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Croatia Customs & Etiquettes


Croats are extremely proud of their heritage and culture and are thus staunch nationalists. They call their country "Our Beautiful Homeland" ("Lijepa Naša"), which is also the title of the national anthem.

The sense of nationalism comes both from their long and rich culture as well as a legacy of foreign invasion and control.

Folklore plays a key role in preserving the culture. Life experiences are translated into verse, poetic songs, melodies, fairy tales, symbolic rituals, music, dance, costumes, and jewellery. Folk songs and poems often attest to the sentiment and regard between family members.

The Catholic Church plays a large role in Croatian society. Historically, the clergy played a pivotal role in the country’s education and culture. Under Communist rule, the Church had difficult relations with the authorities, constantly remaining loyal to Rome. Between 1945 and 1952, many priests were shot or imprisoned.

After communism was defeated, the church slowly started to re-create its once prominent role in people’s lives. Croats are especially devoted to the Blessed Virgin (called "Gospa"). There are sanctuaries throughout the country built in her honour. Each village and town has a patron saint and that saint's feast day is celebrated with a procession and church ceremony. Some villages still have a traditional bonfire on their patron saints’ day. Many professionals also have their own patron saint.

In Croatia, the family is still the basis of the social structure. The extended family is the norm and relatives remain quite close with both the mother and the father’s sides. The family provides its members with a social network and assistance in times of need. Even though it is becoming increasingly common for the nuclear family to have its own house, Croats will take in elderly parents rather than send them to a nursing home. Weekends are considered family time. Few Croats will allow business concerns to interfere with this important part of their lives.

Keep in mind that 1990s marked with Serbian aggression and Croatian-Serbian bloody and brutal war is still a painful subject, but generally there should be no problem if you approach that topic with respect. Foreigners will find that domestic politics and European affairs are everyday conversation subjects in Croatia.

Socially, displays of affection among the younger generation are the same as Western European standards, but the older generation (over 65) still are quite conservative.

When driving on rural roads, particularly where a driver has to pull in to allow you to pass, it is customary to wave a thanks to the other driver, by raising your hand from the steering wheel.

Meeting & Greeting

Greetings on initial meetings will tend to be formal and reserved. A handshake, direct eye contact and the appropriate greeting for the time of day are standard. "Dobro jutro" (good morning), "dobro dan" (good day), and "dobro veèer" (good evening).

Address people with their honorific titles plus surname. If you are unsure of titles then use "Gospodin" for Mr, "Gospodja" for Mrs and "Gospodice" for Miss. Only close friends and family members tend to use first names. Never jump to first names terms without being invited to.

Close friends may greet each other with an embrace and a kiss on each cheek. Again, wait until the Croatian initiates this form of greeting.
At social gatherings hosts introduce guests, usually starting with the women and then moving on to the men in a rough approximation of age order, oldest to youngest.

Gift Giving Etiquette

If invited to someone’s house, bring flowers for the hostess. The host may be given a box of chocolates or a bottle of good wine. Do not give chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals and for gravestones. When giving flowers, make sure there are an odd number of stems.

Gifts are generally opened when received.

Dining Etiquette & Table Mannerism

Table manners are relatively casual as people like to eat and chat at meal times. There are however standards of good behaviour that should be adhered to. Remember, when in doubt, watch others and copy what they do. Wait to be shown where to sit.

Table manners are Continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating. At formal meals the napkin is unfolded and placed on the lap. Do not begin eating until the host signals to begin.

Refusing second helpings initially is polite. After the host insists you should take more. Leaving a small amount of food on your plate indicates that you are finished eating.





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