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.
There are polyglots and then there is Stephan Behringer. His badge on his shirt had the flags of twelve countries, and yes he speaks twelve languages, well eleven and a half as he says. He spent time in Dubrovnik learning Croatian and we caught up with him during his time here. Born near Stuttgart, Germany he started expanding his languages skills relatively late in life, but when he started there was no stopping him.
You are a true polyglot, am I correct in saying that you speak 12 languages?
I say as a joke 11 and a half because I have forgotten most of my Arabic. Let’s put it like this, I have native speaker level in four languages, German, English, French and Spanish. Then I am quite fluent in Italian, Russian and Portuguese. And then Croatian, Swedish, Romanian and Chinese. In fact, I am going to China in June so I will have the chance to practise again.
Why did you decide to learn Croatian?
I have been to Croatian four times and twice in Dubrovnik. I had a desire to learn a Slavic language, I already speak Russian quite well, and also my best friend is from Serbia. I also knew that if I decided to learn Serbian it would go a lot slower, I know the Cyrillic alphabet but if you are a native speaker of the Latin alphabet the learning goes much faster. And then my decision was where I should learn Croatian. I had many offers from Zagreb but I had heard a lot about Dubrovnik. I was also told that Dubrovnik was extremely busy in the summer, so I came in December, which gave me time and space to see the sights and learn more about the culture. I was lucky to find the Europe House Dubrovnik after speaking to a friend and I very much enjoy learning here.
Do you think there will be any practical business use of you learning Croatian?
Well, yes you never know. I have a recruitment business connecting Spain and Germany and I have already been in contact with the Croatian Unemployment Office to find out about the possibilities here. In fact, the office told me that many of the young, qualified people were already working abroad. And as a full member of the European Union Croatians already have the possibility to work freely in Germany.
Where does you love of languages come from?
It is a good question. It isn’t really from my parents. In fact, I didn’t really travel much as a younger child, my first flight abroad was when I was 17 years-old. I had English and French at school which probably gave me an insight into languages. I also saw that when I did start travelling that being able to speak to the locals was a huge advantage. You’re able to discover more about the history, culture and traditions. It really justifies all the effort of learning a language. I remember the day after I graduated from university I decided to learn a language. I asked myself what is the most useful language, of course the answer was Mandarin Chinese, so I spent a year learning. The next was Spanish in Cuba, Portuguese in Brazil and then Russian in Russia. I really started when I was 25 years-old and I was also working full-time so nobody really has an excuse not to learn at least one other language. The interaction I have when I travel is now fantastic.
From all the languages that you have learnt where does Croatian rank in terms of difficulty to pick up?
Croatian grammar is a little bit more complicated than Russian grammar. However, I am a little biased as Croatian isn’t my first Slavic language so I would say I found it a little easier. But for somebody who has never learnt a Slavic language I would say that Croatian is in the upper limits of the difficulty range.
It is common belief that learning the first foreign language is the hardest and they get easier the more you learn. How true is that statement?
Yes, there is some truth in that, of course I would take English out of the equation as this is now a world language. When I learn a language I try to always learn in a country that speaks the language. In that way as soon as I leave the classroom I can practise. In restaurants, cafes, and shops, I literally force myself to speak as soon as possible. Every new language opens a new door in your life.
Are you thinking about moving onto a new language and if so which one?
Yes, the next one is Korean, which is a little random. Japanese was on my list but I can across an offer to learn Korean in North Korean in Pyongyang.
The Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, has stated that the percentage of VAT would be decreased by one percent. Speaking on Friday at a congress of Croatian export business the Prime Minister reiterated his governments measure to decrease value added tax from 25 to 24 percent.
The Prime Minister stated that lowering the rate of VAT would not be the only measure but part of a range of measures. "It will be part of measures which won't endanger the budget's revenue side. On the contrary, we believe that the combination of various measures will facilitate better revenues, reducing the fiscal pressure on both taxpayers and enterprises. All these combined will make Croatian exporters more competitive. That's why, in the coming period, we will see what can be done about the tax burden on salaries," commented Plenkovic.
The new tax reform will be prepared this autumn and should be in force by next year. However even with the decrease in VAT Croatia will still have one of the highest rates in the world. Some of the main economies in Europe have lower VAT rates than Croatia, the UK with 20 percent, Germany at 19 percent and France at 20 percent.
The Cultural Artistic Society “Sveti Juraj” on Osojnik organized on Saturday, June 16, a festival of folklore and heritage, the seventh festival in a row.
Folklore organisations from all over the region took part in this special festival which saw children performing traditional songs and dances. Groups from Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia all performed in authentic costumes in front of the massed audience.
A great festival that helps keep the heritage of the region alive.
Croatia opened up the 2018 World Cup with a 2 – 0 win over Nigeria and social media was alive with supporters from all over the world. From photos direct from the stadium in Russia to fans celebrating on the beach in Australia.
Without doubt the female fans were the biggest hit on Instagram with red and white kits, flags and face painting.
Here are just a few of the thousands of ladies who got behind Croatia on Instagram
Petrol prices in Croatia are at their highest levels for year, with a litre costing up to 10.20 Kuna. A mass protest was held in Zagreb on Friday to raise awareness for the rising fuel prices. In fact, currently a litre of fuel in Croatia will cost you more than in Germany.
Compared to the rest of Europe Croatian fuel prices are ranked in the upper half. The most expensive litre is in Iceland, where at the beginning of June one litre would set you back 1.83 Euros. Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium come after Iceland. Whilst a litre in Croatia will cost you around 1.41 Euros.
Petrol in Austria, Hungary, Poland and even Germany is cheaper than in Croatia at the moment. And in Russia a litre will cost you only 0.61 Euros.
And the reason for these rising prices. The European Union sets a mandatory minimum excise duty on fuel. For Super 95 petrol it is 0.359 Euros per litre, or 2.66 Kuna, and for diesel 0.33 Euros. However instead of charging the EU minimum the Croatian government have raised the duty from 2.66 Kuna to 3.15 Kuna. The when you add the VAT, which at 25 percent is one of the highest in Europe, the result is petrol prices higher than Germany.
Dubrovnik was awash with red and white squares last night as Croatia opened their 2018 World Cup campaign against Nigeria. Cafes, restaurants and just about every square and corner of the city was alive to the sights and sounds of supporters cheering on the national team as they faced the Super Eagles.
From deafening silence to an eruption of joy as Croatia scored. In a group with Argentina and Iceland it was important that Croatia got off to a winning start and they didn’t disappoint although it was a somewhat subdued performance.
When the first goal went in, an own goal, on 32 minutes the city exploded with song and then the captain and Real Madrid midfield genera, Luka Modric, fired home the second from the penalty spot on 71 minutes and effectively sealed the win.
Next up for Croatia is a tie against Argentina on Thursday.
Check out the action last night by Niksa Duper
Dubrovnik’s most iconic beach, Banje Beach, played host to one of the largest television networks in the world this week. One of the most important media conferences in Croatia, the New Europe Market (NEM) media conference, was recently held in Dubrovnik for the sixth consecutive years. Expert panellists discussed, over the four days, trends and solutions for the future of media.
The FOX Network Group, which owns and runs such brand name channels as National Geographic, FOX Crime and 24 Kitchen, organised a gala event on the Banje Beach.
The spectacular evening event in the Banje Beach Restaurant Lounge & Club brought together some of the leading lights of media and directors of the FOX Network and was great publicity for Dubrovnik.
Croatia has received support for its plans to enter the open border Schengen agreement from the German Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer. Meeting with the Croatian Interior Minister, Davor Boyinovic, in Berlin on Friday Seehofer expressed his support for Croatia in its goal to become a stronger member of the European Union.
“We must to everything in our power to effectively protect our outer borders, prevent illegal migrations and ensure more security in the EU. Combating illegal migration is at the centre of our cooperation,” commented the German Minister.
Add speaking to the Croatian news service, HINA, the Croatian Minister echoed his German counterpart, “We have fully agreed that improving security in Europe is the most concrete contribution to the EU project at this point in time.”
As Croatia has a long border with its neighbour, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the German ministry is adamant that it needs to be protected fully.