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Understanding Croatia's Customs and Etiquette

Croatia, which is located along the Adriatic Sea in southeastern Europe, is a country that is quite proud of its culture and heritage. The Croatians, who make up the majority of Croatia's population, are extremely proud of their country, often referring to it as "Our Beautiful Homeland." In the native tongue, this translates to "Lijepa nasa," which also happens to be their national anthem's title. If you have an opportunity to visit or live in Croatia, it can be helpful to understand this country's strong sense of nationalism, as well as the common customs and etiquette.

Understanding Croatia's Strong Sense of Nationalism

Croatia has had a long history that includes periods of foreign control and invasion. Today' Croatia is a democratic and independent country. However, this has not always been the case. In the past, the Croats have been under the rule of the Hungarians, Turks and the Hapsburg dynasty, which were the rulers of both Hungary and Austria. Croatia was also part of Yugoslavia until it voted for independence. Croatia has been recognized as an independent nation since January 1992. In the early 1990s, there was also a rebellion amongst the Serb minority, which continued until August 1995. As a result of all these years of foreign control, invasion and fighting, the Croatian people understandably have a very strong sense of national pride and independence.

Religion and Folklore

It's impossible to understand the many customs of Croatia without taking the Croatian folk culture and religion into consideration. The folk culture of Croatia has been heavily influenced over the years by the Austrian, Hungarian, Balkan and Venetian cultures. Additionally, there are also influences from ancient Turkish, Mediterranean and Croatian cultures. The result is a folk culture rich in symbolic rituals, fairy tales, poetic songs, dance, music and costume. Folklore is one way that the Croatians preserve their rich culture and history. Individual life and family experiences are frequently expressed through folklore and symbolism.

Religion is also a very important part of the average Croatian's life. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, as it has been for the past thirteen centuries. Their religious values and beliefs are one of the most important and steadfast aspects of the cultural and national identity of Croatia. Between 1945 and 1991, religious expression was suppressed due to Communism. However, the Croatian constitution now guarantees religious freedom.

Croatian Family Structure

Family culture and structure is a key component of the Croatian people. Extended families are common, and relatives tend to remain quite close to one another. A person's family is generally their primary social network. Families tend to live together in extended family units. Weekends are designated as "family time." For this reason, you will seldom find Croatians dealing with business concerns during their weekend "home time."


When meeting someone for the first time, it's a good idea to maintain a rather formal and reserved demeanor. Direct eye contact, a firm handshake and a greeting are considered to be polite. First name usage is generally reserved for family members and close friends. As such, you should address a person by their honorific title and surname. You'll also see close friends greeting each other by kissing each cheek and embracing. When introducing guests, start with the older women, working your way to the younger women, then the older men and younger men.

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