Wednesday, 22 March 2023
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

What have I learnt after 25 years of living in Dubrovnik

Written by  Mar 05, 2023

“So how long have you actually lived here?” asked an English friend the other day. Maths has never been my strong subject. I started to count on my fingers, and soon gave up. Could it be! Yes! This year will mark a quarter of a decade that Dubrovnik has been my home. 25 years!

Do I get some kind of medal? Some recognition? Maybe a silver cross, for if I was married to Dubrovnik (which many say I am) it would be our silver wedding anniversary.

“Blimey, so what advice would you give to foreign people thinking of coming to live here?” she asked. It’s a question that I’ve been asked so many times. I have seen many, many foreigners come and go. Only a certain type of person can live for a longer period of time outside of their homeland.

Dubrovnik has that special feel, especially in the summer, where everything looks surreal and dreamlike. I can completely understand why it is so attractive. But it isn’t for everyone. Just look at the statistics. I actually think that there are less long-term foreigners here than a decade ago.

And it is hard to give advice. Everyone has a different experience and different expectations.

“I always tell people that the single most important thing I did was learn the language,” I replied. That’s a practical piece of advice. But it is far from being the be all and end all. “Without being able to communicate and understand you’ll always have half the experience, and it shows great respect to the community,” I added.

You also need to adapt to your surroundings and not expect your surroundings to adapt to you. Seems obvious. But the amount of foreigners who have come thinking they’ll change the city is countless. They always start with big dreams and big talk and always end depressed and isolated. Then they end up blaming everyone else rather than looking in the mirror. You might not agree with the rules of the game; they might be completely opposite to want you’ve learnt. However, that doesn’t mean that they are wrong. And if everyone is playing by one set of rules and you’re playing with another you’ll soon find yourself playing alone.

“So I guess be flexible, open to change and adaptable,” I smiled at my friend. I’ve had over 9,000 days to learn this lesson.

And in many ways the male and the female experience are different. I’m not saying it is harder for one group, just different.

“So how did you end up here in the first place?” she asked. “Love.” I replied. And come to think of it that was a pretty good starting point. I have always had support. Would I have been able to live here alone? Honestly, probably not. I owe a lot to my wife. And not only her, but also her family, a family that I have grown up with. I say “grown up with” because that’s how you should look at life here.

I feel like I have lived two lives. One in the UK and one in Dubrovnik.

The first day here, all those years ago, was like the first day of a new life. It has been an unforgettable journey. And the more you put into it the more you get out. Like anything in life really. And like any journey the first steps are the hardest.

“If you can survive the first ten years then it’s easy,” I laughed. And put the word survive in speech marks as I spoke. The more you invest the more you get out.

“If you think it’s going to be like your vacation experience then you might as well go home now,” I said. My rose-tinted glasses evaporated a long time ago. That’s not to say I am still not in love with Dubrovnik, because I am, in fact I often tell people that I didn’t move to Croatia I moved to Dubrovnik. And it’s true I wouldn’t live in any other city in Croatia.

But that feeling of being in an endless summer and living on the beach with a cocktail in my hand died many years ago. I see Dubrovnik with all its complications, with its illogical and confusing issues, with its warts and scars, and yet I still love it. Beauty isn’t skin deep.

So soon I’ll be raising a glass of something bubbly to celebrate the first, and I emphasize the word first, quarter of a decade. It has been a blast!

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to 

The Voice of Dubrovnik


Find us on Facebook