Written by Dora Grabar
In March of 2017, a survey of sixty Croatian teenagers (aged 15-18) was done to discover how they compare their knowledge of their own pop culture to American. The results were upsetting, albeit not shocking: 83.3% of them believe they know more about American pop culture than Croatian.
Ever since WWI and WWII, English and American culture have been spreading into faraway countries. Hollywood has made its name as one of the greatest industry of film; bands and artists from the US and UK have grown in popularity as more people learn English: and there has been a greater abundance of novels translated from English as it paves its way to becoming the language of the world.
The Republic of Croatia is a small country between Central Europe, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean. For centuries, it has been a part of several unions of countries, the last being Yugoslavia – this resulted in its culture being widely influenced by its neighbouring countries. Music has a regional style, most often folk and pop with not many appearances of artists in other genres. Novels and plays can be dated to centuries ago, yet the newer ones are few and narrow in genres as well. The several television series are soap operas and the films are dramas, often dealing with themes such as nationalism and the post-civil war situation in Croatia.
Comparing the abundance of diversity in each area of pop culture that can be found in the US and the UK to those of Croatia, the reason why teenagers are more familiar with the former than their own culture isn’t surprise: Croatia does not have much to offer regarding pop culture.
When asked for their thoughts about this situation, nearly all agree. The general argument is that American culture is wide-spread, especially as teenagers are constantly exposed to it on social media. In addition to that, they find Croatian pop culture to have fallen greatly behind American, having been relatively the same for many years – one 16-year-old explains it to be a repercussion of bad marketing in Croatia, whereas another blames the bad quality of overall content.
“They have more interesting and entertaining content; where in Croatia will you find someone like Leonardo DiCaprio?” one respondent says.
The ten who claim they know more about Croatian pop culture say it is because they are surrounded with it and have been so since they were little. They learned about it in school, which is why the respondents know more Croatian novels than American or British as a part of their required reading. Some are simply more interested in their own culture.
Despite the Croatian pop culture surrounding them in everyday life or learning about it in school, the research has shown it is still not enough for teenagers to care to learn more about it. It can be attributed to the bad quality of the content and its lack of diversity when compared to what other cultures—mainly American and British—have to offer. People naturally seek for content they enjoy and can relate to, and as their own culture cannot provide that, they turn to others.
“In the end, Croatian pop culture is only reflection and Balkan interpretation of Anglo-American pop culture.”