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The Mindful Mermaid The Mindful Mermaid

The Mindful Mermaid - What’s wrong with living with your parents, America?

Written by  Dec 07, 2016

I was more than ready to leave home at 18. By the time I was a senior in high school; I couldn’t stand my hometown anymore and was itching for a change. I never really second guessed my decision to move to Chicago, because in America it’s normal to pack your bags for college and start a new chapter. Leaving was of course an adjustment, but it was always something I knew I needed to do.

In America, parting ways with home is seen as a necessary part of growing up. To say “he’s still living at home in his mom’s basement” somehow became synonymous for being unsuccessful, and our culture seemed to follow along.

Coming to Croatia was the first time I truly saw this cultural norm turn upside down. I noticed as most of my Croatian classmates were in their mid to late twenties, attending college while still living at home. Most of them had jobs of their own to pay for college and other living expenses. Most were still living in the house they grew up in. Many had never left.

It seems in Europe that living at home is much more common and even more so in Dubrovnik, perhaps. Of course, I have friends in the United States who live at home but the majority left for good. While some studied or worked elsewhere in Croatia or Europe, many young adults in Dubrovnik seem to always come back.

I have experienced this cultural contrast while living with my boyfriend and family for the past several months. I’ll admit it: at first it felt strange for me to be living at home again. I missed having my own space. Coordinating cooking, sleeping, and car-sharing schedules with other family members was new to me. But as I became warmer to this adjustment, I began to understand and respect this culture custom.

It’s very important for people in Dubrovnik to be close to family. Even those that moved elsewhere express they will surely return to start a family. Thus, Dubrovnik’s cultural roots run deep with locals. Living at home truly takes a lot patience and coordination from all family members, and it’s not always the easy solution.

But honestly, it seems many young adults don’t have much of a choice, even if they wanted to leave. It’s difficult to establish yourself in Croatia, which is why many people don’t move until after getting married. Living at home is often a stepping-stone in order to build financial stability.

I can now say I’ve had a taste of both sides of this cultural phenomenon. But is one better than the other? Comparing leaving home in America to living at home in Croatia is like comparing apples to oranges. Both have completely different cultural and economic complexities, so to look at Croatia through an American lens is nothing but ignorant.

I’ve heard echoes in Dubrovnik that Croatia is a nation of “mama’s boys”. Yes, I do know both men and women who are very close to their mothers in Croatia, which I think is a good thing. Yes, I know several people have their moms doing the laundry, cooking, and cleaning for them. In retrospect, I know many Americans whose parents coddle them just as much, even when they live outside the house. I’ve seen several Croatians who are extremely successfully and self-sufficient while living with their parents. So, to assume everyone who lives at home is a mama’s boy (or girl) seems to be a false narrative.

Every time an American raises an eyebrow when I say my boyfriend still lives with his family, I find myself growing more defensive. Not just for his sake, but also for the culture they haven’t taken the time to understand.

Through my time in Croatia I’ve somehow gained a new appreciate for my hometown I was so eager to get out of. It’s made me appreciate my roots and how important my family is to me. For the first time in five years, I’ve started to miss living at home myself.

Alexandra Schmidt, also known as The Mindful Mermaid, is a globetrotting writer and travel blogger, who finds her self always coming back to Dubrovnik. She was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota and later moved to Chicago to study at Loyola University. She first came to Dubrovnik when she studied at Dubrovnik International University, and has returned to Dubrovnik several times since. She’s a mermaid-obsessed yogi, who passes her time playing guitar, exploring the great outdoors, and planning her next adventure. To find out more about Alex, you can visit her website or Facebook page.


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