One of the realities of life in Croatia is that you cannot avoid the bureaucracy, no matter how averse you are to paperwork. Admin is something I hate more than anything, and my long-suffering wife has been heroic over the years keep the ship afloat, as I leave important letters unopened, documents unsigned and the like. I would be lost without her.
Sometimes, however, I just have to get out there without her help. Dealing with Croatian bureaucracy is always great blogging material, and so it proved last week as I went to open a Croatian company for a new project we have. You can learn more in Croatian Bureaucracy in Action: The Pain Required to Pay 1 Kuna.
This week’s bureaucratic challenges looked all the more daunting, and I had allocated what I hoped would just be a morning, but could possibly take all day. Here was my list of tasks on Thursday morning in Varazdin.
1. Visit Bank 1 to finalise a leasing contract for our (not so) new car.
2. Take contract to the public notary to sign and stamp.
3. Return signed contract to Bank 1.
4. Proceed to my heroes at FINA to collect the paperwork for my new company.
5. Visit Bank 2 to open a bank account for my new company.
6. Return to FINA to hand over a document from my new bank account at Bank 2.
7. If I was finished by midday, buy some chicken and veg from the market, asked my wife. Ha, finished by midday – not a chance.
As I criss-crossed the gorgeous old town of Varazdin to my various bureaucratic points of challenge, I felt a little depressed by my normally uplifting surroundings. The bleak weather did not help, but it was the lack of people and cafe tables and chairs.
For we are currently living in the insane world where cafes are closed, but people can buy their drinks and sit on park benches next to the cafes and drink there. In the latest example of the absurdity of life currently in Croatia, cafes were allowed to sell drinks to go from February 15. The fact that they were banned from doing so before, despite places such as bakeries being allowed to, gives an indication of how nuts things are in Croatia at the moment.
Cafe to go, the reality. A normally popular cafe brimming with life and outside tables and chairs on the main square in Varazdin.
Had the weather been better, there would have been people sitting with their coffee to go here.
Meanwhile, two metres away…
I digress. Bank 1 was a breeze. The very efficient leasing lady was very organised. All was ready, and she asked me to check the details, presented me with a folder of documents and sent me on my way to the public notary. The notary welcomed me back like a long-lost friend. There was no queue, and all was going superbly until she noticed that the address did not quite match the one on my ID. Here we go…
But this is Varazdin, not Dalmatia. A phone call, an exchange of email addresses, and the revised contract was printed off by the secretary within 5 minutes. Five minutes later, I was on my way.
Passing through the gates of Hell into FINA, the very efficient man who processed my application had another neat folder waiting for me. All was ALMOST complete, he assured me. I just had to go and see his colleague and fill out a form, then pop into Bank 2 to open the account and return him a document from Bank 2.
The kolegica looked at me and handed me a form with some rapid-fire instructions. This was the ‘make or break’ moment for me. If I caved, I would have to figure out how to fill in the form on my own and would probably get it wrong. If she did it, I could be on my way and on course for the market shopping. The prospect of a spicy chicken curry for lunch hung in the balance.
Pressing the form towards me, she clearly wanted me to get out of the way so she could deal with the next person. I employed my most effective defence against such situations when dealing with Croatian bureaucracy. I gave her the ‘I am a helpless foreigner who doesn’t really understand the language and is crap at filling out forms, but I will stand here and look pathetic until you help me’ look.
“Give me the form and your ID.”
Five minutes later I was on my way, destination Bank 2. Time on the clock – 37 minutes taken so far. I was literally flying. Bank 2 was my bank, I have been with them for 17 years, both my personal and company accounts. This would be over in minutes, the chicken bought, and curry was assured.
“Sorry, you are a foreigner, you cannot open a business account here in Varazdin. You have to do it in our branch in Zagreb.”
There was no arguing with the lady, rules where rules. My accountant checked with the bank and they have just changed the rules, so the information I was given was correct. I made an appointment with the bank in Zagreb. The next available appointment is on March 3, some 2 weeks away. In a different city.
Croatian banking service in the 21st century.
Every cloud has a silver lining. With no account to open and no document to return to FINA, the market chicken and veg were mine, and there was plenty of time to stop for a ‘beer to go.’ So unaccustomed was I to the realities of cafe life in 2021 in Croatia, the option of stopping off for a cold one did not occur to me.
So there I was, almost alone on the main square, 16 kuna poorer after swapping my cash for a cold one in a plastic glass and just standing there with no tables or chairs around me.
A mildly successful day, all things considered. A little like the chicken and egg conundrum, I wonder what will come first – this foreigner being able to open a bank account or cafes finally opening to end all this madness. To be clear it is the inconsistency that I am referring to when talking about madness. As you can read in our last editorial – As Gym Owner Faces Prison, the Virus Must be Laughing at Croatia’s Inconsistent Measures.