Sunday, May 20, 2007

Croatian Friendliness

Frankly, you can’t blame Croatians for being a bit grouchy a few years back. Their country was shattered by war. Hotels were inhabited by refugees. Savings accounts were lost. Families were torn apart and forced to leave the only home they had ever known. This is what transpired in Croatia just a little over a decade ago as Yugoslavia disintegrated into war and chaos. As an expatriate living here in the late 90’s, I encountered many Croatians who I would describe as less than “consumer friendly” – particularly hotel and wait staff not to mention numerous store clerks. On my recent trip to Croatia, however, I am pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of those I’ve encountered at every step of the way. Mind you, I’m not just talking about hotel staff at refurbished hotels. A toll collector asks if I’m having a good time in his country and apologizes for the state of the road, which I’ve just traveled dotted with construction delays. Store clerks seem more helpful and smile when they hand you your bag. Perhaps it’s the optimism that I have for this country that compels me to see it in new light. But somehow, I think they, too, have changed.

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