Croatia EVS Experience

Comparison of Cultures – Esra Gullu
Culture Bound
Comparison of Cultures – Esra Gullu
Culture Bound

I arrived in Bitola on October 1.  The first evening we went for dinner in Aurum as a welcome party for the EVS volunteers and a farewell party for the last group.

The following day, we participated in an NGO fair at Bitola’s cultural center, which was a great way to get acquainted with SFERA’s programs and learn about other NGOs in Bitola.

We spent the first few days exploring the city and its surroundings and enjoying the warm autumn weather.

I enjoyed going to the bazaar for grocery shopping with the other volunteers and cooking meals together at home. The smell and taste of the vegetables are some of the freshest and most pleasant I have encountered. We were pleasantly surprised by the friendly sellers who made an effort to communicate with us in Macedonian, Greek, Croatian, and English.

Through our stay, we were lucky enough to try all the Macedonian and regional dishes that were recommended to us: burek, pastrmajlija, sirenje vo furna, turli tava, gravce tavce, selsko meso, taratur, tiro salad… Even though the language and culture are similar to those of my home country, Croatia, the food was quite different and interesting to try.

Everyone in the office was friendly and helpful and encouraged us to work on the project in the way we thought was best.

It was challenging and fulfilling to come up with methods of market research and set up a framework for future groups working on this project. Since the atmosphere in the office was so pleasant, the work never felt hard or exhausting.

Even though there were a lot of things I had no experience with and didn’t know how to do, someone was always available to lend a hand and was supportive of us sometimes being slow while learning.

We were given the choice of what workshops we wanted to do. I signed up to organize this month’s Art Attack along with my Greek colleague Elpida. As there was a kite-flying event the same week as the Art Attack, we chose to have a kite-making workshop. We had a lot of fun trying to think of materials we could use, making the kites, making a lot of mistakes along the way, and chatting while doing it.

All the participants from the workshop came to fly kites with us in Smolevo the following day. To our surprise, some of them flew!

We spent our weekends exploring the surrounding areas of the city. We visited the ancient ruins of Heraclea, Ohrid, Prilep, and Florina in Greece.

We had a few Macedonian lessons, which helped with learning to read standard and cursive Cyrillic as well as some basic vocabulary and grammar.

It was a great experience exploring North Macedonia and its culture with other foreigners. Between me, a Croatian, a Greek, a Czech, and a Ukrainian, everything we encountered was familiar or foreign to some of us. It was interesting to see things from many perspectives at once while also learning about other cultures.