Croatians its time for a change!!!

Now I spend a lot of time talking to Croatians about American culture (its actually my job) and usually after telling people about the USA, they are like: “Yep, we like our customs better and we will just go on living right here in good ol’ Hrvatska” (that last word is what Croatians call Croatia).Some of the biggest differences between the US and Croatia (actually the US and MUCH of the world) involve how people drink and dine together.

Let me relate one story. The first time I was ever invited to dinner with a Croatian we went to a local neighborhood restaurant in the middle of Oklahoma. This guy started ordering almost every appetizer off of the the menu. He kept telling me to order whatever I wanted. Meanwhile I was getting fumed, thinking: Man, this jerk is ordering all this food that I DON’T want and I’m going to be stuck paying half of the bill for an order of Queso con carne and some BBQ chicken wings. To my chagrin my friend picked up the entire check! Yep, that’s how it is in America. Even when someone tells you to order whatever you want you can still think that you will pay for it yourself, unless they specifically tell you: I WILL PAY FOR ALL THIS, which is ridiculously forward. In Croatia on the other hand, it is always assumed that the one who does the inviting will pick up the check.

This generosity is further extended when you are invited to someone’s house. Among my Croatian friends I’ve heard horror (actually normal in America) stories about going to a dinner party in the US and having to bring your own food and alcohol. Apparently this extends to Australia too, where a friend was shocked that each family invited to the BBQ had to bring their own food and no one shared. In Croatia, being the host is very important. The quantity and quality of food provided by the host is always impressive. The rule is basically you have to provide anything that your guest may possibly want at any time. When we have guests we always buy too much beer, too much dip, too much wine, too many cookies... from my perspective. Whereas from my wife’s perspective we buy a barely sufficient amount.

So what needs to change? For the most part nothing. I would contend that we Americans could loosen up a little bit and buy each other coffee, a beer or some chicken wings a bit more often; however, the one thing that Croatians I talk to actually think that Americans have one up on them involves birthdays. Here’s how it works in Croatia. On your birthday you invite your friends out for food and drinks. You eat. You drink. They eat. They drink. Then YOU pick up the tab! If you’re popular that could mean buying the meals and drinks of 10+ people (its also normal to invite ALL of YOUR friends) which can easily reach into the couple hundreds of dollars in a country where the average wage is around $1,000 a month. So what happens? You don’t go out. You sit at home, save money and have a sad, lonely birthday watching Dancing with the Stars.

In the States it is the friends of the birthday person that pay for that person’s drinks and meal. You know, its like a gift ON YOUR BIRTHDAY! Plus it makes a whole lot more sense (economically at least). A meal and a few drinks divided by ten people is much better.

IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE! My faithful Croatian readers (all 3 of you!) you can be the vanguard of this bold move! The next time you go to someone’s birthday celebration conspire with their friends to pay for the birthday boy’s (or girl’s) meal. America has already invaded your country with our McDonalds, pop music and catchy sayings like “Super Duper,” so what’s one more change? Come on! Start the revolution and there will be inexpensive birthdays for everyone!!