As I've written in many of my previous articles, I was born and raised in the U.S., but my parents are from Croatia. I speak Croatian and am have dual citizenship of the U.S. and Croatia. My Croatian culture is a big part of my identity.
But while some European cultures are very well-known (like Italian and German), many Americans know nothing about Croatia, which can prompt some pretty ridiculous questions. Here are some of the questions that other Croatian-Americans and I are tired of hearing along with their answers.
1. Are you Russian?
No. People seem to think that the Slavic language equals Russian, but there are at least ten different Slavic languages in Central and Eastern Europe. And though some of these languages might share a few words here and there, I can't fully understand any Slavic languages outside of Croatian/Bosnian/Serbian.
Russia's a big place, but there are tons of Slavic languages outside of Russian.
2. Where is Croatia? Is it in Europe?
Yes, it's in Europe. People always assume Croatia is either somewhere in Eastern Europe by Russia (because all Slavic people are obviously just slightly different Russians) or in Asia.
Croatia is located toward the center of Europe, across the Adriatic Sea from Italy.
3. What are you eating?
Croatian food is a weird mix of Northern European and Southern European food, with a hint of Middle Eastern influence. Whenever I eat Croatian food like sirnicas or ćevapčići in public, people can never make sense of it.
In fact, when I was in elementary school, some girls made fun of me for "eating poop" because of the way ćevapi (which are these small, sausage-shaped minced meats) are shaped. But the joke was on them because my "poop" was delicious and they were stuck with their boring, flavorless lunches.
4. Croatia was the one that won the World Cup, right?
*Sigh* ... No. This past summer was the first time that Croatia ever got to the World Cup final, and though I'm still proud that they got that far, we did not win. The Croatian team put up a good fight and had a true underdog spirit, but they were ultimately beat (pretty badly) by France in the World Cup Final.
5. Oh, you're Croatian! So that means you're from Yugoslavia?
No! Yugoslavia hasn't existed for over 20 years! There are many people who would be incredibly insulted if asked that question, considering all that happened during the war in 1991. Many people older than 30 or so still remember it. Mistakes happen, but try not to ask anyone from former Yugoslavia this question.
6. When did you come to America?
"Croatian" does not necessarily mean "born/raised in Croatia." If a young person speaks Spanish, German, Polish, etc. you don't automatically assume they're from somewhere else. But when it's a language not heard as commonly, they must be a foreign tourist.
Though, it is very entertaining when I'm speaking Croatian and someone asks me "Where are you from?" to respond "Chicago" in my very American accent.