Weird expat requests to Brit consular staff

Published:  26 May at 6 PM
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It’s not just expats who have problems with their embassies - the FCO staff themselves have their own problems with wacky expat requests.

It’s fair to say that many Brit expats feel they’re not being well served by their country’s overseas embassies and consulates, but employees in these unappreciated outposts have their problems as well. Not every expat moving overseas, and certainly not every tourist, bothers to revew the home country’s overseas services online before picking up a phone when there’s a problem.

Representatives of the British Foreign Office overseas are believed by many UK expats to be switched off as regards what they can do and focusing on what they can’t or won’t do. However, FCO staff have their off-days as well, often caused by unbelievably strange requests by Brits overseas.

Local FCO employees trained to deal with real emergencies can be confronted by new arrivals in their country who haven’t the faintest idea what they’ve bought into. For example, one newly-arrived Brit turned up at his local consulate in Spain to voice his concern that permitted nudity on Spanish beaches meant he’d see naked women wandering around the resort as well! The Spanish for ‘you should be so lucky’ might well have been an apposite reply.

Another typical, obviously deprived Brit beseeched local diplomats to tell him the best source of real British bacon, whilst another slightly more up-market, very English lady in Lebanon requested info and help with hiring a butler. Possibly one who could handle a machine gun as well as serving a refreshing cup of Earl Grey, given her location.

The proof that not all wacky expats are British came when a desperate traveller pleaded with his embassy to supply him with what sounded like the ‘Idiot’s Guide to Coventry’. Perhaps he should have been ‘sent to Coventry’ by the bemused embassy worker. Even more strange was the Brit seeking to work in Singapore, who asked the consulate for advice on how to get a black market job including a work permit. Classic.

So, next time you feel stressed or even angry after a visit to your local British embassy or consulate, please remember there are two sides to the ongoing story of the UK’s Foreign Office overseas. Every year, half a million calls are made to consular staff and, whilst the majority concern lost travel documents, the rest are genuine emergencies needing expert assistance and often legal advice.
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