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Croatia


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Country Overview
The Republic of Croatia occupies 21,819 square miles of what once was Yugoslavia. It is slightly smaller than West Virginia, and lies on the West Coast of the Balkan Peninsula on the Adriatic Sea, just north and west of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

People from Croatia are Croatian, but are ethnically divided as Croats (78) and Serbs (12). Croatian, Serbian, and German are all spoken. The capital and largest city is Zagreb.

Croatia, home to 4.7 million people, is a parliamentary democracy that established its first democratic constitution in 1990. Croatia's president is popularly elected and appoints a Prime Minister.

The legal currency in Croatia is kuna , consisting of 100 smaller units, called lipa. The name kuna, meaning "marten," has its origin in ancient times, when the marten's fur was used as a trade unit. The word lipa means "linden tree."

Croatians may vote when they are 18. Military service is mandatory for one year.

Croatia's recent war with its Serbian neighbors brought worldwide attention to the area, and virtually destroyed the country's prosperity. Before the war, 60 to 70 percent of Croatia's population could be considered middle class. After the war, only 20 to 30 percent retained their middle class lifestyle, and still struggle to do so.

Today, Croatia is a nation in recovery. European tourists who once flocked to Croatia's sunny beaches and offshore islands are slowly beginning to return.

Despite its troubles, Croatia is a country with a lot to offer. Croatian sculptors Ivan Mestrovic and Antun Augustinele created beautiful works, many of which can be seen in Croatia's parks and squares. The famous scientist Nikola Tesla was also Croatian. The composer Joseph Haydn was Croatian.

Croatia was the birthplace of two items that are used in everyday life: the necktie and the modern pen. And what would Disney do without Dalmatians, which originated in Dalmatia, the coastal region of Croatia.

The country is also home to some of Europe's finest Roman ruins, including the immense palace of Diocletian in Split.

Croatian folk music is a blend of styles. The kolo is a lively Slavic round dance, which is accompanied by Gypsy-style violinists or players of the tambura, a Croatian mandolin. Dalmatia's gentle guitar and accordion bands have a distinctly Italian sound.

A typical breakfast consists of eggs, bacon, butter, jam, toast or rolls, and milk, cocoa, or tea.

Lunch is the main meal of the day, and is often eaten late in the day. It usually consists of soup, meat, vegetables (often potatoes), and a dessert of ice cream or cake.

Dinner is a small, simple meal. Often it will consist of leftovers from lunch, sandwiches, or yogurt.

Some traditional foods are stuffed cabbage leaves, and many different types of strudel. Turkey and special pasta are served on Christmas, and roast suckling pig on very special occasions.

Other regional specialties include burek, a layered pie made with meat or cheese, and piroska, a cheese donut, manistra od bobica, soup of beans and corn, and struckle, cottage cheese rolls.

School
Croatia's school system is set up much like the one in the U.S. Students attend 8 years of elementary school, 4 years of secondary school, then may go on to college.

The similarities end there, however. Croatian students study 13-16 subjects and attend school for 6 to 8 hours a day. Both written and (most often) oral tests are given. Most students learn to write in Latin. While the official spoken language is Croatian, the official script is Latin.

The Council of Education, which is a branch of the ministry of Education and Sport, oversees the school system.

Croatia has a long tradition of higher education. Founded in 1669, the oldest and biggest university is at Zagreb. Most of the smaller cities have their own colleges.

Literacy rates are higher than in the US, at 97% for the general adult population.

Teenagers
Croatian teens dress like those in every other part of the world - in jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers.

Soccer and basketball are the most popular sports. Many Croatian teens play musical instruments or attend music schools.

Croatian teens often start dating in groups at around the age of 14.

Curfews vary from family to family but, in general, Croatian teens are accustomed to staying out much later than their American counterparts.

Teens in Croatia can legally purchase alcohol at shops and cafes. Many begin drinking before the age of 18.

The legal age for a driver's license in Croatia is 18. Most young people get a driver's license then, but very few own their own cars.

Community
Cable TV is relatively new to Croatia, but nearly everyone has satellite TV. Teens are the most avid television viewers.

Most families own a car, but despite this, many rely on public transportation to get to work or school.

Recycling is not as common in Croatia as it is in the U.S.

Family
In most Croatian families, both parents work. However, many working women continue to be primarily responsible for the housework and cooking.

An average Croatian family has 1 or 2 children. Many families keep pets, usually dogs, cats, or birds.

Divorce is fairly common among Croatian families.

Housing in Croatia is expensive. Many children continue to live with their parents well into adulthood. If space is a problem, parents will often help pay for a rented apartment.

Very often elderly relatives will also live with the family.

Maids are very uncommon. Croatian teens are accustomed to helping out around the house.

Customs
Most Croatians greet each other with a simple 'hello', depending upon how close they are.

Croatians bathe or shower daily. Most families own washing machines, and usually do laundry weekly.

The most prevalent religion in Croatia is Roman Catholicism. Church attendance has risen in the last 10 years. Most people will attend services for religious holidays, and now many also attend every Sunday.

The biggest holidays in Croatia are Christmas and Easter. These are celebrated in much the same way as in the U.S.

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