Croatian in Croatia
Visiting a Private Home
Visiting one another's homes is a large part of social life in Coratia. Friends and family typically drop by unannounced and will stay for drinks and conversation, card playing and meals. If you are invited to someone's house for dinner, plan on arriving a half-hour to twenty minutes early in order to talk and have drinks before the meal. It is polite to bring coffee, sugar, wine, liquor, or a box of chocolates as a gift for your hosts (add little chocolates for any children in the house). One does not generally bring flowers nor need to write post-visit thank you notes.
When entering a house, a visitor needs to determine whether or not to remove street shoes. Generally, it will be fairly evident. If there are street shoes lined up in the entry way, or a host is wearing slippers, and/or the living room is carpeted, a guest should take off his/her shoes. As that happens, most hosts will protest, however, if all indicates that the family doesn't wear shoes in the house, one should remove one's shoes. A guest may well be given a pair of slippers to wear--it is polite to accept.
Visiting in a Croatian home is about much more than eating dinner. Leisurely drinking and talking before, during, and after the meal are considered an essential part of the visit. Don't expect to come for a quick dinner and then depart. Most Croatian homes will be well-supplied with both alcoholic and non-alcholic drinks: beer, wine, hard liquor, coffee, tea, and juice. Coffee is very strong, served plain, but milk and sugar are usually provided. Carbonated soft drinks are not common, and there are no diet, or reduced fat drinks or foods. Guests will be offered drinks throughout the evening. Conversations tend to be forceful and loud; they might sound confrontational to a foreigner but most likely are not.
Diners wish each other a good meal before starting to eat. A typical meal consists of soup; a main course with meat, potato, and salad; and a dessert of sweet cake or strudel.It is improper to compliment the food, the meal, or the cook. It is understood and assumed that the food will be very good. Also, one does not thank the hosts specifically for the meal, but rather at the end of the visit. Please, thank you, and excuse me are also rarely used at the table or in other interactions. For example, you say "pass the salt," not "please pass the salt." After the meal, men and women often divide into separate groups for socializing.
It is important to learn how to end an evening. Evening visits typically should end around 9:00 p.m. and not later than 10:00 p.m. A traveler must learn to say "I need to go now." There will be protests and the guest will be offered another drink. It is polite to stay for one more round. However, the guest should again say "I need to go now." The hosts will protest again and offer another drink. At that point it is expected that the guest will decline and depart in spite of the protests of the hosts. It is important to thank the hosts for the visit rather than the meal itself, since the meal is part of the entire visit.