Croatia is an increasingly popular tourist destination in Eastern Europe, with some beautiful stretches of coastline and a nice climate in the summer. It is also a popular space for digital nomads to stay longer term. But just how widely spoken is English there? Can a tourist expect to get by just using English alone?
English is fairly widely spoken in Croatia, with around 60% of the population having some kind of grasp of English. Accurate up to date statistics are hard to find on English fluency, but English speakers are especially common in major cities and tourist regions, especially along the coastline.
In more inland and rural areas and with older people, English proficiency falls off quite a bit however. A Eurobarometer report placed the level of English speakers in Croatia at around 49% of the population. However this report is from 2006 and is now well out of date, so this rate has probably increased now to well over 50% as the younger generations have come through who have been taught English in the schools.
A more up to date and complete study actually suggested the English fluency rates are much higher, reaching up to 80-90% in the major cities like Zagreb. This would match more the tourist experiences which are pretty much unanimous that English was always spoken when they went to Croatia.
Many Croatians also speak other languages, with around 39% speaking German and 23% speaking French. The Croatian language is considered quite hard to learn and not much use outside of Croatia, so many people there learn second and third languages to improve their prospects job wise.
You Should Have No Problems Using English in Croatia
Checking through the forums and blogs on this, tourists never report any problems being able to use English in the main cities and tourist areas. In these places you should be perfectly fine everywhere, especially with younger people:
- Any coastline tourist resort
Another reason for the high fluency level is that Croatians receive a fair amount of undubbed English language TV and films from America especially, in the original language with subtitles, and so have a greater opportunity to pick up the language that way as well as learning in classes.
This influence of having English language cultural influences is a consistent factor in the countries which have greater English fluency, and is noticeably absent in countries which may teach English in schools but still don’t have high rates of spoken fluency among the population, like Japan.
To learn English properly, young people need to exposed to it in more than just written form in a classroom, and also need to be practicing it regularly in verbal form. See our article on English fluency in Scandinavia for a good example of how immersing young people in the English language in all forms is essential in creating high fluency rates among the population.
If you do ever head inland and you find the English levels dropping, then Croatians are reported to be very helpful and friendly and you will be able to muddle through with some body language and basic Croatian phrases – see below for more on this.
Some Basic Croatian Phrases
In most of the places that tourists go, Croatian won’t be strictly needed since English will be widely enough spoken for you to get by. However, as in any country it always helps to learn some basic phrases for visiting attractions, ordering food and so on.
Croatian is a Slavic language and is considered one of the more difficult ones to learn. However memorizing a few of the basic words is not too hard. Here are some of the more common phrases tourists might need.
|There you go
|I'm sorry/You're welcome
|žao mi je
|Nema ne čemu
|Neh-ma na chemu
|I don't know
|The check please
As you can see, the pronunciation is fairly straightforward for most of the key phrases. Accents over some letters does change the pronunciation sometimes, to a “ch” or “sh” sound. Learning the language in more detail is quite tricky.
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And then some practical essentials:
- Essential stats on Croatia:
- Population: 3.8 million
- Time zone: EST +6 hours (winter) +7 hours (summer); GMT +1 hour (winter); +2 hours (summer)
- Currency: Croatian kuna ($1 = 7.29 kuna; £1= 8.62 kuna at time of writing)
- International calling code: +385 (see here for getting a working local SIM card/number when abroad)
- Drives on the right
- Luggage allowances – see here for an excellent guide on luggage allowances (checked and cabin) for all major airlines worldwide.
- Banking – If you don’t want to get stung with high bank fees, check out our article on the Wise Borderless Card, which allows you to open up balances of Croatian kuna (among many other currencies) and spend for free, plus a zero fee monthly ATM withdrawal allowance as well.