Croats see themselves as belonging to the Western world, even though in terms of religion the country stands between Islam and Orthodox Christianity in the East and the Catholicism of central Europe.

The official language, according to the Constitution, is but in the large cities and along the coast most people speak at least one foreign language (usually German), although English is coming into wider usage, particularly among younger people. When meeting a Croatian, it's usual to shake hands, although a kiss on the cheek is appropriate when it's a friend. Croatians tend to be friendly but not obsequious — shopkeepers and waiters are not universally helpful. In conversations, tread carefully when the 1991 war comes up: it can be a conversational minefield, since years of intermarriage has blurred any clear dividing lines between Serb and Croat.

As a visitor, casual clothing when sightseeing and on the beaches is usual, but churches frown on anything scanty— legs and shoulders should be covered, even if it's just for a quick look inside a church. For business, appearance is important:this means a suit and tie for men and business dress for women. Restaurants and nightclubs don't require this kind of formality, but Croatians always try to look their best when eating out so it's wise to follow suit. One place where you don't have to worry about dress is at one of the many nudist beaches (these have signs with the letters FKK on them). At family beaches, it is OK to go topless, except when going into a beachside bar or restaurant, when tops should be worn.

When it comes to food, Croatians usually eat lunch relatively late in the afternoon, so restaurants have a kind of daily brunch called marende available in the morning. (It's similar to lunch but with smaller portions.) Pizzerias, perhaps as a legacy from the years of Venetian rule, are everywhere, and no Croatian town is without one. Another legacy, this time from Hapsburg rule, is a love of pastries. Local slastiearnice (patisseries) are filled with tortes and rolls and lots of goodies stuffed with whipping cream.At meal times, Croatians clink glasses and look directly into each other's eyes.


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