Confused callers looked to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for advice on bizarre issues ranging from where to buy English bacon in Europe, how to recruit a butler in Lebanon and how to avoid nudists in southern Spain, it has been revealed.
The FCO has released details of the ten weirdest consular calls it has received in the past year, as a reminder to the public that they should only look to use its services for genuine emergencies.
The calls included:
- a man planning to move to Spain who was worried he would encounter nudists walking through the streets
- a homesick expat asking where he could buy English bacon
- a lady in Lebanon looking for help to recruit an English butler
- a holidaymaker trying to find Travel Advice for a visit to Coventry
- a European filmmaker looking for an English pensioner to play a part in his new film
- a woman who was disappointed the British Embassy has not sent someone to give her a tour of St. Petersburg on her arrival in Russia
- 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
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.
Latest FCO figures show that over the last year almost half a million calls were made to its consular service –which provides emergency help to Britons in trouble overseas.
The vast majority were from people with genuine requests and the FCO assisted with numerous cases, helping 3,250 Brits who were hospitalised, 4,770 who were arrested, and the families of 3,670 who died overseas. Almost 38,000 replacement travel documents were issued.
FCO staff are able to support Brits abroad in many ways – including arranging to visit Brits in hospital or in prison, advising on how to transfer money and helping those caught up in crisis situations. However, recent research* revealed that almost three quarters of Brits (74%) thought the FCO could get them out of jail if they were arrested, almost a quarter (22%) thought the FCO could arrange for them to get home if they lost their ticket and 15% presumed the FCO would lend them money if theirs was lost or stolen.
Head of the FCO’s Global Contact Centres, Kelvin Green said:
We receive thousands of calls a year, and do all we can to help people who find themselves in difficulty abroad. But we cannot help people make travel arrangements or lifestyle plans, lend them money or pay medical and other bills for them.
I would urge people to prepare well before they travel, making sure they have valid travel documents and insurance.
If you would like further information please contact 0207 781 2300 or ForeignandCommonwealthOffice@consolidatedpr.com
*Research from the UK Travel Habit Tracking Research Report, September 2015
The Know Before You Go campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad. The campaign works with more than 300 travel industry partners to communicate its messages. For more information visit our Know Before You Go web page.
If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can use the FCO’s Twitter service @FCOtravel. Questions are answered 9am – 6pm GMT, Monday – Friday and FCO staff aim to respond within 30 minutes. This service adds to the ways that British people travelling or living overseas can already get in touch with the FCO: by emailing our [travel advice team] or [contacting local consular staff].
You can also keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice by signing up to the FCO’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Information about how the FCO can help British nationals abroad:
|The FCO can:
||The FCO cannot:
|Issue you with an emergency travel document
||Help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visas
|Provide information about transferring money
||Give you legal advice or translate documents
|Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime, are ill or in hospital
||Investigate crimes or get you out of prison
|Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors
||Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people, but we will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards
|Contact you if you are detained abroad
||Pay any bills or give you money
|Contact friends and family back home for you if you wish
||Make travel arrangements for you
|Provide help in cases of forced marriage
|Assist people affected by parental child abduction