Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.
“I don’t even think we have a word for that in Croatian,” said my wife as she racked her brain, “no, I’m sure there isn’t a word, and in fact I’ve never heard of that word in English before,” are you sure that actually exists. It is not a fictional word; it was born in the mid 1800’s. Yes, for the past two weeks I have been a househusband. I have had cleaning duties, ironing, washing clothes, cooking, basically all the household chores, running the home.
As the tourist season has come to an end, even though the sunshine just didn’t seem to want to stop shining, my workload has dropped considerably. It actually feels strange, I had got used to waking at 5.30 every day and immediately start typing, before ending my day at 9-ish as the sun set. And just as the tourist season ended as it always does, like a light switch being flicked off, so my alarm stopped ringing at the crack of the day. Leaving me spinning without a direction. In fact, it was a much needed break, I only wish that I could have more gently transitioned from on to off.
I learned household jobs from a very early age. And who insisted I did so, my mother. This saying that women control three corners of the home is completely true. And the mother also makes it very easy for their son’s future wives, or very challenging indeed.
In the UK, which is a considerably more liberal society than Croatia, these jobs in the home aren’t dealt out depending on your sex. There is much more of a culture of self-sufficiency. You basically reach the age of adulthood and are expected to now get on with your life. This really forces you to think for yourself, look after yourself and of course manage all the household chores for yourself.
University life means freedom, an entry into being an adult and on the path of finding a career. You are developing as your own person, and are proving that you can look after yourself. But that’s the UK, that’s not the life in Croatia. You have, pretty much through the middle of Europe, this “butter/olive oil” divide. The north/south divide. The Anglo Saxon/Catholic divide. And this divide is strong. It is a cultural divide as wide as the Grand Canyon.
The butter spreaders in the north scratch their heads when they see the olive oil sprinklers in the south living together as one family under one roof. Whereas the olive oil bread dippers around the Mediterranean think it horrific that offspring would be forced to find their own path in the world without the constant guidance of the heads of the family. Europe might have an east/west divide but the north/south one is considerably more pronounced.
People may shout in the south that “it’s a financial question” that our sons and daughters stay at home. Not true. In the more affluent olive oil countries you’ll see the same metal reinforcement bars jutting up from buildings. Those four metal bars in each corner of the house that are a hope that a male child will be born and another level will be added to the top of the house. And on the flip side you can go to a poorer butter eating country and you see freshly hatched adults being kicked out of the family nest. To be living with your parents over the age of 21 is seen as failure, and you’ll hear people mention it in whisper, “oh no, poor Jack, he still lives in his parent’s house.” It is almost seen as bringing shame on the family. Whilst the exact opposite is down south. I remember when we first arrived to live in Dubrovnik and decided to stay with my mother-in-law for a few months before we could find an apartment. When we finally found one and left my wife’s family home I was greeted with comments like “What happened, did you have an argument?”
No, I had just learned life in a butter loving country. Mr front door, my freedom. After so long living in an olive oil country I understand the whole living under one roof policy, but I still don’t agree with it. So I am off to finish the housework and finish dinner before my wife comes home.
A total of 3.76 million Croatian citizens have accounts in banks or in savings banks, according to data provided by the Financial Agency (Fina), the leading Croatian provider of financial and electronic services, on Thursday, 31 October when World Savings Day is observed.
According to the information collected on 30 October, there were a total of 10,571,699 accounts opened in banks and other financial institutions, which was by 3.5% fewer than in the corresponding period of 2018.
Of that number, as many ass 7.815 million were transaction accounts. The remaining 2.756 million refer to savings accounts.
According to data collected in mid-2019 by the national bank, total financial assets reached HRK 487 billion, 14 billion more than at the end of 2018.
The biggest rise was registered in deposits in pension insurance funds, as well as in shares and investment funds.
One of the most popular and influential social media platforms in the world has decided to ban all political advertising worldwide. "While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics," stated the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey.
There has been pressure on social media platforms to regulate their political advertising, especially after Brexit and the Trump Presidential campaign.
Twitter has now reacted to this and shown that that are ahead of their competitors, such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Twitter’s political advertising ban will begin on the 22nd of November.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg clearly has no plans to end the lucrative business of political advertising as he recently commented that “In a democracy, I don't think it's right for private companies to censor politicians or the news."
As many as 85 percent of Croatians invest in savings, setting aside on average 469 kuna every month (€63), which is 41 kuna (€5.5) less than in 2018, showed a recent survey on saving in Croatia.
The survey, commissioned by the Erste Group and conducted by the IMAS pollster, shows that as many as 83% of those polled show that the main motive for saving is to have a financial backup for contingencies, and 18% save for their senior age.
More than two in five Croatians (43%) have a classic savings account, 16% have life insurances and nine percent (9%) a housing savings account. A mere 5% of those polled say they have opted for investment funds, shares and bonds as a saving model, four percent invest in real estate, and three percent use voluntary pension insurance schemes.
The survey shows that 15% of the respondents say they have managed to save more in the last two-three years than before, 62% say their saved amount is the same as before, while every fifth respondent (20%) says their saving in the past few years is smaller than before.
The younger the saver, the more money saved monthly
Broken down by age, the age cohort between 15 and 29 years puts aside the highest monthly amount, an average 587 kuna.
Broken down by gender, men put aside more, 551 kuna monthly, which is HRK 162 more than women's average monthly savings.
Of citizens in Croatia's neighbourhood, Austrians seem the most frugal, with their average monthly savings totalling €259.
Slovaks are second, with €111, and Czechs put aside 105 euros per month.
Expressed in euros, the average monthly savings in Croatia are €63, and Hungarians put aside €65.
In Romania, this monthly amount is €57 and in Serbia €40.
This October is one to remember in Dubrovnik with exceptionally warm and stable weather. The calendar might say October, well nearly November, but the weather is shouting June!
Once again the sun shone, the beaches filled with swimmers and tourists took the opportunity to bathe in the golden sunshine before heading back to colder climes.
The beach in Kupari, in Zupa, was just like a scene from the summer today, but without the huge crowds although the car park was surprisingly busy.
Today, the 26th of October, is a day that will forever be engraved on Dubrovnik’s calendar, they day that Dubrovnik became a member of a very exclusive list as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the 26th of October 1979, a full 40 years ago, at a session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Egypt the Old City was included on this prestigious world list.
“In the past four decades, Dubrovnik has faced two major disasters - the 1979 earthquake and the 1991 brutal Serbian-Montenegrin aggression. And from both these tragedies, the City, like the mythical phoenix, rose up and was reborn. In particular, the tragedy of war has left numerous scars and still memorable wounds. Due to this aggression, Dubrovnik also ended up on the UNESCO List of Endangered World Heritage List in December 1991 and remained there until 1998,” commented the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic, remembering the UNESCO acknowledgment.
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary the City of Dubrovnik organized an exhibition "Dubrovnik, the Scarred City", which was staged at the United Nations Centre in New York, then in Washington and from the 1st of October in Lazareti in Dubrovnik. The exhibition deals with the casualties of war and the rapid and impressive reconstruction of the city. The exhibition is a testimony of the suffering of Dubrovnik in the Homeland War. And that war also brought two precedents. The first is that for the first time in its history, UNESCO sent envoys to the area affected by the war, while the verdicts for the commanders of attacks on the Dubrovnik, before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, were the first convictions for crimes against cultural heritage.
With temperatures touching 30 degrees and the Adriatic a bath-like 23 degrees the end of October in Dubrovnik is a real Indian Summer. The beaches are still doing a roaring trade, the Old City is shining in the low sun and the al fresco café bar culture is making the city resemble a day in August rather than well into autumn.
The thousands of tourists who decided to visit Dubrovnik at this time of the year are certainly having value for money. The summer crowds have died down, rolling out your towel on the city’s beaches has never been easier and finding a spare table in a restaurant stress-free. And whilst the majority of northern Europe has been in winter jackets for weeks already Dubrovnik is not letting go of bikinis and flip flops.
Unfortunately, the autumn sunshine won’t last forever, all good things must come to an end, and changeable weather is predicted to arrive on Tuesday next week. But in the meantime tourists and locals are still enjoying the Adriatic and the Banje beach with its spectacular views over the Old City is as busy as ever.
When I was around 10 years old we were shown this film at school that still gives me nightmares today. In fact, looking back it probably was a little too graphic to show to children but we certainly all got the message.
It was basically an anti-rubbish short film, probably the only real green message we got through school in those days. It showed a young boy who every day throw one piece of rubbish on the floor rather than in a garbage bin. The film then showed what would happen if every young boy in the world threw a piece of rubbish on the floor every day. Basically we were all drowning under a sea of waste. And yes the young boy died, suffocated under chocolate wrappers and Coke cans. Told you it was graphic. They even showed his funeral. But it worked. From an early age I was aware of the dangers of polluting the planet.
Forty years later and how times have changed. Instead of adults teaching children we have children teaching adults. The speed at which attitudes to climate change have evolved is lightening pace.
I grew up in a time without recycling bins. In a time when solar powered gadgets were cool because you got free electricity, nobody mentioned saving the planet from fossil fuels. But as we got supposedly more advanced we actually were taking an environmental step backwards. We drank our drinks from glass bottles that we took back to the shop and got 1p off our next drink. We bought our milk from a milkman. I am not sure if you had this concept before here. But basically a milkman would deliver every morning milk in glass bottles to your door. At night you would leave the glass bottles on the doorstep and in the morning fresh full ones would appear. And just as a cherry on top of the ecological cake, the milkman would drive an electric vehicle.
Now we drive our cars, polluting the environment, to the shop were we buy milk in plastic bottles. Then when we have drunk the milk we again drive to the recycle bins to dispose of them. And then a lorry, again polluting, turns up to pick up the bins. We stirred our coffee with real spoons, in fact drank coffee from real cups without a plastic lid, my father used a real razor in the morning and not a plastic disposable one and my backside was wrapped in a real Terry nappy and not a one with a Pampers logo on it.
Of course it has to be pointed out that we weren’t doing these things to be “green.” We were doing them because we had no choice. It just turned out that they were in fact eco-friendly. And over the next forty years, from me watching that horror pollution film to today, society went disposable. It was supposed to be change the world forever. It did but certainly not the way that we had imagined.
My first real experience that I can remember of climate change and pollution came with acid rain. That was a scary headline to read in newspapers, yes we read newspapers in those days. We imagined acid rain biting holes in our umbrellas. In a short time, we had travelled from milkmen with their electric vehicles and glass bottles to mountains of plastic. A disposable society was born. Gone were the days of fixing a part in your car, overnight mechanics became salesmen for car manufacturers and would simply change the whole part. TV repairmen were left without work as we dumped the old TV when the guarantee ran out. Instead of fixing and repairing we dump our white technical goods and buy another one. Whilst this might keep the cogs of capitalism running it also destroys the environment. Try finding somebody today in Dubrovnik who can actually repair things, who actually has the skills, the logical thinking, to find the fault and fix it and you have found the Wizard of Oz. How wrong we were. How naïve. Like a fish we all grabbed the bait of a better, easier life, and found ourselves on the hook.
And now we need children to tell us where we all went wrong. And now we need to change. “Some people don't like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster,” Elon Musk.