The Croatian No

Cultural differences in going from one place to another are normal, and something you come to expect (and love) when you’ve been traveling as long as I have.   How the locals interact with you the add (or detract, I suppose) to the character of the place, and how you adapt to these cultural differences show both what type of traveler you are, and what type of person you are.  For the most part, I find myself loving to adapt to the cultural norms of the places I’m visiting, and sometimes feel very sad when I see how “Americanized” many things have become.  However, one thing I couldn’t get used to while in Croatia was something I will call “The Croatian No.”

The Croatian No is actually quite simple.  Party A asks for something, Party B says, “No”, and walks or looks away.

Now I’m not saying the Croatians are rude.  When taking into account that they just gained their independence from Yugoslavia in 1995, after 4 years of a war that killed many, displaced more, and damaged the economy, I can’t blame them for being somewhat cold.  And in an attempt to avoid using generalizations, just as many times as I was told, ‘no’ I was also told ‘yes’, I just feel that the proportion in comparison to other tourist type destinations was much higher.  Here are some hilarious examples of how I was told no.

On our last day in Split, after finishing breakfast, I asked the server if I could get another cappuccino.  She looked at me, said “No.  I’ll come back,” and walked away.  After about 5 minutes, she came back, took my order, and later brought me my cappuccino.  It was just bizarre.

My favorite example of the Croatian No has quite a bit of backstory (and builds on the drinking game from the Zagreb post).  Having had such a wonderful and fun bus ride from Zagreb to Split, we thought we could build on it and have an equally fun bus ride from Split to Dubrovnik.  On a typical bus ride, the bus driver will stop at about the halfway mark to let all of his wonderful passengers have a bathroom break.  Plus, this bus had a toilet on it, so we figured we were set.  We had two large cans of beer a peice, and figured if we ran out, we’d be able to buy more on the break.  Once on the bus, the driver turns on a Jason Statham movie called ‘Killer Elite’, so we make a new rule to the Zagreb game that everytime he kills someone, you take a sip (every second of that film is him killing people), and everytime something ridiculous is said, you have to drink.  My favorite line was, “I’m done with killing,” says Jason.  “Well killing ain’t done with you,” says the assassin hirer.

After about an hour into the bus ride, the kid in the row next to us gets up to use the restroom, only to find it locked.  Oh no, this is bad.  After another half hour, the bus pulls into a stop so that THE BUS DRIVER CAN HAVE A SMOKE BREAK, but no one is allowed off the bus to go to the bathroom.  After another half hour, he pulls into another stop, and then immediately leaves again since the bus was full and we couldn’t pick up any passengers. This happened one more time, no breaks. At this point, I’m VEEERRRRY uncomfortable, so I risk life and limb to walk to the front of this bus winding around a mountain road to ask if we can get the bathroom unlocked.  Are you ready for it?  He pulls out the Croatian No.  “Umm… okay,” I say, “Well, are we going to stop any time soon?”  “20 minutes,” he says, making that motion with his hand like he’s brushing you away.  I went back to my seat cursing him and cursing Jason Statham for killing so many people.  20 minutes passes, and nothing. Then, with about 10 minutes left in ‘Killer Elite’, they turn off all the tv’s.  WHAT?! What happens? Does he kill the bad guys, get the girl, and finally get to leave killing?! I’ll never know.  At this point I’m contemplating the merits of peeing my pants…

Did I mention that you have to go through the Bosnian border to get from Split, Croatia, to Dubrovnik Croatia? Yeah, it didn’t make any sense to me either. So after 3  or 3 1/2 hours on this bus, we finally get to the Bosnian border.  Surely we will stop here? No, no, no, and more Croatian no. That’s when I took this picture- I was already writing this post in my head to keep myself from thinking how uncomfortable I was.

Katie's happy because she has a larger bladder than me.
Katie’s happy because she has a larger bladder than me.

FINALLY, in Bosnia, we get a bathroom break.  As the bus is pulling into the parking lot, I’m already at the door waiting for it to open.  The whole bus breaks into applause. The door opens, and I jump out as the bus is still moving.

By the way, Bosnia is really pretty.

Best bathroom break... ever!
Best bathroom break… ever!

Only 30-40 minutes left on this terrible bus ride, so what is there left to do?


Some people never learn.

Upon arrival in Dubrovnik, it was pouring rain, but we were in Dubrovnik, so all was good.  Hostel finding time!

So many slippery tiles
So many slippery tiles
We love rain!!!
We love rain!!!


Aaron, from Oxford, is clearly very ghetto.
Aaron, from Oxford, is clearly very ghetto.

2 thoughts on “The Croatian No

  1. It’s a shame you had a bad experience. I think we Croatians are friendly with the tourists and patient as well. I guess sometimes cultural norms just don’t cross over to the other side. I would not call us cold, however.

    1. Juriss99– I definitely did not have a bad experience! I loved Croatia, it’s one of the best countries I went to on my travels. This article highlighted a few instances that could have happened anywhere in the world, but happened to take place in Croatia. I’m sorry if I overgeneralized.

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