A name, or an identity, is an extremely powerful thing. Sometimes just one name, or one description, is enough for people to make up their minds whether they like it or not. Pick the right name and half the battle is won. And sometimes countries are just lucky with the names they end up with. A name can associate you to a brand, a feeling an emotion. Which is why I propose that we change the name of Croatia to Monte Croatia.
Names and brands can take on lives of their own. Take one of the biggest names in the world, Google. When was the last time you said “I am going to search for that online” or “I’ll ask my search engine?” Probably somewhere at the end of the 1980’s. In every language today we say “I’ll Google that.” We never say I’ll Yahoo that or I’ll Bing that. Google has been accepted into mainstream language.
So what’s with the idea of Monte Croatia. Over the past weeks, although it is something that I have come across thousands of times, I have been in a Déjà vu recovering conversation.
“We thought we’d go and check out Montenegro tomorrow,” said my American guests. Now that’s a fairly normal question, in fact quite common. But these particular guests had arrived from Boston, and they had arrived late in the evening at around 10:00pm. They had never been to Dubrovnik, or in fact Croatia, before and were only staying for a few days. So they had basically just arrived and the first place they wanted to see was Montenegro.
This was a little puzzling for me. I have absolutely nothing against Montenegro but I was nevertheless odd. “You are from Boston, imagine I landed in your city and the first place I wanted to visit was Canada,” I answered with a broad smile. “You are only here for a few days, like two and a half days before flying to Rome, get to know Dubrovnik and the region first,” I continued.
We then sat down and got into a longer and more in-depth discussion during which I asked them “So why was Montenegro on the top of your list for sightseeing.” They admitted that they knew absolutely nothing about the country but, and this is the key, “the name sounded exotic and romantic.”
It was basically the power of names. They had associated Montenegro with Monte Carlo, Monte Cristo and just about any other Monte they had ever heard of. “And do you know what Monte means,” I asked my American guests. They had no clue. “Would you still find that country romantic if I told you it meant Black Mountain in English?” They all laughed and agreed it wasn’t as appealing. Almost the exact same thing happened with the next group, this time from Canada. Again I went through the same explanation and their response was the same.
I have a feeling if we just put Monte in front of every destination we would see tourism double. Ston just sounds like a place in the Flintstones, but Monte Ston conjures up a picture of casinos and yachts. Cavtat, which is pretty much next to impossible for any English speaking person to pronounce anyway, would become Monte Cavtat, which isn’t a million miles away from Monte Cristo. And Srd, another impossible name for the English to wrap their tongues around, is an obvious contender for Monte Srd, it’s a Monte anyway. Slano is pretty plain and uninspiring, but Monte Slano sounds like a walled city onto top of rolling hills. The famous novel by Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, has a ring of adventure and mystery, whereas if it was based in Konavle, The Count of Gruda, paints an entirely different picture. The Count of Monte Gruda sounds better.
So why not just go all the way and change Croatia to Monte Croatia. I mean we aren’t being dishonest. Maybe Montenegro has more mountains…sorry Monte, but we also have our fair share. Even the Bible says “a good name is better than riches.”