Croatia lies along the Adriatic Sea in Eastern Europe. It’s considered a developing economy with a focus on tourism. Here’s what you need to know if you find yourself about to embark on a business trip to Croatia.
The official language is Croatian, with the major secondary languages being German, Italian, English, and French. Many younger professionals speak fluent English, but it’s always a good idea to ask whether you should bring an interpreter. In addition, consider having the back of your business cards printed in Croatian as a sign of respect for your hosts.
Business greetings include a firm handshake and direct eye contact. Address professionals by their educational or managerial titles. If you don’t know the correct title, use “Gospodin” (Mr.) or “Gospodja” (Mrs.). Don’t use first names unless you’re invited to do so; this honor is usually reserved for close friends and family members.
- Punctuality is important; Croatians expect you to be early or on time.
- Remain standing until you’re invited to sit down; you may have an assigned seat.
- Agendas are fluid: Croatians want to know what the meeting is about but are open to branching off into other topics.
- First meetings are about getting to know each other, so don’t expect a finalized business deal or signed contract after a first meeting.
- Don’t schedule meetings for Friday afternoons. Family time is taken seriously, and many Croatians leave for their weekend cottages after lunch.
- Croatian business communication is a combination of directness and diplomacy. While naturally direct, Croatians are often more reserved when first meeting someone. As a new business associate, you may need to read between the lines. For example, “It is difficult,” might just mean, “No.”
- Croatians consider shy, reserved behavior to be a sign of weakness.
- Discussing personal problems is also seen as a sign of weakness. While small talk is an important part of building relationships, don’t air your dirty laundry!
- Croatian humor tends to be dark and sarcastic. Don’t be offended if your colleagues tease you, and, if they do, feel free to tease them right back.
- Croatians respect personal space, but they may be offended by too much personal space, taking it as a sign of dislike. The best approach is “when in Rome…”. Try to keep about the same amount of personal space as your hosts.
- Stay away from religion, politics, war, etc. These topics are taboo in Croatian business culture.
Business attire tends to be formal, with jackets and ties common for men. While women have a little more flexibility, remember to dress formally and modestly as a sign of respect for your hosts.
Formal negotiations typically take place in the office. However, business meals – lunches, in particular – are a popular way of getting to know each other. They usually take place in a restaurant rather than in a private home. The host is responsible for making the arrangements and for paying for the meal.
Croatia is a country rich in history and full of promise. If you’re fortunate enough to make a business trip to Croatia, general manners and respect will help guarantee a smooth trip.
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