Encompassing over 1,000 islands and surrounded by the sparkling blue-green waters of the Adriatic Sea, Croatia is the final stop on my We Roam itinerary. Known for it's dramatic coastline, friendly locals and serving as a background for that little show Game of Thrones, I had high expectations for this small Mediterranean country. Here's what I took from my first week coworking abroad in Split, Croatia.
New on the coworking scene, CoCreative is joining the list of the growing workspaces popping up for remote teams inSplit - partly due to the rise in popularity of work abroad programs. CoCreative is nestled in a quiet suburban neighborhood away from the hustle of the often crowded touristy old-town, but still is within walking distance of the action. They have provided us with a clean, light-filled office for our time in Croatia.
1. Working Hard or Hardly Working?
Our group guide told us the joke that Northern Croats don't think Southern Croats work very much. She assured us this was far from the case, and the national joke is a friendly one. However, I can see where this thought may have originated. Situated on the gleaming waters of the Adriatic Sea, Split is very much a traditional coastal village, lined with yellowing stucco structures topped with rusty red tiled roofs. Just the village facade makes you want to stop and look around, slowing your pace as you go. The cobbled streets and narrow passageways between buildings also make it nearly impossible to get anywhere very fast. It seems the locals enjoy this pace, and it trickles into other aspects of their lives, including work. While Croats are hardworking people who take pride in what they do, they have found a way to keep their leisurely pace as they go.
2. Beating the Heat
August near the Mediterranean can be brutally warm, and while I took this as the opportunity to be casual with my dress, my fellow local coworkers did not. I saw more men in tailored slacks and women in heels than any other place I have visited. The local Croats must be used to the sweltering 100+ degree days, as they don't seem to use this as an excuse to lower their standards on workplace attire. I was truly impressed with their dedication to this more traditional custom, but I continued to place comfort over culture this time around.
Croatia just gained their independence fairly recently in 1990, and before that was under communist rule. I have been told by locals that this previous economic structure still has impact on their workplace culture. In the workplace, they often have strict guidelines regarding who makes the final decision during a meeting or the standard purchasing process within a company. The youngest workers are often more liberal in mindset of working collaboratively within a team, while some of the older generations tend to keep a firm grip on their title and their privileges at work. When taking a look at Croatia's history, it is easier to see why this attempt to hold on to control remains so strong.
4. Where is Everyone?
While I've had the privilege of meeting a few Croats during my first week in Split, it seems to be mostly tourists and locals working in the tourism industry. This is mainly because some businesses completely shut down during the month of August, for owners and employees to take a summer holiday. This is the case for many European countries, including Italy, and showcases the different customs regarding paid time off for European employees versus Americans. We all know that U.S. businesses aren't known for being overly generous with paid vacation, and the average 15 days per year is dwarfed by the average 35 days in European countries.
Croatia has a workplace culture all it's own, and seems to be in the midst of blending tradition from it's previous generations to the younger groups bringing in their own. This proud country has found a way to balance work while enjoying the beautiful setting they're blessed to live in. I expect as the coworking culture continues to grow here, so will other industries outside of tourism, because Croatia really has even more to offer than a week vacation.