New country, new rules.
Joep Bosman, reveals the process of founding Local Heroes Travel company. The Dutch testimony on Croatian bureaucracy.
After my second visit to Croatia I decided to jump over the fence and decided to start an incoming agency. After 25 years of working with third parties all over the world I wanted to take full control of the product and entire process.
That is when the marathon with the Croatian bureaucracy started. Getting the first legal start of the company was relatively easy, as EU rules apply. But immediately after that a long and winding road started when we tried to get the rest of the paperwork done. And if I would not have been guided through this process by Lucija, my first local hero, I think I would have gone completely crazy.
Here we go: Let me start with explaining what an apostille is: this is an official verification that a form or declaration originating from another country is legally valid. And while starting I had to produce quite a few documents that needed legalisation. These apostilles have to be issued by a court and they must be officially sealed. We made some minor mistakes in those processes and I must have gone to court at least 10 times to get one. One time I even went to court to get the apostille without bringing the document. That was not a very productive trip. And after you get the apostille you are not ready: the form also needs to be officially translated before it is accepted. All this needs some speeding up as the validity of the apostille is very limited. As administrative punctuality is definitely not one of my strongholds, we lost quite a bit of time and money in the process.
When we arrived in the office I asked something to the lady who was in charge who did not even look at me and spoke in Croatian to Lucija and said: this is an Croatian office and only Croatian is spoken here. And I was asked to leave the room.
Another example of a small hiccup is that we needed a license to start a touristic company and this had to be arranged in Split. When we arrived in the office I asked something to the lady who was in charge who did not even look at me and spoke in Croatian to Lucija and said: this is an Croatian office and only Croatian is spoken here. And I was asked to leave the room. The administration rules in general are also more complicated than I was used to. For example a salary consists of about seven different items involving taxes and social security, much the same way as it is done in Holland. But whereas in Holland the total amount is lump sum paid to one organisation in Croatia these monthly payments have to be done to seven different departments with seven different bank accounts. That is a lot of administration.
Let’s move on and take a look at our office in the heart of the town. A really nice but small space in the heart of Kastel Stari, close to the sea and the farmer’s market, surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants and bakeries. An entrance, a room and a toilet, that is basically it. But nevertheless it required formal approval from the fire department. The process of getting the paperwork and the official sticker alone involved a visit to three offices in different Kastela’s. Getting water, electricity and internet connections also all involved solving formalities with different departments/companies. And with all this paperwork involved I want to point out another important aspect of the Croatian administrative process: the company stamp. Virtually every piece of paper requires to be stamped. And when it gets slightly more official, you need to go to a notary to get their stamp as well. In Holland you go to a notary a few times in your life, but in Croatia this happens on a more regular basis. We even had to go to a notary when we prolonged the office rent for a year.
Kastela also caused some trouble. It is a charming seaside town halfway Split and Trogir. Nice beaches, not crowded yet and with a very nice vibe. A bit of a problem however is that the town of Kastela consists of no less than seven different entities: Kaštel Sućurac, Kaštel Gomilica, Kaštel Kambelovac, Kaštel Lukšić, Kaštel Novi, Kaštel Štafilić and Kaštel Stari. And some tasks are organised centrally, but each community also has its own bureaucratic responsibilities and tasks. And all this is divided over these villages in a very mysterious way, that is: for an outsider like myself. Another complicating factor is that Kastela is not a big town with it’s about 40.000 inhabitants. But is a very ‘long’ town as it is spread out for about 15 kilometres along the coast. We have done so many trips back and forth that I literally have driven hundreds of kilometers within the city limits to get all the paperwork done. But finally, after a couple of months everything was organised by the book.
Looking back I really enjoyed entering into this strange new world. As a matter of fact I actually loved every minute of it.