Before I get into what it’s like being a black person traveling in Croatia, I should let you know that this post is actually part of a longer post on my blog called Being a Black Traveler in Eastern Europe and Slavic Europe by country.
That is why this summary of my experience as a black traveler in Croatia is not so long. So check out the whole Eastern Europe series when you are done.
Disclaimer: I am a tall, thin, make-up wearing, American passport-wielding girl that dresses in mostly dresses, cute skirts and other fashionable clothing. I am sure that all factors into how I am “received” in some countries. As you read my experiences, keep that in mind that my gender and my nationality, I am sure, can sometimes play a part in how I am treated.
Okay, so what is it like being a black girl traveling in Croatia?
Now that I have been to Zagreb, I have new developments in my experiences in Croatia, and boy has my perspective changed.
When I first wrote about Croatia a few months ago, I wrote about the typical things I experience everywhere in the Balkans. Those typical things are getting stared at a lot and an occasional selfie request.
In the most touristy towns like Dubrovnik and Split, the stares weren’t as long and people did not look as shocked to see a black person because these cities see more Western tourists than the others. When I was in Split, I saw about 7 or 8 black people in two hours. When I spent three days in in Makarska, the most beautiful spot which strangely sees fewer western tourists, I saw two black people. That should tell you something.
Now for the crazy update.
I traveled to Zagreb just last week and had a completely different experience there than in the seaside Dalmacija region. Particularly, I received a lot of uncomfortable attention from desperate old men. I was very shocked. On the coast, no one acted the way these men were acting in Zagreb.
Most of the attention was something I could laugh off. I was at a restaurant with a friend and an old man sent drinks to our table and then came over to playfully chat us up.
But there were a few more annoying moments. When I was standing in the main square waiting for my friend, one older man stopped to stand next to me and was blatantly staring at me, which I am used to. I didn’t make anything of it. But I was still slightly annoyed so I moved down some steps and he followed me. He took out his phone and then was blatantly recording me. It was really weird.
Because I speak some Croatian, I immediately said “Šta radiš?” That means “What are you doing?” He immediately started putting his phone away and then said that he was filming the surroundings. Um, whatever dude. Utter bulls–. So then I said “Znam da snimiš me,” which means, I know you’re filming me. And then he started laughing and kept saying he was filming the surroundings.
Guys, for lack of a better word, it was F-ing weird.
The other uncomfortable moment came at this wine bar I went to every night. I made friends with the bartender there so I would sit there and speak with him as I drank wine. But his supervisor would always blatantly walk past me while looking me up-and-down and making lip-smacking noises. He would do it right in front of me, but act like I couldn’t see him… as if he was invisible or something… as if I was a puppy dog in a shop window that didn’t understand basic non-verbal human communication. It was just really gross.
Sometimes these are just the things you have to put up with when traveling the world as a woman, and particularly as an exotic woman depending on where you go. But I just can’t believe that of all places in the Balkans, I experienced this behavior in the capital of the EU-accepted, tourist powerhouse country that is Croatia. It was really disappointing. Despite that, I LOVED Zagreb.
And I have to reiterate that I had no such experiences of this sort in the seaside where I spent a lot more time. In fact, Croatia is also the only Eastern European country where I had an intense, emotional and passionate holiday romance with a local. So I still stick by my opinion that the Dalmatians of Croatia fetishize black women less than men in Zagreb and some of the other countries that I talked about in my black in Eastern Europe post.
Click here to go back to my series on being a black traveler in Eastern Europe and slavic countries.