Owning and driving a car in Croatia is much different than owning and driving a car in America. I've touched on the shock of driving in Croatia, but being a car owner is just as....well, shocking.
Just yesterday I was asked why my car was so dirty (blunt honesty is also a specialty here). The thing was, my car wasn't dirty - according to my standards. I didn't have old McDonalds bags crumpled in the back seat. I didn't have apple cores or lollipops sticking to the floor mats. I didn't even have any toys for Enoh or crumbs from Enoh laying where Enoh usually sits.
Granted, my dashboard was a bit dusty, my floormats had some dirt on them and I had a coffee mug in my cupholder. But that's it. I had vacuumed the car a week earlier, and I had washed it a few days ago. I didn't consider it "dirty" but everyone who was riding in my car did.
People here clean their cars a lot. They wash their cars even more often. And they never, ever have anything extra in them. Never.
So if you're planning on moving to Croatia say goodbye to your college days when Dunkin Donuts Coolatta Cups collected on the floor. Wave farewell to keeping clothes in your trunk. Say sayonara to the days when having a muddy truck meant you were Ford Tough. Because where I live now it doesn't mean that at all.
Whether you own an '89 Yugo or a '09 Mercedes you keep your car as shiney as Joe Pesci's tooth in Home Alone.
And I can't say I blame them. Let's use a Volkswagon Jetta for example. This American VW website claims the new 2010 Jetta starts at $17,605. In Croatia you would have to pay approximately $32,900 (a little more with a current drop in the exchange rate) for a 2010 WV Jetta. If you'd like an automatic transmission push that price up past $35,000 and you've got yourself the same car for twice the price in a country in which the average salary is significantly lower.
Granted, most Croatians don't buy new Jettas, but the price for used cars is also considerably higher in Croatia. Put simply, it's expensive to drive here - especially when you add in the price of European gas.
Someone once told me you value what you pay for. In this context, if cleaning your car consistently means you value it, I am beginning to understand why.