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going native First Dates contestant stuns maitre d' Mateo Saina by greeting him in Croatian

Tara Zgaga surprised the Croatian Maître D’ on the hit show by addressing him in his native tongue


First Dates star Mateo Saina was stunned when a beautiful girl walked into his restaurant for her TV date and spoke to him in his native tongue of Croatian.

Tara Zgaga is half-Irish and half-Croatian and decided to surprise the Croatian Maître D’ on the hit show by addressing him in his native tongue when she walked into the Gibson hotel restaurant.

“My father is Croatian and my mother is Irish, from Co Limerick, she is a Collins from the west of the county,” explains Tara (27).

”They met in Australia. I was born in Australia and lived there for two years, then lived in Croatia for two years and then lived in Ireland from the age of four onwards.”

Tara laughs as she recalls what she said to Mateo in Croatian.

“I said to him ‘Hello, good day, how are you?,” she recollects.

“He was taken aback and said ‘Oh you know Croatian’.

"I replied by saying ‘just a small bit of Croatian’. I obviously spoke it as a child but I lost a lot of it because I didn’t practice it here.

“I was being super-friendly and trying to just surprise him. I knew I had a bit of Croatian, so I tried to throw it at him.

“There’s not many Croatians in Ireland and I can count on one hand how many Croatian people I’ve met, so it’s so exciting for me to meet another Croatian person and it’s half of my ancestry line.

"My dad is from Zagreb and my nan still lives there.”

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First Dates star Mateo Saina

First Dates star Mateo Saina

First Dates star Mateo Saina

Tara has been working as a nurse in Darwin in Australia for two-and-half years before arriving home in Ireland in March 2020.

“I came home just as the pandemic was about to erupt and decided to stay,” she explains.

“I only came back for a 10-day holiday to see my family.

"The I was in bed because I had caught a cold."

She added: "I thought if the world was going to be going through that I’d rather stay with my family and work here on the frontline.”

She was initially working in a renal dialysis ward for a month but then worked in the sports hall in University Limerick which had been turned into a field hospital.

She now works with autistic children and plans to stay in Ireland for the immediate future due to family commitments.

Tara decided to enter First Dates after a friend urged her to sign up.

“I was in lockdown and in the countryside, so I had nothing to lose,” she reflects.

“I’ve never had a proper relationship here. I had a bit more luck in Australia. I think nursing here took up a lot of my time and I couldn’t put myself out there.”

As Tara is 5’9”, she likes tall men and her date, Corkman Jamie Crowley, is 6’2”.

“For me when I was growing up, I'd often be the tallest girl in a nightclub when I was wearing heels,” she says.

Tara found a lot in common with Jamie and was tearful when he spoke about how he lost his mum to suicide at a young age.

“I loved how we had the craic and we had a funny date, at the end of the date we were goofing around,” she adds.

“I really felt Jamie’s loss of his mam and cried at one part.

"Overall, he seems to be positive and I love the way he tried to heal himself and did a year of no beer, which I myself did last year.”

Jamie (30), who works for Apple in Cork, is originally from near Macroom but has spent most of his life living near Blarney Street in the city.

He is one of four children and when he was aged 11-years-old when his mum died from suicide.

“It took a massive troll on the family,” he says.

“I turned to drink and drugs, ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana, got into a bit of trouble as well.

"Everybody in the family found it difficult to cope with. I was starting secondary school and I went off the rails a bit, drinking and partying.”

One day in 2006 he woke up and decided to snap out of it and has not looked back since.

“I stopped my binge drinking and partying and although I was into liked hurling when I was younger years and I got into MMA and fitness in recent years,” he notes.

“I was only having the odd social drink before I met Tara last September, but since the date I’ve given up drink completely.

“I find it easy enough nowadays to be honest about myself because I did a lot of work on myself and acceptance around stuff.

“Tara is a lovely-looking girl and good craic as well. “

First Dates RTÉ 2 tonight 9.30pm. The Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123.

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