better than I do! :)

    • Susan M. says...

      I was also very curious about pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding. Did you have a midwife? The hospital sounds great. Do most women there do home births or mostly hospital? One of my Croatian-American friends said her in her mother’s home town breastfeeding was integrated in daily life. Maybe it’s like the coffee and brandy culture! Given what you describe of people’s love of family, I’d imagine a pretty supportive scene. Thank you for sharing!

  83. Jennifer in KS says...

    Simply a wonderful column – Croatia, its culture and history and people are so intriguing!

  84. I love this one! Some of the traditions are so similar to my own culture (Polish) and it’s always so refreshing to hear an American perspective on European traditions. The draft of air especially had me laughing so hard, every Polish grandma is always on watch! haha

    And I hope to visit beautiful Croatia one day!! :) :)

  85. Maria says...

    I also live in a Balkan country – the fear of the “draft” is everywhere here, but especially in older generations, and extends to overall coolness, not just the movement of air inside the house.
    I have a 1 year old, and I was frequently approached by older ladies to better stuff her winter hat over her ears, or I caught side glances if she was not wearing socks.
    The funny side is that even with adults, when you complain of a headache or a backache, the first reason offered is “Oh, did you sleep in a draft?” (with the window open, for example).
    Drafts seem to be the culprit of all small diseases here :D :D

  86. Laura says...

    I so enjoyed this! How wonderful for Amanda and her little family :)

  87. Irena says...

    Just having returned from visiting my mom in Croatia, this makes me want to return even faster! Great perspective from an American and “propuh” is a real thing!! ;)

  88. Klara says...

    I’m so happy you have a Croatian family on your blog! Next step is visiting our beautiful country with you own family! ❤️

  89. Alyssa says...

    The country looks absolutely stunning!

  90. Savannah says...

    I used to nanny for a family in my college years and the husband was from Croatia. I, of course, received a moka pot for Christmas. I loved that thing.

    Croatia looks beautiful and I hope to visit soon!

  91. Little Lady says...

    Unique!

  92. Oh my goodness, my husband and I honeymooned in Croatia in November — a road trip of the entire country and coast, from Zagreb to Dubrovnik — and this post takes me right back. Before we went, we knew nothing of Croatia and no one who had been, and I’ll sing its praises the rest of my days. Even as a visitor, I experienced nearly everything she mentions here — the coffee culture, the resourcefulness, the mixing of generations (we stayed with families in Airbnbs who had occupied the same home since the TWELFTH century!!).

    The single best day of our honeymoon was the day one family we rented a room from took us along on their olive harvest. We worked all day picking tree by tree, were served homemade walnut grappa to warm up, and feasted with in the family home for three hours after. Truly, their sense of community and connection radiates from all they do.

    All of this is to say…what a special, magical place! Thank for you celebrating it!

    • Anne says...

      This sounds AMAZING!!!