A small gift will make a big impression
When preparing for the visit it’s always a good idea to remember to bring small gifts for the family. No one will get angry if you don’t bring anything, but Croatians love these kinds of tokens of appreciation.
If you’re not sure what to get: coffee (kava), chocolate (čokolada), wine (vino) are always great options – and if the family you’re visiting has kids, don’t forget to get something small for them as well :-)
Croatians are generally an open and expressive people, so be prepared to be greeted with an enthusiastic hug (zagrljaj), a kiss (pusa) on the cheek and a pat on the back when you arrive at someone’s house in Croatia!
Arriving late and talking small
It’s common for guests to arrive a little (e.g. 15 minutes) late, so if you have a habit of not turning up on time in general, you’ll fit in well :-)
When you arrive it’s common to take your shoes off, and you might be offered some slippers, or papuče to politely prevent you from ruining their carpet or wooden floors.
Conversation during your visit often starts with comments about the ride there and traffic, followed by small talk about family members, usually about their health. After that, people talk about different topics, but there is always some amount of gossip.
Read more about talking small here.
Arrive on an empty stomach!
As for food, usually there will usually be something to eat like cold starters with prosciutto and cheese (meza, pršut, sir), schnapps (rakija) that is often home-made, spritzer (gemišt) or beer (pivo) and coffee (kava). As a warning: this is the least you should expect, and if you’re arriving around lunchtime you may well be welcomed by a 4-5 course meal.
Bear in mind that - when you are offered food - you should wait at least twice before you accept it. On the other hand, it is not polite to turn anything down. Accepting a second helping is a sign that you are enjoying the food, it is not polite to eat little so don't leave a lot of food on the plate. The host will think that the food wasn't good.
Hence, our urgent advice: arrive with an empty stomach! :-)
It is always a good idea to compliment the food prolifically, especially if it is homemade - the host will always emphasise when something is homemade.
Read more about Croatian food here.
How long should you expect to stay?
People in Croatia often have a feeling that, the longer a guest stays, the better the visit was, so prepare to stay at least 4.5 hours.
You’ll need to announce that you plan to leave at least an hour before you actually want to leave because the host will try to stop you … most likely with one of the following phrases:
- (Leaving) so quickly? (Tako brzo?)
- What’s the rush (in leaving)? (Gdje žuriš?)
- One more (drink) for the road? (Ajde još jednu putnu?)
How to leave politely
When you finally get the chance to get up from the table and you’re ready to leave, be prepared to chat at the door for at least another 15 minutes … so plan your other obligations that day accordingly or better still, don’t organise any other activities that day besides the visit. :)