18 March 2014

Getting a Czech driving license the honest way

The very interesting Corruption Perceptions Index ranks the Czech Republic as one of the most corrupt in central and western Europe.

So, when it became clear that I would need a Czech drivers' license, I did a bit of internet research to see if buying the license was possible.

Smalls helpfully demonstrating the '10 and 2' position
Number one rule of corruption in Europe: if you have to ask the internet about how to do bribery and corruption, you're doing it wrong. So, it was off to proper driving lessons for me so that I could fulfil the required 28 hours of driving before taking the test.

'I know very good translator,' said my driver instructor when it came time for me to take the theory test. 'Very good. Maybe you have problem. Maybe he help.'

Aha, I thought. Here is my chance to make use of the 118th most corrupt system in the world.

Alas, the Very Good Translator fell ill the day before my test and the replacement (after a flurry of desperate phone calls) turned out to be a Very Proper Translator, who sent me a very direct email stating that he would only translate. Answering the questions for me would be not only wrong, but also illegal.

After a tense night of memorising the Czech highway code, I passed with only two small errors.

I don't mean to brag, but I would like to point out that this was in spite of having a translator who kept using the phrase 'making known your intentions' instead of the more usual 'signalling' or 'using your blinker' on some of the key questions.

So, then it was on to the practical test, which went swimmingly (more or less) up until the very end when I was instructed to parallel park. It did not go well, and involved both my driving instructor and the invigilator tutting in unison and finally inspired the invigilator to sigh, in English, 'Pani, not on the grass.'

Somehow, I passed, and my driving instructor seemed as surprised as me, so I think that rules out him slipping the invigilator a small incentive.

Which brings us to the other students who were also taking the practical test. One informed me that many of the foreigners he knew had merely paid a little extra and had received their Czech licenses without even having to leave their living rooms. ('Oh really? They should put this information on the internet!')

Another Egyptian student failed his drive, so he patiently waited for three hours until the invigilator had finished with all the examinations and then went to have a chat with him. The whole driving school full of test-takers and instructors waited. The Egyptian student exited the invigilator's room and rescheduled his practical test for the next month.

Which brings us back to the issue of corruption in the Czech Republic. I have no doubt that it does exist here, but I have to say I certainly haven't been benefiting from it.