Living in Croatia for the past 5 years I have come to familiarize myself with the local life in Dalmatia. It has a special energy, a relaxed tempo and a unique temperament that each local is born with, commonly known as ‘Dalmatinski Temperament’. This unique temperament is in the Dalmatian blood and it expresses their love for the rocky soiled landscapes that decorate Dalmatia, the figs, olive oil, wine and its famed Adriatic sea coloured by various shades of blue. I remember when I first arrived in Split I noticed that Dalmatians, without trying, lived the quality life, the kind of life the western world dreamed of and I realized that I wanted that life.
One of the most common questions I get from friends, family, and travelers that make their way along the Croatian coast is “What can I do to look and act like a local?” and “How do Dalmatians live the relaxed life?” The Dalmatians have some distinct and unique characteristics; here are a few secrets on how to look and act like a local!
1. Fjaka: The Relaxed Life
‘Fjaka’ (pronounced “fyaka”) is a way of life in Dalmatia and is something that cannot be learned, rather you fall into the mode of fjaka naturally while in Dalmatia. According to some Dalmatians, the definition of fjaka is “a psychophysical state of mind when there is an aspiration for nothing and to do nothing. It is a common mistake to take fjaka as laziness, though unlike the latter; fjaka is a sublime state of mind and body to which all humanity aspires. In countries like India and elsewhere fjaka is being achieved through long-term starvation and meditation, in Dalmatia it is simply a gift from God.”
So relax, let your mind go and lets get Fjaking!
2. Pomalo: Time Does Not Exist
‘Pomalo is a way Dalmatians greet each other; they raise their hand slightly, and passionately say “pomalo.” Used by many coastal Croatians, it means “easy, relax,” which also applies to just about everything and describes the daily lifestyle. Everyone in Dalmatia lives in slow motion and the understanding of the concept of time is different than the norm. In other Croatian regions they joke around saying that there is a difference between “real time and Dalmatian time.” In Dalmatia time is just a formality, so, when making plans to meet, arrive at least 20 minutes late.
So don’t wear a watch, walk very slowly, take in the Mediterranean surroundings, and pomalo!
3. Marenda: Eat like a Dalmatian
In Dalmatia brunch is known as ‘marenda’. Marenda has a rich history that originated in the Dalmatian hinterland. Farmers traditionally started their morning with marenda at 6:00am. It consisted of a handful of dried figs, almonds, cheese, and domestic grape brandy eaten before heading off to work in the fields and vineyards. Upon returning, the required mid-day rest would be taken from 11:00am to 1:00pm, followed by daily prayer, lunch, and another stint in the fields until evening.
Nowadays marenda is eaten all over Dalmatia and in larger coastal towns with a modern twist. It is usually a meal that’s eaten between the hours of 8:00am and 11:30am, though there are no set time rules — it can even be eaten in the late afternoon. Usually after marenda some locals still feel the need to have a 30-minute nap known as ‘ubit oko’ that translates to ‘rest my eyes’ and, according to the locals, helps with digestion. Marenda is now commonly made up of bakery delights, fine cheese, prosciutto, and seasonal vegetables and fruits.
So head to the local ‘pazar’ (farmers market) and stock up on the local domestic produce and begin your day with the Dalmatian Marenda. WARNING — rest may be required!
4. ‘Ćakula’: Dalmatian Small Talk
Life in Dalmatia gives you the opportunity to always have time for “Ćakula” (pronounced “cha-kula”). Ćakula has various meanings: it can either be small talk, chitchat, or gossip. In Dalmatia the word ćakula combines all these meanings into one. Ćakula can last for 10 minutes or 4 hours and can be informative, useless, humorous, dull, or compelling, and most times it is all of these at once. Ćakula is conducted at the bus stop, buying fruit at the farmers market, or in the middle of the street, but most commonly ćakula is done over coffee at a café.
So grab your local Croatian friend, sit down at the nearest café, and start talking about everything and anything. Observe people that pass by, debate about the local news, or tell a joke. Your ability to ćakula is one of the best indicators that your on your way to looking and acting like a local.
5. Scooters or Bike: Ride Like a Dalmatian
If you have ever been on a summer vacation along the Adriatic coast you would have noticed men and women, young and old, on scooters or bicycles everywhere. The secret of the bicycle and scooter success is in its practicality and reducing the chaos of transportation, because Dalmatians want to avoid chaos at all cost! As soon as the sun comes out, locals along the coast whip out their two-wheeled best friend. It’s the best way to beat the traffic and a great way to explore Croatia with its 1000 islands, small seaside villages and hidden bays!
P.S. Rent a scooter or bicycle and blend in with the locals superbly!
6. Cvike: Never leave home without your Sunglasses
‘Cvike’ pron- svi-ke is the local coastal slang for sunglasses. Rain, hail, or shine, it’s no secret that sunglasses are the must-have fashion accessories for all Dalmatians. There are two reasons behind this: first because of the high amount of sunny days per year in Dalmatia, and second, Dalmatians, quite frankly, like to look good!
From Ray-Bans to Prada, if you don’t own sunglasses you are not normal, and, according to local theory, you will damage your eyesight, and will be more likely to go blind — and you most definitely are not from Dalmatia!
So make sure that you don’t forget to pack your sunglasses. It’s common in Dalmatia to have two pairs of sunglasses, a less expensive pair for use at the beach and sunbathing, and a more expensive chic pair when walking around the city – because God forbid you’d walk around a Dalmatian city without your stylish cvike.
7. Kava: Its coffee time 24/7
Croatians in general have an amazing ability to drink a single cup of coffee for hours upon hours whilst watching the world go by. Croatians are infatuated about their daily dose of coffee in a café. The whole of Croatia has a rich coffee culture and you will notice on any given day during the week, at all hours, there are people everywhere sitting in bars and cafes — yes, you guessed it! — drinking coffee. Many of my friends who have travelled to Croatia have mistaken a normal day for a public holiday, as they could not believe how many people are drinking coffee all day long.
To fully enjoy this beloved ritual, drink your coffee slow, in the company of a few friends, while practicing your Ćakula skills. Learn to people-watch and comment on the world going by. Here is a great guide to getting your Croatian coffee terminology right!
Now you should be set, so you can blend in with local life, and start acting and looking like a Dalmatian!
Are you planning to visit Dalmatia to experience a little piece of authentic Croatia?
Have a look at Select Croatia’s tours and start planning your trip to Dalmatia!