Expat Tips

Now that I’m on my second round of living in Dubrovnik for an extended period of time, I have a better idea of what things I can (or must) acquire here, and what I need to bring with me if I want to have it. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Staying Warm (and dry) in Winter

Apartments in Dubrovnik don’t always have a lot of heat (especially if, like mine, they’re intended primarily for summer tourists). So I wanted a space heater and a heated mattress pad. I couldn’t bring either with me from the US (both needed to be 220V compatible), so I ordered the mattress pad from amazon.co.uk, and bought the space heater at the TechnoMarket in Gruž (which is like a tiny Croatian version of Best Buy).

I brought with me a Lands’ End parka that’s completely waterproof, which I’ve been very grateful for when the bura winds and rain rip through town. The rain is torrential, and the winds keep umbrellas from being useful. I also brought completely waterproof boots, which I might have been able to buy here, but since my feet are small, I didn’t want to risk it.

Medicine Cabinet

I learned the hard way the last time I was here that (a) you can’t buy OTC meds at any drugstore or supermarket, you have to go and talk to a pharmacist, and (b) oral diphenhydramine (aka benadryl), which I depend on for both nighttime allergy symptoms and insomnia, is not available here at all. So I brought with me nearly all the OTC meds that I keep at home–diphenhydramine, aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium (aka aleve), Sambucol for cold prevention, antacids, topical hydrocortisone, neosporin, and a first aid kit with various sizes of bandaids. I forgot to bring moleskin or blister bandaids, which was a mistake, since breaking in new hiking boots can lead to blisters.

I also brought a few prescription meds that I wasn’t sure I could get here–a bottle of Clonazepam for occasional anxiety/stress, and a bottle of cough syrup with hydrocodone, since if I get a chest cold it’s the only thing that can help me sleep.

Toiletries

While there are lots of places here 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. So I brought my preferred brands of makeup, shampoo, deodorant, facial cleanser, and toothpaste.

Kitchen 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. 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.

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. I brought a jar of peanut butter, which I don’t eat often, but which I occasionally crave.

On this trip, I’m also finding myself missing chocolate chip cookies, so I’m arranging to have those brought over during spring break, along with ramen noodles (something I never expected to find myself missing, but I do).

Technology

I brought a power strip that accommodates nearly every type of international plug as well as sporting several USB plugs–paired with an adapter that allows me to plug it into the 220V wall outlet, it works perfectly for charging all my electronics.

I brought an unlocked Nexus 5 phone with me, and purchased a prepaid Croatian SIM when I arrived. There are several cellular carriers that offer these; I ended up going with TMobile because their store was closest to my Zagreb. For $15/month I get 2GB of 4G data, which is plenty. I also brought my iPhone 5, but I use it only on wifi. (I figured I should have a backup phone in case something happens to the Nexus.) I also brought a high-capacity battery for recharging my mobile devices, so I don’t have to carry plug adapters around with me when I’m out of the house.

I brought my Kindle paperwhite, which allowed me to leave most of my books at home and makes it easy for me to get new ones without being dependent on Amazon.co.uk and their expensive shipping. And my TV/movie watching is enabled through the RIT VPN, which makes my laptop and phone look like they’re still in the US. (There are plenty of third-party VPN providers offering similar services, but unfortunately sites like Hulu are getting really good at keeping track of those and blocking them.)

(This list is a work in progress, and I’ll add to it as I come across things that I miss, or as I discover the availability of items here in town.)

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