Croatian Bureaucracy, a Love Story: 1. The Car Licence Plate

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I was genuinely surprised at how much interest there was in my attempts to open a business bank account as a foreigner last week. Such a normal (in theory) event and hardly the most inspiring of topics, but my celebration of the Raiffeisen Bank hero who opened the account in just 46 minutes, while PBZ told me not only would I have to travel to Zagreb for the privilege of opening one of their accounts, but the next appointment was two weeks away. The article was the third most popular on TCN this week, and you can meet my new best friend Nenad and find out how to do it in Opening a Croatian Business Bank Account as a Foreigner… in 46 Minutes.

The popularity of the article made me reflect that we live in a moment in time (I sincerely hope) where the current bureaucracy will soon be dominated by technology and efficiency, and that stories of Croatian bureaucracy in Uhljebistan 2.0 will be totally alien to our kids. To be honest, the logic of most of the way this country is fairly alien to all of us right now. And as I got back to the car, I got the inspiration to start this series – an attempt over the weeks to document a snapshot of absurdity for my grandchildren exploring the daily grind in this beautiful land. 


The inspiration was a parking ticket on my windscreen as I returned to the car. I am not driving my usual car at the moment, and I had faithfully entered the Croatian car licence plate number into the SMS parking (fun fact – did you know that SMS parking payment was a Croatian invention?).

No doubt I had made a mistake, I would deal with it later. And on it went to the ‘to do’ list. 

A couple of days later I went on a business trip to Zagreb. I was there for two nights and stayed in my favourite central parking spot which charges just 10 kuna a day. I once again entered the car licence plate number into my phone, and once more I got confirmation. 


And two days later, when I returned to my car, I was greeted with not one, but two parking tickets on my windscreen, one for each day. 

Wtf?!? I could type the number in incorrectly once perhaps, but twice? Not even I am that big of an idiot.  

I looked at the number. ST46020, which I what I typed. 

Could the two zeroes by the letter ‘O’? Did these number plates require a letter at the end? Should it then be ST46O2O

They looked identical. Don’t they?

My next meeting was with the legend that is Marko Rakar. Among all the other amazing things he does, he managed to put the ‘anal’ in Croatian bureaucracy analysis, and I greatly enjoyed his elaborate explanation of how he was busy educating one of his service providers on how to issue an electronic invoice. 

Not having seen the plates, he told me that the 0 in 4602 was a number, and the last digit was the letter O, as this type of Croatian car licence plate must end in a letter (you learn something useless every day in this beautiful land). But if I looked closely, I would notice a difference in font between the number and the letter. 

I went to the car and sent him the lead photo above. No difference. 

Hmm, he mused, his interest mildly piqued. try the car registration document. 


My eyes are not what they once were, but can you see a discernible difference?

Now the MRAK in Black was curious, insisting that the first had to be a number, the second a letter. It would show somewhere


And so it did. In the place that matters most in Uhljebistan – on the parking fine.

Not even a dumb foreigner like me could mistake the zero for the letter in the fine. 

I shall appeal, of course, and keep you updated. I am hoping that the MRAK in Black will be able to dedicate some of his precious time to guide me in my appeal and hopefully lead me down some awesome labyrinths of Croatian bureaucracy which will give me more material for this series. 


You can follow progress on this and other wonderful adventures into Croatian bureaucracy in our new Croatian Bureaucracy, a Love Affair section.

If you have a story of bureaucratic pain that deserves a wider audience, send your submission to [email protected] Subject Bureaucratic Love. 


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