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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Back in the USA

I'm back home in California. It's good to see my family again, but already I'm missing Croatia. Today I'll be discussing a couple Croatian quirks. But first, my new holiday release is out.

Best friends Scott and Marco meet on a rooftop on Christmas Eve, each temporarily escaping from his difficult home life. With no gift to share, Marco instead promises to someday rescue Scott and take him to Alaska. As the years pass, they meet—first by design, then by chance—on occasional Christmas Eves, only to find life growing increasingly difficult. They treasure the few moments they have together, but will they ever reach Alaska?
Alaska is grittier than the average holiday tale, I think. But sometimes we need something to balance out the holiday sweetness a little. You can buy it here.

Now, Croatians.

You know already that I love Croatia and consider Zagreb my second home. But like every culture, this one has a few more challenging aspects. Croatians hate to wait. Sometimes this is alarming--I've seen them put life in jeopardy again and again to dart across traffic to catch a tram. Even though there will be another tram within minutes. Sometimes it's annoying; getting off those trams can be difficult when people are clustered around every door, already trying to press their way inside. Sometimes it can be funny. A few weeks ago I was standing in line at a drugstore on a busy Saturday morning. I saw a woman in her 60s shamelessly cut in line in front of the lady in front of me--who was a nun. I'm not Catholic, but isn't there some special penance you have to pay for that?

Croatian impatience perhaps achieves art form when cultural performances end and everyone rushes at once to retrieve coats from the coat check. There's not the remotest semblance of a line. Everyone sort of pushes and worms their way forward, claim tags held in front of them, trying to reach the harried young women who work behind the counter. And when you finally get your coat, good luck leaving because nobody will move out of your way. It's this strange, silent melee. I found it pretty amusing, actually, but it would probably cause apoplexy in a Brit.

Now, there is one notable exception to Croatian impatience, and that involves drinking coffee. I've been to cities with famous café cultures, such as Vienna and Paris. But believe me, none of them hold a candle to Croatia. Croatia surely has more cafes per capita than anywhere on earth. Some serve food or desserts, but many just serve drinks. This is where you meet friends or business associates, and you sit there nursing your drink for as long as you want, chatting and people-watching. There's a charming Croatian phrase: you can invite someone for "Čaša razgovora"--for a cup of conversation.

I'm thankful that Americans are fairly obedient at queueing, but I'd sure love to adopt Croatian café culture!

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps I'm a Brit at heart, because the lack of queuing or patient waiting would drive me a bit crazy. But as an American who is used to getting the evil eye for lingering too long at a restaurant table, the Croatian cafe culture sounds like heaven. (I still can't get over the woman cutting in line in front of the nun, though!)