What I Learned on Holiday — the Change in Croatia is Not an Option
I got very confused when a steward asked me to show him a COVID certificate while entering a beach bar where a concert was being held.
“I don’t have one,” I said.
“I can’t let you in then.”
“But you just let some girls in before me without asking them questions,” I said, realizing how stupid that was — of course he let the girls in.
“Are you alone?” he asked me.
“My friends are inside already.”
“Ok, ok, go in,” the steward told me.
“Good that I have new speedo swimwear,” I thought to myself. “Otherwise, he wouldn’t let me in.”
The last three weeks I spent on holiday in Croatia. A couple of days I spent at the seaside where I completely forgot there is such thing as the pandemic going on in the world. Croatia was having one of the best tourist seasons ever, with millions of tourists from the United Kingdom, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, France, and other countries enjoying the summer in one of the most COVID relaxed countries in Europe. Beaches were full of people, there was no mask insight, and if that steward didn’t ask me for a COVID certificate while entering a concert at a beach bar, I couldn’t tell if it was 2021, 2011, or 2001.
After I spent most of the pandemic in the United Kingdom, which had one of the strictest sets of COVID measures for a long time (the narrative started to change after the massive protest that I wrote about for Telesport.hr), it was very interesting to experience the Croatian way of dealing with the pandemic. Opposite to the United Kingdom, Croatia had one of the most relaxed lockdowns in Europe.
One day I whilst sunbathing, I saw Dule, a guy who sells donuts and popcorn on a beach. He walks the beach all day long dressed all in white to protect himself from the sun and shouts about the products he carries in a plastic basket: “Krafne, štrudle, burek, kokice, popcorn.” After he names his products in Croatian, he always adds ‘popcorn’ so foreigners can also be aware he is trading.
“Nothing has changed,” Dule confirmed to me when I asked. “This season is great just as every other season has been. Only the last year was not as good because it was at the beginning of the pandemic, but this year is rocking,” Dule said and continued shouting: “Krafne, štrudle, burek, kokice, popcorn.”
And then I realized — After 25 years of trading Dule still hasn’t changed his recital. It sounds exactly the same as 25 years ago — Krafne, štrudle, burek, kokice, popcorn. Nothing ever changes in this country!
While the United Kingdom and other western countries are going through an unprecedented transformation, Croatia is resisting changes as hard as possible. While in the United Kingdom, hard lockdown and aggressive COVID campaigning led to massive protests, which brought anarchism into the country. Croatia never let a change take place. Apart from the first two months of 2020, Croatia never had a hard lockdown, nor had it any significant resistance to the restrictions, so the system has never really changed.
There is something deeply rooted in the Croatian mindset, something that resists a change of any kind. There is some collective trauma that Croatians have identified with that they don’t want to lose it. They feed on it and they build their identity based on that. Any change would mean the loss of the collective identity. Therefore, when new rules are being introduced, Croatians don’t resist, they accept them, but in a Croatian way — I explained it at the beginning of this story with the example of the steward who let me in the beach bar without the COVID certificate.
On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, people respect the law… Unless they don’t. But when they don’t, they revolt against it instead of corrupting the law. That is the main difference between resentful Croatians and resentful British when it comes to COVID restrictions. Croatian way does not include change of the system while British ways put a light on the system and that leads to the transformation, potential to the huge revolution in the end.
We can conclude that the United Kingdom goes from extreme to extreme, which includes a lot of collective suffering and a lot of collective euphorias. Extremes are making new concepts, and that is why the current system is approaching its end, and the new one is being born. On the other hand, in terms of the pandemic, due to a balanced approach, Croatia might have gone through the last two years with way less suffering, but once this pandemic is finally over, the United Kingdom will start with the renaissance, while Croatia will be at the same place where it was before the pandemic.
Krafne, štrudle, burek, kokice, popcorn.