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Consulate reveals weirdest requests from Brits abroad

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Consulate reveals weirdest requests from Brits abroad
The FCO can't give advice on how to avoid nudists. File photo: Asaf Rotman / Flickr
08:26 CEST+02:00
The British Embassy is there to help if you have a medical emergency, lose your passport or get in a spot of bother with the police. But thousands of people rang in last year in the hope that consular staff could help them with more mundane matters.

In the hope of dissuading future time wasters, the Foreign Office have revealed some of the more bizarre requests for assistance made by travelling Brits.

It is a question that many a holiday-maker or newly-arrived expat residents will be desperate to know.  

"One homesick expat called up to ask the best place to purchase some English bacon," the FCO revealed.

While another was worried that he might encounter "nudists walking through the streets" and called in to ask how best to avoid them in southern Spain. 

One member of staff at the consulate in Malaga was surprised to be asked to assist in a household staffing problem by a Lebanese caller.

"Can you send me an English butler?" asked the woman. 

"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," said James Duddridge, the FCO minister.

"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," he said.

But don't think that Brits abroad are the only ones to ask dumb questions.

The Spanish foreign office has revealed some of the strangest queries they received on the hotline at their embassy in Prague as reported by El Pais. 

Mirroring the British need for familiar porcine products, one Spaniard called in to ask the all important question: "Can I take a leg of ham on board the plane?". When informed that he had called an emergency number, the indignant caller replied: "Ham IS an emergency for me."


Photo: AFP

In another emergency call, a Spaniard requested that the consulate book him some bus tickets: "I'd like two bus tickets, window seats please. For Friday. I know that this is the emergency number, but it was just in case it worked. The bus station is really far from my house, you see." 

Another called for some simple translation advice: "How do you say enema in Czech?"

"Since reality is often stranger than fiction, we often receive questions that are unexpected, curious, somewhat surreal, or simply too much for us to deal with," wrote Pablo Rupérez, the consul in Praque in a blog post published in late January.

Brits in Spain are among the worst culprits with almost a quarter of calls made to its consular services answerable with a quick internet search.

The latest FCO figures show that over the last year, almost half a million calls were made to its consular service worldwide, which provides emergency help to Britons in trouble overseas.

"British residents in Spain made more than 13,000 telephone enquiries in the past year, of which a quarter could have been resolved if callers had first searched www.gov.uk," said a statement from the British Embassy in Madrid.

"The most frequent topics - for which there is plenty of information online - included applying for a British passport, getting UK documents legalised and registering a birth, death or marriage. In addition, nearly 2,000 of the total calls were inappropriately seeking 'lifestyle' advice."

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