Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wednesday Column - Croatia Business 9: Business on The Web

As a visitor to Croatia, not fully familiar with the workings of the entire media and information systems, I have had to do much of my research on the web. As a freelance writer this can be very frustrating when sometimes what you really want to do is pick up the phone, talk to a human being and get some straight answers. Again, not speaking the language fluently is an obstacle, although I must applaud the Croatian Nation for its tolerance for those who automatically assume that the Croatian at the end of the phone is bound to speak English like a native. I try not to do that but it’s easy to take the Croatian propensity for languages for granted

Earning a living from the written word and spending three years only scratching the communication surface in Croatia has made me realise just how difficult it must be for a small country with a language that is not widely spoken outside the country. The Dutch appreciated this a long time ago and became masters of foreign languages, whilst retaining the integrity of their own. Croatia is getting there fast but the web has to be one of the best tools for marketing to foreigners and it’s still surprising to see that there are a number of large and/or government sites that do not have English pages yet. This means that searches on most things Croatian will normally take you to a UK site.

There are some notable exceptions to this, for example the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, the National Statistical office, some of the Ministries and certain Croatian News Organisations. However it’s still difficult to source anything a little out of the ordinary and although Croatia Telecoms has a Telephone Directory service on the web in English, it’s not comprehensive and the categories are hard to identify. So, for the time being, the locals have the advantage in knowing where the specialist shops are tucked away and hearing about sale opportunities on the grapevine.


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