A survey conducted across all Europe has found that Croatians' trust for people in their country is among the worst in Europe. In order to complete the survey, Europeans were asked 'To what extent do you personally agree or disagree with the following statement – Generally speaking, most people in (our country) can be trusted?'
36% of all Croatians asked disagreed with the statement, with just over 3% of those strongly disagreeing with it. 25% agreed with the statement and a further 4% strongly agreed with it. 34% of Croatians neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement. Therefore, 70% of all Croatians asked were not able to agree that most people in Croatia can be trusted.
This places Croatia among the worst countries in Europe for trust of their fellow countrymen. But does the evidence on the street really back up these figures? It's maybe worth looking more closely.
If judged by their actions and not by surveys, Croatians seem to be very trusting of each other. This a country where many people do not keep their front door locked, if closed at all. In smaller towns, villages and even the suburbs of some cities, car doors are rarely locked and bicycles often never locked up. Children are allowed to play in the street or in parks, unsupervised by adults. Young teens are allowed to stay out in the evenings, venturing into town and city centres with friends. The rates of gun crime and knife crime in Croatia are insignificant compared to elsewhere in Europe, as are reported instances of sexual assault and rape. Murders are extremely rare. As reported in Time Out Croatia last week, Croatia was recently ranked 22nd safest country in the world. How can a country be so safe and yet its people not trust each other? Perhaps the answer lies in a different part of the survey.
When Croatians were also set the question 'I believe that most things that happen in my life are fair' only around 35% agreed with the statement. Again, these results were among the worst in Europe. Could there be a correlation here?
Croatians live in a safe country but over two-thirds of them do not believe that things that happen in their life are fair. Could this perception of life not being fair be the cause of distrust in Croatian society?
Extended family networks provide a strong sense of togetherness in Croatia. Family members can usually be relied upon. They frequently are and often this can be a very good thing. Family and other connections are often a route to employment and other advantages in Croatia, which is great if such connections exist for you, but not so great if they don't. Nepotism is frequently cited by Croatians as one of the most unfair parts of their society and is blamed for everything from the lack of opportunities available to Croatia's youth (and therefore a main cause of the exodus of young people from Croatia to lives abroad) to the sometimes cripplingly slow, unenthusiastic and overtly bureaucratic nature of public and governmental institutions.
Nepotism's bratić (cousin) is corruption and this is the other reason cited by Croatians as why their society is unfair. Corruption in Croatia is perceived as being widespread in those who serve in public office and powerful positions, in the awarding of state and regional contracts and in a justice system that frequently looks as though it can be bought. The good news for visitors to Croatia is that it is extremely unlikely that any such alleged corruption will impact your stay in beautiful Croatia. However, for those that live here, nepotism and corruption can sometimes create an unsurmountable air of injustice, a feeling that life cannot be fair and then a deep-rooted pessimism. Could these not be the cause of such a feeling of distrust in Croatian society?
Should you ever ask a Croatian in Slavonia or Dalmatia 'Why do I so rarely see lamb meat for sale in the markets?' you'll probably get the answer 'We don't buy it from the markets, we buy it from the guy who keeps the sheep'. And this is true. There is a great trust in Croatia of those who produce food, with all kinds of meats, vegetables, fruits and products made thereof bought from small producers, not regulated by checks made on imported goods or those available in supermarkets.
So, if Croatians have enough trust in their neighbours to allow their children to play on the streets and to supply the food that they eat, does that not indicate that the distrust Croatians feel towards their countrymen comes more from the less tangible sections of society; the ones where it is perceived nepotism and corruption are at play?