One of the ‘great’ things about being in a Croat-American marriage are all the ‘cultural’ surprises I keep finding in the most mundane things. Just when I think, ‘well, we’ve sorted all that out. Croatia you have nothing left to surprise me!’ I discover a new chasm between the American way and the Croatian way… like buying furniture? Yeah, I know. I mean who thinks ‘Ah, furniture buying, that’s where you really see a cultural difference?’ No one, that’s who. But, it’s there. Trust me, it’s there.
Ever since we bought an apartment a year or so ago I’ve spent most of my weekends at various furniture stores, especially one involving ‘Nordic’ design. When you know the fastest, secret ways to get through that store’s labyrinthian layout, you know you’ve been there too many times. Also, when you daughter requests going there for lunch, you know you’ve been there too many times.
Aesthetic and comfort?
Now, I’m used to buying furniture based on some kind of compromise between aesthetic and comfort. I want my stuff to look and feel good. And while some people in Croatia might also care about this harmony, my adventures in furniture buying have taught me that it is not the overriding factor in determining whether or not to buy a piece of furniture.
No, the most important questions for purchasing any piece of furniture in Croatia are: how many guests can potentially sleep on the furniture? Followed by, how much storage does this piece of furniture provide? I mean before moving to Croatia I never knew a couch, a chair and the beds could also double as places for storing… everything… from blankets and pillows, to pots and pans. And so our apartment is furnished with things that can store lots of stuff and can easily be turned into places for sleeping should all the cousins decide to descend on us at the same time, because if they do, it’s not like we can say no. It’s best to be prepared.
Room for guests
Basically, Croatian hospitality dictates that you construct your home decor around the comfort of potential, maybe even hypothetical, guests. Seriously, we have an extra couch that we bought because we thought maybe my wife’s nephews might come and stay a couple days with us in the future at some point. The good news is that not only does this couch turn into a bed, it has ample storage space for some old sweaters and a pan that’s too big to fit anywhere in the kitchen.
Belonging to a Croatian family is sort of like becoming a parent, it changes everything, even the parts of life you couldn’t have possibly believed were related to family, in-laws, cousins, culture and customs. But just like parenthood, in the end it makes you feel as if you belong to something bigger than yourself. Because in Croatia, nothing is bigger than the importance of hospitality (and, well, storage space).