One characteristic I noticed while in Croatia is how differently Croatians relate to their country from how we Americans relate to ours. For one thing, Croatians actually call the place they live their “homeland.” When’s the last time you (if you’re American) thought of your own country as your homeland? Oddly, we generally only reference that word in a slightly defensive way, connected to borders and keeping others out. There nothing inherently sentimental about that word for an American. Not so the Croatians—I heard that phrase over and over during my too-brief stay. And most times, when talking about their homeland, Croatians actually put their hands on their heart. It’s very touching to witness.
Another difference I noticed is how Croatians institutionally prioritize their values. For example, today, waiting to go through security at the airport, I witnessed the guard ward off a couple walking through the vacant “PRIORITY” lane. “No, you must stop!” he announced. With a bit of swag, the trespassing man answered, “It’s fine, I am in first class.” “Yes, maybe,” the agent responded, but you are not Priority: you have no children with you.” And he waved them back to the end of the line.
What? The key to priority standing in this country’s travel standards has nothing to do with financially-induced status? It’s not about how many miles you have flown (a proxy for how hard you work)? No. Status in this context is family-induced! What a concept! (Though I am long past the days of schlepping car seats and strollers and screaming kids, I love it when exhausted parents get to cut to the front of the line!)
Of course, broad generalizations like this really only tend to make things smaller. I know that, and yet, they point to an attitude I fell in love with in this glorious, rich-in-so-many-ways spot on the earth.
(I love traveling. You get to find out so much about yourself and your own “homeland.”)