Expat Tips

After spending the spring semester in Dubrovnik in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2018, I’ve learned a lot about what to bring when I go!

Cooking Supplies

This part is a bit idiosyncratic. The grocery stores in Dubrovnik are very well stocked, but there are certain recipes that I’m attached to, and certain flavors that I love, that are hard to replicate with what’s available here. My blueberry muffins require double-acting baking powder, which works very differently from the single-acting powder available here, so I always bring a can of that. It’s also a pain in the ass to translate beloved recipes that I can make from memory from imperial to metric measurements, so I bring measuring cups and spoons. (It’s gotten easier over the years to find these in town, but I prefer to have my own.)

Maple syrup is very hard to find here, and is very expensive if you can find it, so I bring that with me. (Small bottles of it, or maple sugar candy, also make very nice gifts for locals.) This time around I also brought Frank’s red hot sauce, because the flavor of it reminds me of home. Peanut butter is also hard to find, and what they have is nothing like the familiar creamy version that’s ubiquitous in the US. As a result, I always bring a jar of peanut butter, which I don’t eat often, but which I occasionally crave. I also bring a big bag of Reeses’ cups, because there’s nothing like them in Croatia, and they make good gifts. And because I like making chocolate chip cookies, I bring a bag of chocolate chips. (I could break chocolate bars up into chunks, but I’m a purist.)

Language/Translation

Translation tools on phones have gotten really good, and while most people in Dubrovnik speak English, not all of them do. As a result, I use my phone a lot to have conversations with people who speak only Croatian. Both Google Translate and Microsoft Translator are excellent, and will translate spoken language as well as text viewed through the camera.

For language learning, the only decent app I was able to find was Mondly. (DuoLingo doesn’t yet include Croatian.)

Laundry

Many furnished apartments have washing machines, but almost none have dryers. Be prepared to have to hang-dry your clothes, and to do it inside if it’s raining. I’ve gotten careful about what clothing I bring, because if it’s something that takes forever to dry it’s going to be a pain. There are laundromats with dryers, but not many, and they’re ridiculously expensive because they’re intended for tourists.

Luggage

I bring a decent amount of clothing with me, because I need to cover two seasons as well as both casual and work contexts. Since I also bring plenty of toiletries and foodstuffs (see below), my luggage can get heavy. I usually plan to pay for a second bag. On the way home I won’t have the toiletries and food, but I will be bringing back as much wine as my weight limit will accommodate! I typically bring one large hardshell suitcase, one large lightweight duffel bag, and a carryon. (If you’re traveling as a family, it can be easier to stay within the one bag per person limit, since a lot of items are shared.)

Medicine Cabinet

I learned the hard way the first time I lived in Dubrovnik that (a) you can only buy OTC meds at an actual pharmacy (not at grocery stores), and (b) oral diphenhydramine (aka benadryl), which I depend on for both nighttime allergy symptoms and insomnia, is not available there at all. So I now bring with me nearly all the OTC meds that I keep at home–diphenhydramine, aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium (aka aleve), Sambucol for cold/flu, antacids, topical hydrocortisone, neosporin, and a first aid kit with various sizes of bandaids, especially the ones intended for covering blisters.

If you have prescription meds, you’ll need to get your full supply before you leave, since it’s not legal to ship prescriptions. Because I was there for four months, I had to jump through some hoops with my insurance company and doctor–especially because I take a medication that’s a controlled substance. I eventually got everything I needed, but I’d recommend starting early on that process. (Even if you can get someone to prescribe the meds while you’re in Croatia, the medication names and formulations are different there, and not everything you can get in the US is available there.)

Technology

I bring a US power strip that accommodates nearly every type of international plug as well USB connectors–paired with an adapter that allows me to plug it into the 220V wall outlet.  That means I don’t need a separate adapter for every single device. Most computers and phones can switch easily between 110 and 220v supplies, but check your device to be sure! (I had a student ruin a handheld game console that turned out to be 110 only; for items like that you’ll need a step-down transformer.)  I also bring a handful of US to European plug adapters, although they’re easy enough to acquire there.

I always bring an unlocked phone, and then buy a prepaid Croatian SIM when I arrived. There are several cellular carriers that offer these; a decent prepaid monthly plan will cost about $15/month for a decent number of calls and texts as well as plenty of data. I also bring a high-capacity battery for recharging my mobile devices, so I don’t have to carry too many plug adapters around with me when I’m out of the house.

Most streaming video and music services are region-locked, and so can’t be watched over local network connections. However, I found that wasn’t a problem when I used my university’s VPN, which makes my devices look like they’re in Rochester.  (There are plenty of third-party VPN providers offering similar services, but the streaming sites are getting really good at keeping track of those and blocking them.)

You can’t bring your favorite appliances with you (even if they weren’t too heavy for your luggage), so if there’s something you can’t live without that your apartment doesn’t already have, you’ll need to buy them in town. Ask a local where the best place is; I used to use the TechnoMarket in the shopping plaza in Gruz, but I don’t know if it’s still open. I usually buy a hair dryer and curling iron there–while you can buy dual-current versions  in the US, the hair dryer will then only work on high heat.

Toiletries

While there are lots of places in town selling a range of toiletries, it’s hard for me to read ingredients in Croatian, and as I get older my skin and hair have become less forgiving about what they’ll tolerate. As a result, I bring my preferred brands of makeup, shampoo, deodorant, and facial cleanser.

Weather

Since I’m usually there during the coldest and wettest months of the year, I bring a Lands’ End parka that’s completely waterproof, which makes a big difference when the bura winds and rain rip through town. The rain can torrential, and the winds can keep umbrellas from being useful. (It’s worth investing in a big, solid umbrella once you get there; the small collapsible ones won’t last very long!) I also bring  waterproof boots, because shoes and boots tend to be expensive, and my small feet are hard to fit. (Shoes and boots tend to take up much of my luggage allowance!)

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