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Running a business in Zagreb, Croatia

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Zagreb incorporates a blend of Greek, Roman and Byzantine influences; all captured within a typically Central European lattice.

The city is young and autonomous, establishing itself as a cultural hotspot in the 17 years since independence.

One of six former Yugoslavian states, Croatia battled occupying Serbian forces until 1995. Croatians are therefore relentlessly proud of their national identity, not to mention their rich cultural heritage. To successfully buy a business in Zagreb, you need to understand this headstrong, confident yet sensitive Croatian mindset.

Croations are especially proud of where they came from

Quintessential Zagreb workspaces are dominated by three themes: religion, national pride and humour. Most Croatians are Roman Catholic, a factor (though seldom discussed in the workplace) that colours Croatian work life, particularly morale and team-building.

Croatians are especially proud of where they came from. Even the youngest member of any given workforce can remember the struggle for independence, and the human cost of this struggle. Unnecessary criticism of Croatian culture is a major no-no for entrepreneurs branching out to Zagreb, particularly UK nationals.

Despite the perceived austerity, Croatians do, on the whole, possess a fine wit. Due to its lean towards sarcasm and laughing at the darker elements of daily life, the Croatian sense of humour has been compared to the UK equivalent, and similarly contrasted to US 'slapstick' humour. Mine this rich yet subtle seam, and sustained business relationships can be established.

GDP growth is rising in Croatia, with Zagreb acting as an industrial fulcrum. Though the state still holds a disproportionate share in the economy, the Croatian market is rapidly expanding. Booming industries include food and drink, renewable energy, telecoms, tourism and property.

The relative economic upturn in Zagreb has prompted a seismic shift in working practices, with a number of Croatian employees becoming suitably 'westernised' as a result. Croatians tend to dress to reflect their level of professionalism and work to tight deadlines.

Significantly, Croatia's collectivist society casts a lengthy shadow over Croatian offices. Crucial decisions are made by committee rather than individuals, and failure is absorbed by the whole group. Meetings are lengthy and book-ended by small talk, although non-personal professionalism is highly valued in the Croatian workplace.

One or two final thoughts to remember: raising the thumb, index and middle finger simultaneously is possibly the most outrageous social faux-pas one could make in Croatian company. This symbol is intrinsically linked with Serbian nationalism.

Similarly, don't point directly at people either, even in jest. The gesture is considered the height of rudeness and could land you in hot water.

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