Slovenia is quite the place. With The Alps to the North and the Mediterranean to the South, even the climate is wacky. Long, freezing-cold winters, followed by unbearably hot summers, anybody? No, I don’t mean to scare you away. Slovenia will feel different than anything you have experienced before, though. So here are a few key points to help you understand Slovenian culture and the people better.
So with that being said…Eastern European Travel presents…
I don’t know if it’s a mix of genes that they have if it’s place, the food or something in the way of life, but Slovenes are some fine specimen. Similarly to other Balkan countries, Slovenian culture dictates that outer appearances are very much valued.
From what I have seen, it doesn’t get to the extremes of say Serbia or Romania, where some girls would cake their faces, wear tacky and flashy clothes and just generally show bad taste in their effort to look good (by the way, this is true for guys, too — there are always the shaved-head, shirt three sizes smaller so it seems like it is going to burst dudes).
In Slovenia, people are much more into the natural look.
Healthy, slim, and toned bodies are sexy bodies, tanning is never extreme or carrot-colored, girls rarely dye their hair or take very bold fashion decisions. Don’t get intimidated, just follow their example of taking good care of your appearance — whether you are a guy or a girl, being a visitor is no excuse for not looking decent.
Plus, if you try a little harder with outfits and grooming, you will blend in better with the locals, which is always welcome when traveling.
You can meet some Slovenian women on the dating site International Cupid.
So if you have done some traveling in Western Europe, you might have noticed people (especially in the South) eat dinner incredibly late.
Spain and Portugal, I am looking at you!
In Eastern Europe, though, as a general rule of thumb, people prefer to have dinner around 6-7 PM and they keep it very light.
This, by the way, is also the healthier way to go about dinner. Their version of light does not always make sense either. For instance, especially during the warmer months, it is super common to go out and grab some street food or sit down at a bistro for… well, practically anything that does not feel like a full, decent meal.
Slovenes would willingly have pasta, pizza, sandwiches and other calorie-dense (and in my humble opinion quite heavy) foods, but you will not see them ordering a stew or a steak. If you can’t wrap your head around it and it’s fine, besides nobody will judge you for what you order.
Just be prepared that if you ask for, say a chicken risotto at a dinner place, it might not be as good as their more popular options.
Okay, so you might not come across this unless you stay for a longer period of time or end up dating and living with a Slovene, but it is still a fun and somewhat weird trait that is part of the Slovenian culture.
Conventional personal hygiene wisdom in Slovenia says that everything that is outside your house is more or less dirty and a potential hazard to your health. Slovenes are very diligent about washing their hands (or hand sanitizing) before grabbing something to eat out, because you don’t know who touched that handle on the subway before you.
According to the same logic, clothes for going out are strictly for the outside.
As soon as they get back home, most Slovenes change into “house clothes”, not to be confused with pajamas. On the cleanliness rank list the outside is at the bottom, then you have your house, and then your bed. Staying in your house in outside clothes is seen as unsanitary, and sleeping with your “house clothes” is unacceptable either.
When it comes to shoes — those come off at the door, regardless of whether there is a kid in the house or someone with an allergy (which are the only two cases I can think of in which your Western European hosts will ask you to take off your shoes). Don’t worry, they will provide you with slippers.
Some houses even have a little basket of slippers for the guests.
Whether they live in a big city or a town in the Alps, nearly all Slovenes love spending time outside. Hiking is a huge part of the Slovenian culture. Tourist tracks and mountain trails are buzzing with people, especially families.
Chances are your Slovene friends have grown up with these weekly road hikes and even if their busier adult life does not allow them to do it as often, they still love hiking and grab any opportunity to do it. If you decide to take a walk in the park, the situation would not be much more different, either.
With the first rays of spring sunshine, out come the mothers with their babies, the loud, big families, the teenagers sipping a beer (or coke, but usually beer, and it’s not that frowned upon) and playing cards, the elderly people, practically everybody.
At night, even if you go to a restaurant or a bar, your date/friend would usually expect a leisurely stroll around the city afterwards. Even walks up and down the street are normal and welcome (especially in smaller towns, where for young people it becomes a catwalk of sorts).
The first thing to know about Ljubljana is there is a bars and coffee shops area and a restaurants area of the center. Of course, these blend into one another, but for the most part, there is a good reason why they are separated.
One of the first things your new Slovene acquaintance will ask you out to is coffee—either friends or 'more than friends'. And prepare to sip it for a long, long time. As the saying goes: Here in the Balkans, the soul does not need coffee, the soul needs conversation.
Coffee is just an excuse for sitting down and having some quality time together.
For women especially, coffee drinking sessions can stretch to upward of 4 hours. No waitress or staff is going to mind that either, even if your consummation concludes in an espresso and bottle of water (which is what most people have).
At night, coffee shops usually turn into bars, some of them with a very broad cocktail menu. For guys, ordering a cocktail will not be super common. For the most part, the men drink whiskey or vodka on the rocks, plus a soda.
On a final note, if you are constantly on the go and the want the convenience of being able to prepare coffee in your hotel room, in the airport, etc.—look no further than an Aeropress.
It’s one of the best purchases I’ve EVER made.
Since we kind of touched on that subject in the last point, what is getting drinks like in Slovenia?
For one, it can happen before or after dinner, but it’s usually after if you are having dinner in typically Slovene hours (around 7). Drinking during the day is not really common, and since there is still some daylight around 6, most people will not go to bars (but they could be having a coffee, as we mentioned). There is an exception made for beer, which is generally OK to be had with lunch.
Not so much with wine.
Older people (as in, middle age to elderly) would sometimes have it, but the younger ones prefer a soda or beer. At night, once you are done with dinner, you will not typically stay at the same restaurant to have drinks. Instead, there is a lovely bar hopping tradition established. It works great because as I said, there are areas that are almost exclusively for bars. Stroll around first and then decide where you want to sit, that is what the locals do.
For drinks — heavy liquor on the rocks is always a decent choice (for both guys and girls, but especially for guys), cocktails can be great and beer or wine are just classics. If you order wine, you can get a separate glass for yourself, too. It depends on the bar, but that will usually mean you only have one wine choice (a.k.a. the bottle they have opened).
Better split with friends.
After drinks, it’s party time.
Don’t bother going to a club before 11 PM, though, you will just end up having another round of bar-style drinks there (although this could be worth it for the free entrance). In general, though, people will start arriving at around 11/ 12 PM. It is around that time that table reservations expire, although you don’t really need one if you are not a big group of people. By the way, this is true for restaurants, too.
They are not so great at taking reservations, so, for the most part, you just walk in and get a table. There is hardly ever a queue.
Back to the clubs, though, make sure to bring a student identification card, or an Erasmus card if you are doing that (sometimes even an expired one will do) because there can be some discounts and you can even get free entrance in some clubs. And, of course, bring ID. It doesn’t matter how old you look, in most clubs you will be asked to prove that you’re not a minor.
Did I miss anything about Slovenian culture? Share it in the comments!