Am I wrong to throw in the towel for the men in a country that I love so much? I pose this question after living in Croatia for almost a year now. I am one and a half months shy of my first anniversary and I am now as perplexed as other women are around here about the men.
Let me explain this statement for a moment, but first let me state that some of the men here are nice, friendly, and attractive. I don’t think that it has to do with negative racism at all but the inability to man up and go for what they may want because of the perceived negative consequences in dating outside of their race. Of course this is not all men, as I have seen a few relationships of mixed culture and race, but this is definitely not the norm in Croatia.
When I first arrived here I was a little shocked at the lack of ‘color’ in my surroundings. I came in from Split and traveled to Zadar by bus, and not once saw any other color. It took me a few weeks in Zadar to finally see another black female. Of course when the summer came around, being the Adriatic coast and a popular vacation destination, an influx of different races did appear. But, I say this to paint a picture of my initial hesitancies regarding being accepted. Long story short it was just a precaution because I have NEVER, NEVER NEVER and again let me say NEVER felt as though I was in any sort of threat. Of course racism exists everywhere, but the looks coming from both men women and children were of a curious nature for the most part.
I even asked the air bnb host that I was renting from if I would experience any problems of the dating kind here. Her answer was no. Then I met my first friend Tea’. She gave me the first notion that it wouldn’t be my color that would be an issue on the coast, it would be my weight. She was also of the fuller persuasion and said that guys would jump at the chance to date me if I was skinnier. She even said that for most girls they have to take the first step in order for something to get going. Now I know that this was based on her own problems and even though she was the first to say that they are confusing, I didn’t get the full knowledge of it until I experienced it for myself.
During my 5 months in Zadar I met a few guys who seemed interested then backed off. I inquiried about this and was told that this was the norm in Croatia as the men don’t know what they want. I heard this from older men as well as Tea’. Most men I met always asked if I liked Croatian guys, and my answer was always yes. They are definitely an attractive group of men. But attraction only goes so far when one half freezes up on the regular.I even had a ‘good’ friend who was a married man suggest that I start walking to lose weight and then maybe I could find a guy. He didn’t say this with malice but I was taken aback and told him that my weight had no bearing on why I was single. I honestly had no issues with my weight in the U.S, albeit it may seem weird to a foreigner who see the stereotypes on television of all the plastic surgery going on. I tried to in my best way to see his attitude through his own culture, especially living on the coast where it is expected to have a bikini ready body. No harm done. But this would be the beginning of the male psyche of the Croatian men coming forth to paint a picture for me.
I say male because I have not found the same barrier with women here. In fact I have been approached on several occasions which has never happened in the U.S. The first was in Zadar when a woman leaned over and licked me on the chest while I was dancing and having a good time. The second was at another club in Zagreb where a girl kept staring at me then boldly came over and kissed me (on the cheek). I have danced with plenty of women and even on the regular am called a ‘hot woman’ by my current air bnb host who is in her 60’s. So if the courage of the women would just channel themselves over to the men I probably wouldn’t be writing this post right now.
Anyhoot, I cut my losses and moved to Zagreb. Not in pursuit of love by any means, but for a better opportunity to travel with my pets. I must admit that in the back of my mind I did expect to meet more available men with whom I could hang out with on a deeper level, if not only for good conversation, or something more. I was told that the people in Zadar were different from Zagreb, like a whole other world different. This was correct. Except for the men of course.
Even though Zagreb is a lot bigger than Zadar with about 1 million people, it was a lot harder to meet someone. For the first month I didn’t meet anyone so I put myself out there and joined internations and this is where I started meeting people. Women at first but then it blossomed to men. I became more comfortable with the city and started going to events and out to bars. I met a lady from Egypt who said she met her Croatian husband on okcupid and said this was the best place to meet decent men. She had been in the online dating scene for over 7 years and this was the best website in her opinion. So I joined. Mind you this was not in any way my cup of tea. I had only been on a dating website once before for about two weeks because of the free trial Valentines Day special, and that is where I met my then future husband and now ex.
That was in 2008 and so I thought if it worked then why not try it again. I did for a few months but it isn’t my style. The men I met were also of the same mindset. I had to cheerlead some men to convince them to meet me ‘and be seen out in public’. It all became too much when I am a very confident female who believes a man who is worth my time should already know my worth.
Even though I was told that the men here were difficult I didn’t understand the brunt of that statement. I have heard this from many sources even including my pet supply friend who begged me not to even try to date a Croatian guy as she was married to one (being Croatian herself). Mind you she didn’t say not to date outside my race, she actually encouraged me to date other races that had pooled in Croatia due to Zagreb’s international appeal, but just not a Croatian guy. I thought this was a bit harsh but now I am seeing the wisdom in her words.
Before I give my opinion on the attitude of (most) men here let me state that I have met some wonderful guys. They are open, inviting, fun to talk to and be around. Also, like I said before it isn’t like this attitude they have is geared just toward me, it is geared toward most women in my age group who date the men in the same age group. It is not the opinion of most older men as I have been approached by more men ages 60 and over than any other. They have also been the ones to voice the confused nature of the men in the younger generations as being stuck in a time warp and not wanting responsibility. Some have said it is because of the recent home land war which may have caused PTSD to most of the men and caused them not to want to build a family. I am not sure what it is although I have heard from some younger men who confirm that guys here just don’t know what they want. That is why they pursue a girl then get cold or just blow them off. This is not to be mistaken with those we call ‘dogs’ in the U.S. Although of course there are no good men anywhere. These men just really are confused it seems.
Let me take for example one guy I did meet on okcupid before I deleted my account in frustration. He seemed like he had his head on straight but he would only contact me every two weeks. One would think that he was maybe married or had a girlfriend, but guys I met said that this was normal and to give him time. Eventually he sent me a message stating that he was sorry he hurt me and that I would find a decent man. I was confused because I didn’t know what had transpired. I gave him an out and asked did he find someone else and he said yes. Now whether this was true or not who knows, but I decided to help him save face by offering up options that didn’t make him seem like an all out weirdo.
Another example is of an older gentleman I met who wasn’t really my type but I decided to get out of my comfort zone and go for it. We went to get coffee and before then he kept saying he was nervous and confused. About what I asked, he didn’t know because he had been on dates from this website but he was still confused. Okay whatever. We go to get coffee and he says he has two sons ages 18 and 14 and a deceased wife. This is around New Years and after our meeting he texts me talking about how he wants sex from a black woman and also a wife. Wo! Taking me too fast I proclaim but I reassure him that I like him but no sex talk AND definitely no wife talk after just meeting. Of course he failed to contact me anymore.
This scenario leads me to another one where I have been told of how men here view black women. Apparently they have been propagandaed to think that black women just want sex. Which isn’t true of course. I don’t know if this is why men who did approach me would tell me that they always wanted to be with a black woman. First off this is a big turnoff. Just because you are attracted to me doesn’t mean I automatically am toward you or that I want to think of you in a sexual manner. I try to chalk this up as not having enough experience around a black female, although my belief is that you treat them as you would any woman you liked.
I have had conversations with some men here who think there is nothing wrong with that to express deep feelings for a woman. And I try to convey that it could come off as disgusting because what makes you think the black woman wants to envision herself having sex with you even if you are thinking that way. I always assume that if a man approaches me he clearly finds me sexually attractive. It is a given and doesn’t need to be stated. That doesn’t mean it will happen but it is understood. I also had a guy from okcupid overrationalize this until he just called off the meeting we had to have coffee. He kept saying that if we met he would try to have sex because it would be a fantasy and it wouldn’t be decent to treat me like that. I tried to tell him that just because he thought that doesn’t mean it would happen. We may click and become friends but then he brought up he would be uncomfortable, not knowing what others would think of him being out with a black girl. Case solved. Needless to say I wouldn’t want a guy that insecure about being seen with me. I am an attractive woman and if anything would only complement you out in public.
I think the last straw of my experience with Croatian guys came a few weeks ago when I went out to go to the movies. This guy approached me and he was adamant about going out for coffee. I have learned that this is a surefire way to determine if a guy likes you. Anyway, I declined because I had somewhere to go. But he was very persistent. I have also learned that in Croatia men don’t take no for an answer. It is more of a culture thing because women want to seem hard to get so if you say no they press harder because they know the woman may not want to seem easy. I have heard this from an older woman and then when I asked what do you do if you really are not interested and she said to lie. Say that you are married, which I think is a bit outlandish but it is what it is. Back to the story though, so he follows me from bus to tram.
Finally he convinces me to ditch my movie plans and have coffee with him by rationalizing that he knows that I know we will never meet again (although we exchanged numbers) if we don’t go out tonight. I couldn’t help but laugh and agree so we sat at a McDonalds and talked for over an hour. Then we continued our conversation at a local bar, all the while he was continuing to serenade me with ‘I really like you’ while staring at me in a deep and meaningful way. Of course I was not anywhere near head over heels or fawning over him but I did enjoy his company. Ask me if I ever saw him again after such a seemingly great night. Nope. I received a message a few days later asking if I wanted to hang out, but I didn’t get it until a day later and then no reply, ever again.
These situations may not be much to deter me if I was still in the U.S as there are plenty of open minded men out there. But in Croatia this is as good as it gets. For me it is not worth having to pump someone up to be seen with you because of how they think others will react. I think my issue here is a mixture of my extra weight and skin color, although how much of each is a mystery. I say this because especially in Zagreb there are a lot of women of different sizes, and a lot who are bigger than me. So that by itself is not the issue. I think it topples with my skin color, although there are some Croatians who have a darker pigment too.
I do believe it is a male mentality though that they don’t even realize at times. They are probably confused as to why they think what they do. I have had to bear questions from an 11 year old male kid who asked me just as openly what I liked about my fat after he noticed I was quite comfortable and confident with my weight. Mind you he is not skinny himself, but for a male to have fat is clearly acceptable. It is like in their mind, even at a young age, losing weight will solve the problem of their confusion.
Not in Croatia. Like I said even their own women, whether skinny or plump, say they are a bit off. I have also been schooled by an older heavy set Croatian guy to not take offence if a woman from his culture talks about my weight. He says that all Americans are too sensitive. He actually posed this notion after being hurt by his own male friends talking about his weight, but then he projected the situation upon me and set it in the minds of women of his culture. I had to correct him and tell him that the women have no problem with my weight, at least the ones that I have met who have complimented me or tried to seduce me lol.
His reaction was filled with shock- as if he could not see my beauty. Of course he was drunk so I swatted him out the way and didn’t take what he said to heart. He even apologized after the fact. But I say this to show the confusion men have as to really coming to terms with their own feelings. He may for whatever reason honestly feel that he shouldn’t find me attractive because women of his culture would look down upon it and chastise him for dating outside his race. But I think that men like him syke themselves out of a good woman.
But since I do love this country with its beautiful coast and rich history, I don’t really want to leave. Does this mean that I want to never be in a relationship. Of course not. This means I have opened my options up to more alternatives such as long distance relationships and I have even found a nice website geared toward plus size women and the men who adore it. Even though my mind isn’t focused on a love match or jumping the broom any time soon, sharing ideas and goals with someone you feel an attraction and deep connection to never goes out of style. So my desire (as it was in the beginning) is still to find a nice complement to my life outside of my race (as I dated black men all my life, and as they say when in Rome) and see if it blossoms into a great friendship, traveling opportunity, or something everlasting. I will definitely continue admiring Croatian men for their looks and intelligence (the school system is amazing)..hey a girl has needs…I will decline opening up my world to more confusion and turmoil unless I run across the epitome of me in male form lol. Good luck on that one, yes I know.
In closing, I will answer my own question with the common tweaked phrase of… if I am wrong then I clearly at this moment and time don’t want to be right.