May 19, 2022 – In our new TCN series, we discover the lives of expats who have spent more than 5 years in Split. Next, meet Kimmy Chan from Hong Kong!
Two idyllic weeks on a Croatian beach are very different from the realities of full-time life. So what is life in Croatia really like as an expat? In a new series on TCN, we meet expats who have lived here for 5 years or more, to discover from them the good, the bad and the ugly of a 12 month life in Croatia. Next, Kimmy Chan from Hong Kong!
1. First tell us how you came to Croatia? What made you choose this corner of paradise and how long have you been here?
I am Kimmy Chan from Hong Kong and have been living in Split for 9 years. I received my Croatian citizenship last year. I came to Croatia in 2007 because of an internship as part of an international student exchange program. At the time I had to choose between Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic and Ukraine, and honestly I had no idea what Croatia was, so I googled it and the first photo I saw was the iconic golden triangle at Zlatni Rat beach. on the island of Brac. “It’s MAGNIFICENT and I have to see it!” I said to myself and that’s how I started my story in Croatia. During the internship I met the love of my life through a friend and we had a long distance relationship for 5 years. In 2012 I moved to Split from Hong Kong and got married the following year. Now I have 2 daughters and 2 rabbits
2. Looking back, what were your perceptions and expectations?
In fact, I experienced a lot of culture shock when I arrived in Split in 2007. The first shock I had was on the very first day of my arrival. It was a Saturday and the supermarket at the time closed at 2pm on Saturday and closed on Sunday. From that moment, I realized that Croatia was a country that cared more about family or rest time than money. The second thing that shocked me was the very limited choices of foreign cuisines. I remember there was only 1 Mcdonald’s, 1 Mexican restaurant and 1 Chinese restaurant in Split in 2007. Also, the menus in fast food and konoba everywhere were almost the same, and I wondered why people didn’t find it boring. Nevertheless, the biggest shock of all was the inefficient administration which is a well-known problem even for locals. I expected more European standards, hard work, diversity and openness in Split.
Despite the culture shocks, I was constantly amazed at how much Croatians love their country, sport (especially football of course), jokes and history.
3. After 9 years here, how have these perceptions changed. Do you now see Croatia differently?
During the last 9 years of living in Split, I have witnessed improvements in terms of tourist offers, acceptance of foreigners and administration. It’s exciting to see Split/Croatia moving forward, slowly but surely. I would say that having changed some of my perceptions or expectations is not only due to the efforts of the city/country, but also because I learned to know more about the culture, the way of life and the historical reasons, and I tried to embrace them and accept them. Also, I have kids now, so the “pomalo” and simpler lifestyle in Split that I found too slow is now ideal for me and my family.
4. After your last year, the 3 things you like the most in Croatia?
Water – I really find the water in Croatia to be very clean and I love drinking the tap water in Split which is soft and tasty. And of course the Adriatic Sea is a gem.
Safety – Croatia is a very safe country. I feel safe walking alone at night, even on some quiet streets.
People – I am very impressed how much Croatians love their country and how proud they are of their culture, food, nature, national teams etc. I have met many Croatian families and they are all amazing hosts, they always give the best to the guests and make you feel welcome. It may not be easy to be friends with the locals at first, but once the friendship is developed, they keep you close to their hearts.
5. And the 3 things you would like to change.
The culture of “using connection”. Since the beginning of my life in Croatia I have heard so much from the locals about how everything is done by connection. Whether it’s getting a place in a public kindergarten or getting a government job, many people find it normal to use connections to get shortcuts or even get the deal straight.
Parking problems in Split. There are not enough parking spaces in Split. It’s always a headache to find parking, especially in the center. There are plenty of “creative” drivers who like to leave their cars where they’re not supposed to.
Real estate prices in Split are crazy both for renting and buying.
6. Given your experiences, what advice would you give to any potential expat considering relocating?
Look for information from expat groups on social media and expatincroatia.com. They are very helpful and informative.
The administration and paperwork is complicated, so be patient and it is very likely that you will need a native Croatian speaker (eg lawyer, translator, local friend) to help you deal with it.
People from different parts of Croatia have different mentalities and working styles. In the southern part (Dalmatia), people, in general, are quite relaxed and less organized, so it is important to manage your expectations and find a place where you feel comfortable to stay or work.
7. The most beautiful place in Croatia, and why?
I love Istria. Love the sea, the green and the colorful houses. Istria is not very big but it has a lot to offer.
Your favorite moment of your stay in Croatia?
One of my favorites is the sunset dolphin watching tour in Rovinj. The sunset was romantic, the host was friendly and so passionate about sharing homemade alcohol with the guests, the dolphins were adorable, and Rovinj is a beautiful town. The tour was a very special experience.
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