Coworking and Expat Life in Zagreb
With a week in Zagreb before heading out to explore other parts of Croatia, we both needed to do some work. Jenna, as usual, had the discipline to work from our apartment. Chipp, needing more structure, embraced the coworking and expat life in Zagreb.
An Initial Coworking Inquiry and Strike Out
Technology makes “researching” new cities fairly straightforward - quick Google search and Chipp had a map plot of all the coworking spots within walking distance from our apartment. Narrowing it down with some digging into individual websites, he settled on one two blocks away - easy “commute.”
But, Google also has its limits. That is, what the 0s and 1s say about a company’s operations doesn’t always reflect the reality of those operations, especially in the COVID era. So, it’s always good to e-mail someone to confirm that a place is actually open.
Chipp shot a note to this first coworking spot’s listed point of contact. Shortly thereafter, he received confirmation - Yes we’re open. Yes we’d be thrilled to have you work here for the week. Yes we’re located at…
Welp, 9am the next morning, no one was there. Knock on the door - no response. Call the listed phone number - no answer. Send another e-mail - crickets.
Strange. Somehow between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning the place had gone dark. Such is life. Still needing to get some work done, Chipp instead posted up at a street-side cafe, ordered a triple Americano (closest he could figure to a proper, American-style cup of coffee), and worked / people watched for the next few hours. While not Option 1, Zagreb is a city of stunningly beautiful, tree-lined streets, and you can’t throw a rock without hitting a cafe embracing these surroundings. Not a bad place to work!
Coworking at Impact Hub Zagreb
But, as nice as it was working in the fresh air, it’s almost too nice - spent far more time people-watching and just absorbing the surroundings than actually working. So, back to the co-working drawing board.
In another one of our many travel-related “happy little accidents,” the prior day’s strikeout led to an awesome alternative spot - Impact Hub Zagreb. Part small business incubator, part champion of sustainable growth, and part co-working space, Impact Hub would be a great place to set up shop for the week.
Colocated with the Embassy of Japan, Impact Hub sits in a stunning building - a former palace - across the street from two of the Lenuci Horseshoe parks. Sitting by a window, it’s hard to ask for a better way to rest your eyes from computer glare than staring out at this urban greenspace.
But, that’s jumping ahead a bit. Walking into the building that morning, the first person Chipp met on the Impact Hub staff was a South African guy named Jonathan. Having recently logged three months in South Africa, we dove right into a walk-down-memory-lane-type talk about life in the southern hemisphere.
After filling out the initial paperwork and getting a tour of the coworking spaces (and, most importantly, the coffee station), Chipp found that seat by the window. Foreshadowing the wonderful hospitality we’d experience our entire time in Croatia, no more than five minutes later, Chipp’s coworking “neighbor” - a local gal - had introduced herself and, after hearing our plans in the country, offered to connect us with one of her friends in Dubrovnik. Incredible!
“Be the Change”
A bit of a non sequitur, but this story put a smile on Chipp’s face.
As part of its focus on the sustainable growth model, Impact Hub attempts to tie the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals into all its operations. But, in a humorous - and self-aware - call to action, the coworking space quite clearly points out the hypocrisy of people trying to save the world but failing to take responsibility for their own day-to-day actions.
In the bathroom next to a basket of extra toilet paper rolls, a sign pleads: Everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to change the toilet paper. Be the change.
As Chipp interpreted it, grandiose plans and language are fine, but actions speak far louder than words. Or, as a cynic may see the situation: don’t lecture me until you take care of your own house! No one’s going to change the world for the better without taking responsibility for their own actions.
The Joys and Routine of Expat Life in Zagreb
From a productivity perspective, coworking spaces make sense. Signing up for one is far less expensive than a traditional office, you still gain that office-like environment, but you don’t have the will-someone-steal-my-laptop-when-I’m-in-the-bathroom concern of working all day in a coffee shop.
But, as Chipp discovered, there’s also a beauty to the routine of working at a coworking spot - a sense of just-another-day-in-the-office stability in the midst of an otherwise dynamic year traveling. Despite making a concerted effort to stay put in places for at least a week (ideally two), we still felt constantly in motion. Imposing a sense of day-to-day routine creates a refreshing reset.
In particular, Chipp turned his time coworking in Zagreb into a routine of expat life, a rhythm of European-capital, city-living in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Writing about it now, it seems strange trying to explain how wonderful the little things in life can be. But, they were:
930ish: After breakfast and coffee at home, stroll along Zagreb’s busy, weekday-morning sidewalks to Impact Hub.
Few hours in the morning: Work.
1ish: Walk a few blocks to Korica Bakery for a delicious, European-style lunch of prosciutto and cheese on fresh-baked bread.
Few hours (or less…) in the afternoon: Work some more.
4ish: Stroll home via the corner market, where you pick up a local beer to accompany you for the remainder of the walk.
Yep, it’s hard to overstate the joys of that last item, of being able to take a leisurely, post-work walk through town while enjoying a cold beer. For all of America’s greatness, why can’t we just get rid of open container laws!?