I moved to Zagreb after four years of living in Rijeka. Whilst growing up in Poreč, a small Istrian coastal town, I realized that I had a strong desire and motivation to broaden my horizons and start achieving my goals.
Croatia is a centralized country, which is why any young person wanting to prove themselves ends up moving to the capital. Zagreb is the cultural, political, and urban centre of Croatia. You could call it Croatia’s promised land, similar to what California and New York are for the US.
I’ve always loved writing, which became even clearer to me when I spent my entire education avoiding any math-related subjects and all sports’ activities. Reading and writing led me to worlds far more beautiful than the world I grew up in. I would definitely say that I’ve always been a daydreamer, even when I didn’t know what that word meant.
My love for writing brought me to Rijeka, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Cultural Studies. I was born in Rijeka, so starting my student life and adult life in general there definitely felt like closing a chapter in my life. A beginning and an end, all in one. I wanted to work on my writing and media skills, and when I finally managed to achieve my goal of enrolling in Journalism at the University of Zagreb, that was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
I am currently sitting in the office of a Croatian PR agency writing press releases for the Croatian media.
Even though I’ve only spent two years studying journalism, I’ve learned that it’s never too late to enter the professional world which interests us. I’m 24 years old and it’s time for me to position myself on the labour market, therefore one of my goals was to find a PR agency where I’d be able to perfect my professional skills before graduating.
One of the differences between studying in Zagreb and studying in Rijeka is that Rijeka’s total enrolment is far smaller than Zagreb’s. Each course at Rijeka’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Studies accepts between 30 and 40 students per year. My personal opinion is that smaller numbers enable better lectures. The University of Zagreb is twice the size of the University of Rijeka, with students coming from all over Croatia, whereas Rijeka’s university consists mostly of students from Istria and nearby places, as well students from other parts of the country who didn’t get into the University of Zagreb.
Rijeka is known as the city of rock music and culture, meaning that all its’ events, concerts, and exhibitions lean towards the alternative side of things. It is also referred to as the city that flows, which is why it has always been the centre of change, rebellion, and tolerance. One of the reasons for this is because is thanks to its port – people of various cultures, languages and history have passed through Rijeka and shaped it into the multicultural city it is today.
To this day, Rijeka has held onto that alternative feeling, in part due to its rainy weather, whereas Zagreb is the educational and primarily capitalistic centre. My hometown Poreč, on the other hand, is completely different from these two cities. It is Istria’s main tourist hotspot, therefore tourism is prioritized over everything else. On the one hand this is good for the economy because Poreč and Istria are marketed as top destinations on the global tourism scene, but on the other hand young people don’t really have much choice apart from a career in tourism. Most job offers are related to tourism management or marketing, or are ‘’ordinary’’ seasonal jobs such as waitering. Most of these jobs are done by people coming from poorer parts of inland Croatia like Lika and Slavonija, but ever since Ireland’s and Germany’s job markets opened up to Croatia when we joined the EU, more and more young educated Croats have moved to these two countries to find work.
Since I have lived in Poreč, Rijeka, Ljubljana and Zagreb, I currently have no plans to leave Croatia, but that decision could easily change because thanks to globalization, moving abroad is far simpler than it used to be.
Living in Istria has given me a taste of hedonism which I refuse to give up no matter where I live. When I moved to Zagreb, I immediately started looking for restaurants serving Italian cuisine because I can’t imagine living without pasta and fish. My favourite restaurant in Rijeka was Spagho, and my favourite restaurants in Zagreb are Il Secondo and Boban.
Being the capital, of course Zagreb plenty of gastro locations worth visiting, each of them specializing in something, from breakfasts to dinners, burger bars, pubs, pastry shops, sushi bars… I always jokingly say that Zagreb has so much to offer that you can easily spend a month’s salary in one day.
And that’s where people are wrong when they say that Zagreb is an expensive city because it’s the capital. It’s true that the rents are higher than in the rest of Croatia, but the prices of food and drinks are relatively affordable. Of course there are 5-star restaurants with prices and reputations to match, but it is known who they attract as potential customers.
Zagreb’s remains dynamic even at night, seven days a week. Theatre lovers have many plays to choose from every day, and anyone in search of live music can visit any nearby club or pub such as Pivana and Mojo, to name a few.
I openly admit that moving to Zagreb is one of the best decisions I have made so far because I’ve been given the opportunity to test my limits in a city with over one million people living in it. My life story is currently in the phase between the rising action and the climax where I’m achieving all of my goals. I have achieved my long-time dream of being a writer, the next one is creating a dynamic lifestyle which will allow me to be a digital nomad.
Who knows, maybe we’ll see each other in Japan.
* Column for japanese magazine COURRiER Japon / Kodansha Ltd