my experience as a black woman travelling Croatia. Also intended for black people living in Croatia

Being a black person in Croatia – A black traveler’s experience

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.

So be sure to check out the whole  Eastern Europe series when you are done.

Disclaimer 1: I am a tall, thin, American girl who wears a lot of make-up and cute dresses. I am sure that being an “exotic” girl in the Slavic world contributes to my mostly positive experience, and a lot of my black female friends have had similar experiences. Although, being an “exotic” girl can often be exhausting and uncomfortable around immature people with little diverse life experiences, but for the most part, it is positive. So as you read my experiences, keep in mind that my gender and my nationality, I am sure, can sometimes play a part in how I am treated.

Disclaimer 2: Let me also say immediately, I have seen no racism in Eastern Europe towards myself or other black people I am friends with or simply know of–whether they’re light skinned, dark skinned, African expats or tourists,  or black expats or tourists from Western countries.

Racism particularly is a learned behavior passed down from generations of families in western countries where there are generations of black citizens to practice racism, discrimination and segregation on. Eastern Europeans haven’t had centuries to develop these institutionalized and social habits. So while of course, yes, you may hear the odd story or two of one bad apple being racially inappropriate…. Compared to the thousands and thousands of horrendous incidences, crimes, police brutalities, corruption and horror stories coming from USA and Britain–Eastern Europe is as harmless as a fly. Please remember that.

 Okay, so what is it like being a black girl traveling in Croatia?

Now that I have been to more places in Croatia, 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, people honking their horn at you and an occasional selfie request (those are just some of the 8 things you can expect as a black person traveling in the Balkans).

These experiences were based on my travels to Split, Makarska, Tućepi and Dubrovnik in the seaside Dalmatia (Dalmacija) region. But now I’ve been to more places like Zagreb, Ston, Omiš, Kobaš… You can check out my Croatia Videos playlist on my youtube channel to see my experiences in most of these places. 🙂  

In the most touristy towns like Dubrovnik and Split, the stares I received weren’t as long and people did not look as shocked to see a black person because these cities see more Western tourists and black tourists than the others. Dubrovnik however did have the most horn honks.

In towns like Ston or Omis (Croatia’s best kept secret), which are smaller towns with huge day-trip upside and excursion appeal, I received a lot more stares and a lot more random people trying to make conversation with me… still, no biggie. I’m totally used to that.

Makarska was the most chill town in my opinion. It is WAY more touristy than the day trip towns, but it is not as crowded as Dubrovnik or Split. Most of the tourists are Eastern European, drunken day-trippers who docked from the party boats, and the occasional traveler like myself who chooses destinations that aren’t quite on the radar of the average Western tourist.

In Makarska, I got the typical Balkan behavior–the stares, the horns… but it didn’t feel as overzealous as it did in other places. Also, I’m probably biased towards Makarska as I had a holiday romance here with a local who I’m still crazy about and spend a lot of time with to this day, so maybe I was just too blind to notice anything else worth noting.

You might also like: The Stuff the Internet Forgot to Tell Me about the Makarska Riviera

Now for the crazy update.

Zagreb. That’s the update. I traveled to Zagreb in the spring and had a completely different experience there than in the seaside Dalmacija region. Particularly, I received a lot of uncomfortable attention from men, particularly strange 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, as women are conditioned to do unfortunately in this tricky world of gender dynamics. 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. Fine. Whatever.

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. 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. 

black person travel guideAre you a black woman interested in living in an Eastern European country, or any foreign country really, but worried about logistics such as getting your hair done, finding your favorite make-up products, culturally awkward dating, etc.? Check out my Black Girl Traveler Survival Guide if you are interested to know how I work around living in a country that doesn’t have all the comforts of home for black women.