Sometimes I forgot that my job is on the Internet. I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid death threats, trolling, and other insults that clog most of the comment sections on the world wide web. Which is strange, given that I don’t feel like a pull my punches when writing about Croatia. I mean I’ve said Split is filled with trash, the Zagreb airport’s signs are a national embarrassment, Croatians should be happier, and the country’s burritos suck. Yet, no trolling.
Recently, another blogger wrote a negative review of Zadar, advising American tourists to skip it, and the Internet reacted very, very negatively (I’m not linking the blog to save everyone from more negativity). But, this got me thinking about the hazards of blogging as a foreigner in a foreign country, and the privilege I’ve been afforded in doing so. More to the point, I’ve tried to think about why this other blogger got so much hate and why I haven’t.
How it is
I think it comes down to trying to understand the place you’re writing about on its own terms. And in Croatia that means being aware of the culture, history, and current events in a place. For example, if you go to Zadar expecting to be amazed by the Sea Organ, you will likely be disappointed. It’s cool, but it’s not what Zadar is all about. And I imagine few residents of Zadar would be all like: Oh Zadar is awesome because we have the Sea Organ!
And this is because A) the Sea Organ is only 12 years old, and B) Zadar is a few thousand years older than that. And people did not become proud of Zadar in the last 12 years because of the dang Sea Organ. And like many places in Croatia, you cannot overlook a place’s history and expect to understand it. Zadar has its own vibe than other Dalmatian towns, especially Split. In part because of the two cities’ different histories. Of course it’s very difficult to describe and write about that vibe. So, in writing about Zadar I’d focus on the Roman columns still standing around, the city’s walls, the wells, and of course the sea. And then mention the Sea Organ.
Whenever I write something negative about Croatia, I try to understand it from a Croatian perspective, and simply voice the frustrations many people here already feel, just you know, with more humor and punica. When I wrote about Split having too much trash on the beach, I lamented that this is what keeps the city from actually being the most beautiful place on earth. Something, I’m sure many people agree with.
Writers, including bloggers, should aspire to write truthfully. Even when this means simultaneously reconciling conflicting truths. Like writing that my mother-in-law acts like a well meaning drug pusher, trying to get me hooked on her soup. Good writing is about accuracy, no matter how comical, silly or negative a writer wants her work to be. If it’s accurate, people will enjoy it. Or… not… because after all, this is the Internet.