Cyndi Wibe


Brief Croatian History

  • In the 7th century they settled in the Roman province of Pannonia.
  • Between the 7th and 9th centuries they converted to Christianity.
  • They defeated Byzantine and Frankish invaders in 925 and established their own independent kingdom.
  • A civil war took place in 1089, which led to the country being conquered by Hungarians in 1091.  The Croatian tribal chiefs and the Hungarian king signed the Pacta Conventa in 1102, which united the two nations.
  • The Turks defeated the Hungarians at the battle of Mohacs in 1526.
  • In 1867 the Austro-Hungarian kingdom was created and Austrian archduke Ferdinand was elected as king.
  • After claiming independence on October 29, 1918, Croatia joined in a union with Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.  In 1929 the name was changed to Yugoslavia.
  • During WWII Croatia became Nazi puppets killing countless Serbs and Jews.
  • After the war, Croatia was made into a republic.  They wanted independence.
  • In 1990 free elections were held, and in June of 1991 they declared their independence from Yugoslavia.  Fighting broke out and the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavian army claimed thousands of lives and caused mass destruction.
  • The UN arranged a cease-fore on January 2nd in 1992.  For years there was internal back and forwards over the government. There have been conservative rulers and center-left parties in office.


  • Introductions—They are not big on hugging, but they are expected to kiss on both cheeks.
  • Family—they make personal sacrifices to benefit and honor their family.

o     Elderly parents usually live with their adult children or         grandchildren, especially if widowed.

o   Kids are raised under strict discipline and are expected to respect their elders.

  • Food—they love to eat and offer food to their guests.  It is not rude to reject their food, just simply say “No, thank you.”  Often times they will repeat the phrase “Jedi, jedi, jedi,” which means “Eat, eat, eat.”

o   Big into seafood.

  • Drinks—if you go out with a Croatian, they will want to buy.  Not fighting for the bill is rude.  If you do not show interest in wanting to buy the drinks, then that is rude.  If you lose paying for the bill, it is polite to offer to buy them another drink or to invite them out again for drinks another time.
  • Weddings

o   The bride’s family will playfully put obstacles in the grooms way to stall him from arriving at the church at time.

o   The women relatives will remove the bride’s veil and replace it with a scarf and apron to represent her new status as a wife.  They do this while singing to her.

o   The guests walk around a well three times.  It represents holy trinity.  Apples are thrown into it to ensure the newlywed’s fertility.


I observed an Italian family as they dinned in celebrating the opening of a restaurant.

I showed up and a group of family members were walking around the restaurant getting the final touches ready.  Two of the bosses began talking to each other in Italian.  I could not understand then, but one of them reached in his pocket.  He pulled out a wad of cash and pulled away two bills.  He then handed me two hundreds to go to the bank for change.  Once I returned, the group had gathered at a table in the front of the restaurant.  I went back to the register and began putting the money away.  Once I was back there, a new girl—one of the owner’s nieces—came behind the counter to train.  Her aunt, the owner’s wife, came to the register to talk to us while the men all went outside for a cigarette.  Each time the door opened you could hear the guys outside were laughing, yelling in Italian, and their hands were flying.  Every time they talked, their hands were flying through the air.  Ten minutes later, the guys finally came in.

A while later, the girl I was training mom’s and five year old sister came into the restaurant.  They sat at the front table and were soon joined by the others.  The family sat at a large table laughing and talking amongst each other.  The younger people talked more than the elders.  The youngest was a child who is five.  She sat next to her mother.  Once she began to whine, the mother would yell at her.  The girl would immediately stop crying and sit quietly for a few minutes.  The men tended to talk more than the girls.  The guys would get up and walk around the table talking amongst each other, while the ladies remained seated.  Everyone was speaking Italian for the most part, but they would switch to English through out their conversations.

When the food came, they had ordered a lot of food and split it amongst everyone.  Everyone piled up their plates and passed around the food generously.  The Italian chefs went out to talk to the family; the family and the family eating are good friends.  They talk loudly amongst themselves.  The men are still talking more than the women.  After everyone finished eating, the males went outside to smoke a cigarette—their third cigarette of the hour.


I did an interview with Sal Dattolo, a friend of my boss.  He is an Italian man who lives in Bridgewater.  During the interview I asked a lot about his family life.  When asked about what it was like growing up in an Italian family he says, “Growing up in an Italian family being a guy and the first born is like being treated like royalty.”

He goes on to describe the lifestyle he lives.  He works with his father at his father’s company.  Working side by side with a family member can cause issues, but not for Sal and his father.  The two get along great and always have something to talk about.  Sal said, “I think we were raised just like everyone else. Italians are very close to each other.  Any get together Italian people have is like a big family party.”  His family is part of the group I observed.  A lot of times he comes into Prosecco to eat and spend time with Sav, his friend and a worker at Prosecco.  Sal comes in a lot of nights to eat dinner at Prosecco.  He says, “Most of the things we do together are holidays and always eat together.”  This was funny to me, because his sister told he almost never eats dinner at home.

Most of our conversation centered on the family.  Italians are family oriented and love to be together.  I did only get to spend fifteen minutes with Sal talking to him, but I tried to catch him every time he came in to hang out.  One time he talked to me told me a joke about why Italians do not work in Italy.  He said because Italy has no economy.  Then why do Italians not live in Italy; because there is no economy?  Sal encouraged me to talk to his father if I wanted to learn more about Italy, but I did not have time to meet with him.

Croats in Italy


  • Social cohesion—they work well together.
  • Identity—they were united through a history of shared statehood.  They are religious. National identity is framed in abstract terms, though in uniting a community of strangers the nation also has resonance in the locale. This resonance depends on the material aspects of the nation, principally the perpetuation of kinship-like ties in social practice.

o   Standard Croatian is based on the most widespread dialect of Serbo-Croatian, Shtokavian, more specifically on Eastern Herzegovinian, which is also the basis of Standard SerbianBosnian, andMontenegrin. All other Serbo-Croatian dialects are also spoken by ethnic Croats (Chakavian,Kajkavian, and Torlakian (by the Krashovani)). These four dialects, and the four national standards, are usually subsumed under the term “Serbo-Croatian” in English, though this term is controversial for native speakers,[8] and paraphrases such as “Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian” are therefore sometimes used instead, especially in diplomatic circles.

o   Do not talk about the conflict between Croatia and Serbia or the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (or their comparisons).

o   Religion is important to them, and the majority belongs to the Roman Catholic faith.  Do not talk about divorce, euthanasia, family planning or alternative beliefs

Cultural specificity

o   Pointing at someone is considered rude, as is waving your index finger; instead, it is best to use your whole hand or nod in the direction of a person.

o   Raising your thumb, index and middle finger is a Serbian nationalism gesture and maybe offensive to Croatian people. When signifying the number three use the index, middle and ring fingers.

  • Supra-regional contexts
  • Influence of technology

o   They have the television network SBS that is available in major cities.  It produces news daily.  There is a SBS radio station as well.  From this, I gather that technology is not a huge part of their lives.

o   They read newspapers and read books.

  • Appropriation from other languages—Siberia and Yugoslavia

Nonverbal communication

  • Appearance

o   They take pride in their appearance.  They wear gold jewelry.

o   On Sundays they usually dress in more formal attire as a sign of respect.  It is inappropriate to wear shorts or short sleeved shirts on Sundays.

  • Artifacts

o   They wear holy necklaces or pendants representing the church.

  • Kinesis—motions, movements

o   When shaking hands, make eye contact

o   Eye contact during a conversation is expected.  Avoiding it can make them think you do not like the other person.

  • Haptic—touch

o   When greeting someone close to you, you kiss their cheeks and hug

o   Personal space is respected.  People do not generally touch each other unless they are in a familiar relationship.  When you become friends, then touching is ok.

  • Proxemics—space between people

o   Personal space is respected.  People do not generally touch each other unless they are in a familiar relationship.  When you become friends, then touching is ok.

  • Chromatics—timing

o   Young must introduce themselves first.

o   Wait for the elder to finish speaking, do not inturupt

Paralanguage—prosody, pitch, volume, intonation

  • Vocal characteristics and segregates

o   They generally talk in loud voices and are animated with their body language.  If you are soft spoken you may be thought of as lacking confidence.

  • Silence

o   Kids should be silent.

Cultural context

  • Formality

o   When first meeting each other, they are more formal.  They generally use titles and surnames to address each other until they know each other well, then they will use first names.

o   Women are introduced first then men.  It is according to age—oldest to youngest.

o   Young people are expected to introduce themselves the elder first.

  • Informality

o   When people become friends or when talking to family, they will use first names and be a bit less formal when talking to peers.

o   Humor is used to communicate, and is not meant to be offensive but a way of making light of difficult situations or a person’s flaws and it is common to respond the same way.

  • Assertiveness and interpersonal harmony

o   They are straightforward with their communication with an emphasis on respect and being diplomatic.

  • Power distance

o   The children are expected to respect the elders since the elders are traditionally seen as the source of knowledge.

o   There is still disoutes at the boarder

  • Cultural ways of knowing and learning preferences

o   School there is a similar system as here.

o   Learn from your elders and the norms of society.




Saverio Greceo

Sal Dattolo


(2002). Bits of culture—Coratia. Medical Interpreter Services. Retrieved from

(2014). How to act as a Croat. IstraWiz.  Retreaved from


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