The city of Rijeka, the coastal Croatian town where I am living for the summer, is not much different from other cities I have visited throughout my life. It has a downtown filled with shops, cafes, and businesses. There are busy streets and crowded sidewalks. There are young people talking with their friends in bars after work and elderly people spending their days at markets, parks, and beaches. Although everybody is speaking a language I do not understand, the looks on people’s faces, the tone of their voice, and their body language make me feel as if there is no difference between being surrounded by strangers at home. People walk with a purpose I do not understand as they do in the US and when they speak, just as if I cannot hear them, I believe I know the context and purpose of each conversation.
My conversations with locals who speak English, have largely given me the impression that I am right. If nothing else, my experience here in Croatia, a foreign land unknown to nearly everyone I know, has taught me that people here are alike in many more ways than not. I have gained greater insight into the human condition by learning how the history, geography, and personality of a place shapes its culture and its people. There is no fundamental difference between Croatians and the people I know at home.