It’s been a year since we moved to the OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. February 2019, we packed up our house and our life in Sydney, Australia and moved to Zagreb, Croatia.
People said we were brave. We’ve always thought (and still do) that bravery had nothing to do with it. Both sets of our parents – my husband’s and mine – left their homeland for life in other countries (my mother is Australian, my father English – they lived in both Australia and England; my husband’s parents are Croatian). Travelling, displacement, living in a culture other than our own is part of our lived heritage. Our parents left their homelands in a time when there was no technology to keep people connected, no cheap flights home if things went wrong, very little money. They were brave. We are lucky.
So, what’s it like, leaving friends and family and moving countries? I hope I don’t sound callous to say that moving from Australia to a European lifestyle was not particularly difficult. Of course, I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss knowing inside jokes and how things work and driving on the left side of the road and the independence that being a fluent-language speaker in a country entails. Sometimes, I miss my stuff(but a lot less than I thought I would!)
In many ways, life is different here. But in many ways life is the same. I’m still a mum. I’m still a wife. I still enjoy running when the weather isn’t too cold. I’m still a writer. That hasn’t changed. My friends here are mostly ex-pats at the university I attend to try and learn this impossible language, Croatian. (I love the Croatian language but for me at least, it is way harder to learn than I expected!)
The European lifestyle offers so much to love. Zagreb is a small, beautiful city. Bars bustle with people sipping coffee and talking. There is very little ‘coffee to go’, very little ‘laptop plus coffee time’. It’s a beautiful city to walk in. The graffiti I once found so off-putting, I’ve come to adore, like tattooed skin. It’s as much a part of the city as the wide expanses of green parks, the wending Sava, St Marks.
Croatians are generally straight-talkers. They tell it like it is, correct you, argue, complain. It can be off-putting at first for those of us born (or taught) diplomats. You have to learn not to take it to heart. The flip side is that Croatians are generous, gregarious and big-hearted. They welcome you like family everywhere you go.
Living in Croatia hasn’t been hard. We love the slowness of life here. We love the changing of the seasons; the drawing in for winter, the gentle unfurling in the spring. Our first Advent in the northern hemisphere was amazing. The lights, the songs, the food – everything just fits here in a way that a summer Christmas can’t quite replicate.
But most of all, I’ve enjoyed the adventure. On weekends, we make plans to travel to other countries. In summer, we head for the sea. We pack a bag and off we go. Yes, I miss my family back home but my family unit is here. Travelling has taught us that wherever we are, that is home.