We watched many compatriots literally lose their minds because of the situation they were pushed into, they were confused, like zombies blindly listening to fickle 'commands', now this, now that. That's why we are happy that we managed to get out of America and breathe again.
“As soon as we saw that Croatia was allowing Americans to enter the country, we did not think for a moment - we booked a ticket via Madrid, had to transfer it via London at the last minute, and arrived in Dubrovnik. We have been here for 28 days, and after that we will probably stay longer” Americans Michael Saleh and Emily Dall, tourists from Chicago who want to become residents of Dubrovnik, told us.
They inquire immediately about the procedure for obtaining citizenship, the prices of long-term rental of real estate and local cafes.
“Because we are located in Ploče, we are in Bikers Café at least five times a day, I think more and more regular guests look at me as part of the furniture" laughs Michael, an expert in modern technologies who, he adds, does everything online anyway, so he has no problem being anywhere in the world. This couple have really soaked up and adapted to the local customs and habits, which was their aim as “that’s the only way we travel.”
As soon as we saw that Croatia was allowing Americans to enter the country, we did not think for a moment - Photo Božo Radić
“We think that we are very lucky to have come here this year, when there are no unbearable crowds and chaos. I’ve been to Dubrovnik before, Michael has never been, and we’re totally thrilled. Wherever we go we try to fit in with the locals, we try to really feel the country we are in. It's terribly easy here and everyone still speaks English well,” Emily, an interior designer who unfortunately lost her job in the Covid-19 pandemic, like many of her compatriots. It is very difficult and confusing in the United States at the moment, just like in other countries in the world. Chicago is under attack by protesters, and victims are being counted, the situation, she adds, is quite chaotic.
“We are lucky because we had the opportunity to leave, or rather escape, from the United States, many are not so lucky,” adds Emily. They also found “their” beach, below the Villa Orsula, avoiding extremely “tourist” places, famous landmarks, for them Dubrovnik this year is ideal.
We are lucky because we had the opportunity to leave, or rather escape, from the United States - Photo Božo Radić
“The city and the walls are beautiful but I don’t have any intention to walk them. I see them from Ploče, the view is priceless and that's enough for me so far. I have felt the soul of the city through the people I have met. That relaxation, ‘normality’ if I may call it that, ordinary, small everyday things and relationships, the heartiness of people, that’s what we want, that suits us. There is no madness, few follow the numbers and rules, people try to live life, and so are we. That's why we're here,” says Michael, whose extended family is scattered all over the world. He tried for months to reach one of them and failed, he says, he felt like a zombie, which made him realize he was happy and for another thing - mental strength.
“I have heard and seen an awful lot of people for whom this has affected their psyche and the moment we left the US we were saved, but also on all other issues. It has become impossible to live normally, they just don't give it to you, and people have become brainwashed a long time ago, no one thinks with common sense anymore, logic has completely disappeared,” says Michael as he practices saying 'thank you' in Croatian.
As his work is online but in American time because the headquarters of his company is in Silicon Valley, he spends most of his mornings exploring local life, places loved by locals and beaches that are not crowded with visitors. They have also inquired about the history of Dubrovnik, wondering why we are not already separated from the rest of Croatia as we used to be. They say the city seems like an ideal place to live, especially to raise a family, they both have grown children from past relationships, and they see why people here find it hard to decide to leave.
“From what we have seen so far, and I take into account that the circumstances are different this year, the most beautiful part for us is the lower part of Gruž and Kantafig. At sea, that view of the port and the island, the fact that ships come here, not ugly cruisers but small boats, that is the perfect place for us. We understand that this is probably not the case in the 'normal' season, but - it should be, as far as we are concerned," says Michael, who is seriously interested in obtaining Croatian citizenship. Originally from Palestine, Michael is by all accounts a typical American, with the addition of the well-known Middle Eastern friendliness and openness.
Coffee in Bikers Cafe - Photo Božo Radić
“That's why watching families on screen was so hard for me, I'm a social being, I love that social contact, so this was all hell for me. When I saw that people often hug and shake hands here, I was relieved!” he adds.
“We are both adaptable, but we were not ready for such openness and relaxation, I must admit. In fact, we didn't even know that Croatia was part of the European Union, so we were shocked when we received the information that it was, but also that you were allowing US citizens to enter Croatia. When we arrived we immediately started thinking about staying, or at least a longer stay. We know that we have to meet many conditions for a longer stay, but we are ready to deal with the Croatian administration, so we will see, maybe we will be lucky!” Emily is positive and is also thinking about working in Croatia.
She also writes a blog about interior design, enjoys the fact that she is here, and compares Dubrovnik to the Italian coast of Amalfi where she has been recently. "It's beautiful there too, but not like this.”