With millions of Brits choosing to live outside the UK, it’s unsurprising that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are inundated with calls from desperate Brits stuck in a hospital or prison cell.
What may surprise you, however, is just how many ridiculous requests the FCO receives. Anything from sourcing English bacon to worries about nudists.
The FCO have released what they call their “Top Ten Bizarre Requests”, partly for amusement, partly to highlight to people exactly what services they can proivide.
During 2015 over 500,000 calls were made to the consular services line which is there to provide emergency or legal assistance to Britons who get in trouble abroad.
Of those half a million calls, 3,250 were from Brits who had found themselves hospitalised, 4,770 from Brits who found themselves in a jail cell, and 3,670 from the families of people who had died overseas. As well as dealing with those issues, the office also issued 38,000 replacement travel documents.
Firstly, here is a list of things you should call the FCO for:
- Arranging to visit British people in hospital
- Arranging to visit British people in prison
- Advising on money transfers
- Assisting those caught up in a crisis situation
This is not an exhaustive list, obviously, but gives you an idea of what they can do.
What they cannot do is get you out of jail if you’ve been arrested, although 74% of Brits* thought they could. They cannot necessarily arrange travel home for you if you have lost your tickets, although 22% of those surveyed thought they could. And they will not lend you money if yours is lost or stolen, which 15% of those surveyed assumed they could.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister James Duddridge said: “Our consular staff are a helpful bunch and do an amazing job helping out Brits in trouble around the world – but it is important that people remember they are there to help with genuine emergencies and not as an alternative to directory enquiries.
“Every minute they spend handling a call requesting advice on butlers or nudists is time taken away from dealing with life and death cases, so I urge the public to think before picking up the phone.”
So, here is the FCO’s Top Ten Bizarre Requests
- a man planning to move to Spain called because he was worried he may encounter nudists on the streets
- a hungry expat called to ask where he could buy English bacon
- a lady in Lebanon asked for assistance in recruiting an English butler
- a holidaymaker called looking for Travel Advice for a visit to Coventry
- a European filmmaker needed an English pensioner for a part in his film and thought the FCO could help
- a woman arrived in Russia and was upset that the Embassy didn’t send someone to show her around St. Petersburg
- a British man asking for assistance to get illegal employment in Singapore
- a mother asked for the contact details of a young British YouTuber, as her son was a fan of his Minecraft videos
- a confused businessman looking for information on the construction of plug sockets
- a man in South Korea asking what he could do with his old pound notes
* Research from the UK Travel Habit Tracking Research Report, September 2015