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How to Beat the Famous Croatian Bureaucracy with One Step

Croatia is a maddening country when it comes to bureaucracy. For years I had to renew my annual temporary residency, with one of the requirements being an original birth certificate no more than six months old. A senseless requirement that cost me more than 500 kuna a year.

Croatia is a maddening country when it comes to bureaucracy. For years I had to renew my annual temporary residency, with one of the requirements being an original birth certificate no more than six months old. Never mind that I had been born more than 30 years before, or that I had an original certificate issued the previous year, the authorities wanted original and recent proof that I had been born in March 1969, a senseless requirement that cost me more than 500 kuna a year.

Being a naive foreigner, I used to think that in order to get anything done with an official, it made sense to go to the office and make an appointment, then argue my case for whatever I needed. How naive! Apart from being constantly thwarted by a quiant little work break called ‘marenda‘ – a break in the slow Dalmatian working day which never seemed to be fixed and was designed to coincide with my visits – I learned that it was far more effective to learn which cafe the official took his marenda, sit close by and send a coffee over. Doing business Dalmatian-style, a policy which has worked well for years.

But it was when I went to import and register my car, recently bought in Germany, that I made my first real breakthrough…

Foto: www.croatia-split.com

A daunting task lay ahead, a number of visits to the technical inspection, various departments (six in all) of the customs office, more technical inspection and the police. Had I been an accomplished native speaker, skilled at paperwork, it would have been a horror day ahead; as neither, the task looked near impossible and I was bracing myself for failure.

As happens about once a decade in the offices of Croatian bureaucracy, help was at hand in the shape of a kindly younger customs officer who recognised me from one of my blogging websites, complimented me on my work and asked if there was anything he could do to help. I hopefully handed over the comprehensive car registration form (all in Croatian of course), and this obliging official literally made my day by filling the whole thing in for me.

The power of blogging, I thought to myself, as I entered the next office, to be met by a surly older official, clearly unhappy at having to interact with a foreigner with sub-standard Croatian. He certainly was not making any concessions, or trying to help, and as I finally got my message across, I watched him gingerly and indifferently look at my application. This was going nowhere fast.

The power of blogging, I thought to myself again…

“Excuse me. There is one other thing. I am a blogger and I am writing a big story on the changes in customs procedures with EU entry. I am looking for some quotes from customs officials, as well as some photographs. May I take your picture for the article, and then I can quote you?”

Foto: www.croatia-split.com

There was a sudden fear in the room, paparazzi requests were denied, out came the stamp, and I emerged triumphantly from the room some thirty seconds later, with this latest phase completed. The thing about blogging, I noted, was that anyone can do it, no press accreditation is required, and older officials seem to have some kind of fear of blogging as they have no concept of what it actually is, except that it might go ‘viral’ or be shared on Facebook. And make them look bad.

I used the trick a couple of times that day and emerged victorious, one car registered and important in an impressive 12 hours. The threat of the blog had more than played its part, but if it was useful in importing a car, the threat of a blog was even more effective in fixing problems with a telecommunications company.

Bloggers need web juice, so when the Internet at home stopped working shortly after the car import, I was less than happy, especially when we were told that it would be up to seven days before anyone could come and look at the problem.

The power of blogging had the problem solved within the hour…

A simple email to the head of PR to the company politely explaining the problem, with the offer of a quote from the PR department in a planned article on the poor levels of customer service of the company seemed to work. Profuse apologies from the company, with the promise to address the problem asap, which they did, the engineer arriving on site an hour later.

Of course, it is always nice to help friends in trouble, so when a local tourist agency in the town had a similar Internet problem and had been waiting for nine days to be connected, I offered once more to write the article and include the story of the tourist agency. Three hours later, the agency was once more taking credit card bookings.

The power of blogging to beat Croatian bureaucracy. And you don’t even have to be a blogger to make the threat… Why not try it?

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