You may have noticed the absence of a certain person from my recent posts.
Unsurprisingly, he started to get slightly grumpy about being poked fun at in public, especially as most of my references to him tended to concentrate on what we might diplomaticaly call his, ahem, ‘thrifty’ nature.
However, thanks to his knowledge of matters financial, Czechman proved himself to be a true hero last week. And I think it’s about time I sang his praises in public. So Czechman, thanks.
What exactly has my dashing Czech chap done in order to deserve my gratitude?
He helped me with my taxes.
Any British readers out there who are yet to set foot in Czechland will struggle to understand just what a big deal this is. In England if you are employed ‘sorting out your taxes’ generally means sending off your P60 or if you’ve switched jobs during the same year, the couple of P45s you should have saved up. That’s it.
In Kafkaland, things are not so simple.
It all started off when I received an email from the accounts department (in Cesky) asking me to come and sign some tax-related paperwork. As no-one there speaks English, I’ll admit I felt somewhat triumphant that I managed to handle this without any assistance.
I recounted the incident to Czechman on his return home in the evening.
‘The lady asked me if I was employed somewhere else and I understood and so I signed something and then I left.
‘They had lots of onions on the windowsill. I think they were drying them or something. I wanted to ask about the onions but I felt too shy.’
‘What exactly did you sign?’ asks Czechman.
‘Umm, I dunno.’
‘YOU SIGNED SOMETHING AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT WAS?’
‘Umm. Yes. But I understood the question she asked. Isn’t that good? Why do you think she’s drying onions in her office?’
‘Jezismarja, to snad neni mozny…’
[Rough translation: “I am somewhat frustrated with your inability to deal with this matter properly.”]
After some further investigation on Czechman’s part it seems that I should be able to claim a substantial tax rebate (woo!) but not before I have visited various different offices with various different bits of paper which have to be shown as evidence in order to collect various other bits of paper which when taken together and accompanied by another form which I must sign in triplicate in my own blood will prove that I have paid too much tax.
I could not cope with the visits to the offices alone. In fact, I wouldn’t even know which offices to visit or which bits of paper to take or what to say when confronted with a less than helpful woman behind a desk in front of a computer which only says no.
Czechman knows the way though and has the necessary patience to guide me along it. I spend several days following him down long corridors lit with horrible fluorescent strip lighting and nodding while he talks to the various women behind desks and signing in the places he points to. I feel a little bit like those Bengali women I used to teach in London (minus the hijab) who had their husbands who drove taxis or ran shops and could speak English properly to do all the important administrative tasks.
I’m not delighted that he doesn’t believe in Valentines Day or kissing in public or anniversaries of any kind. The money isn’t in my account just yet so perhaps I shouldn’t count my proverbial chickens before they’ve emerged from their metaphorical hatches.
Helping me negotiate the Czech tax maze may just be the most romantic thing Czechman has ever done for me.