De Australische Sarah-Jane verhuisde enkele maanden geleden met haar man Mate en 1-jarig zoontje Vladimir vanuit Sydney naar het klein dorpje Privlaka, niet ver van Zadar in Kroatië. Ik mocht haar wat vragen stellen over haar expat ervaringen.
De ouders van Mate zijn Kroatisch. Na het overlijden van zijn vader erfde hij een stuk grond in Privlaka inclusief een klein huisje dat zijn opa gebouwd had. Het interview met Sarah-Jane hieronder is in het Engels afgenomen. Het is vooral interessant voor liefhebbers van Kroatië en voor gezinnen die eraan denken om te emigreren naar Kroatië. Kijk ook vooral op de blog van Sarah-Jane, Chasing the donkey, waar ze haar Kroatisch avontuur bijhoudt.
Interview met Sarah-Jane
You moved from Sydney to the small village of Privlaka, in Dalmatia, in May (2013). That’s a tremendous change! How did your friends and family react on you leaving for Croatia? Weren’t you scared of making such a big switch?
We had many mixed reactions. Our dearest family and friends were supportive as we had mentioned it as an idea casually before we decided to take the plunge. We’ve never been a couple to stay in one place long, and after travelling for almost a year, those close to us knew we would come home with a new plan. But ohhh boy did we hear it from some others. In the end I just got to the point I was over hearing people tell us that we could not do it, and just wanted to board the plane. I was not scared until a few weeks before we left. I started doubting how I would parent alone. When we decided to move, we did not have any children, so when my son came along THEN I wondered how I would be alone.
Your husband works abroad half of the time, don’t you feel lonely in Privlaka when he’s gone?
Yes and no. Yes, I do as I miss him, and my network in Australia, but my little Baby Donkey is 16 months old and keeps me busy. I also have my husbands family who live in Privlaka who are very supportive while he is away. Plus I have my Croatian language lesson a few times per week and my blog which helps me stay busy. I haven’t managed to make any friends yet and unfortunately there is no mothers / play groups to attend. So that does sometimes worry me, for my son.
What do you miss most from your life in Australia? What would you say is the best thing in both countries?
Just my family and friends. All of the rest is of no importance, I can make do without the conveniences of a big city in return for my healthier more relaxed life here. The best part of Australia are the employment opportunities, they are in abundance and I do wish a little of that for Croatia. Here in Croatia, they have the balance right of the relaxed life and dedication to your family. Australians have lost some of that over the last 2 generations in my opinion.
What will you be doing in ten years? Why?
Who knows. Honestly, I do not even dare to think. When my husband and I get an idea, we just run with it. 10 years just seems like a lifetime away to know where we will be. I do hope I have a second child and that the 4 of us are smiling just as we are now and enjoying what precious time we get on planet Earth.
What was your childhood like?
It was tough for me. I grew up very, very poor. Living in the same rough part of Sydney my entire life. With my family just having enough money for food and bills that left no money for things like new clothes, so I wore hand me downs and had to wait for Xmas time for some new toy. Its made me very grateful for my life now, where those things are no longer a struggle for me.
Vladimir, your son, is one year old now. His childhood will be very different then yours. Was the birth of Vladimir a trigger to move to Croatia at this moment in life?
Oh yes, his is already much different. He has already lived in a few places, and is a very fortunate child and does not want for anything. Although he will be taught to be grateful and be shown that not everyone has things so easily in life. We had decided before we were pregnant to move to Croatia, but yes it partially was a trigger. I wanted to live in Croatia while my child was young, so that he could learn the language from the beginning and fit in at school and grow up as a Croat.
What do you think is overrated in the society we live in?
Most things. Fancy cars, the latest and greatest gadgets and all things of that nature. I too am guilty of this, and since moving to Croatia have cut back and am re-evaluating many things. I am convinced we all (myself very much included) need to get back to core family values, and being kinder to those around us.
Your husband Mate is a cancer survivor. Experiencing this must put life in a different perspective! Is he completely healthy now or does he still need medical care? How are the medical facilities where you live? Did you take that into account when making plans to move to Privlaka or not?
Now THIS was the main factor in our change of life. Cancer teaches you just how precious life is, and how in a second you can lose it all. I am forever grateful for Cancer, as it’s a constant reminder to take leaps of faith and do things that make you smile.
We’re fortunate that his Cancer went into remission and has stayed there for a few years now. HE has routine checks, and all seems to be going well. As for the medical care here in Croatia, we’ve not explored it for his annual checks as yet, we need to look at that in 2014. As for taking that into consideration, no we did not. Perhaps foolish, but if we stayed close to home and his doctors we’d be forever tied to one place and living in fear. If we need to, we can travel to Zagreb for his check ups, if the local medical facilities are unable to take him on.
What would be your best advice for people wanting to leave their country and come and live in Croatia?
Talk to people living where you want to live. You need to know the status of what the town has or does not have – and if that suits you. For example my area of Zadar is not a big expat community, so we do not have social gatherings or international playgroups like they do in Zagreb. Also, save, save and save. Although things in Croatia are not as expensive on some EU countries the cost of living here if you are on a local salary is very high. Ohh and pack all of your bikinis and board shorts as the beach life here is so wonderful !
Who would play you in the movie about your life and why?
A movie about me? Oh gosh, lucky that would never happen. I am not sure who exactly, but she would have to be rough around the edges but have a huge soft centre.
What’s your favorite Croatian recipe?
I have so many! And as the months go by, I find yet another dish I love. But I could never, never pass up a stuffed pepper like this one. I could eat these EVERYDAY.