CONFUSED callers have 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.
As a reminder to Brits abroad that they should only look to use the consular service for genuine emergencies, The FCO has released details of the 10 weirdest calls they have received in the past year.
The calls include:
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 had not sent someone to give her a tour of St. Petersburg on her arrival in Russia
A man asking for assistance to get illegal employment in Singapore
A mother asking 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
James Duddridge, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister 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, including 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.
British residents in Spain made more than 13,000 telephone enquiries in the past year. The enquiries 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, with questions sometimes similar to the more bizarre examples received worldwide.
FCO staff can support Brits abroad in many ways – including arranging to visit vulnerable Brits in hospital or in prison, advising on how to transfer money and helping those caught up in crisis situations.
However, recent research has revealed that three quarters of Brits (74%) wrongly think the FCO can get them out of jail if they are arrested, nearly a quarter (22%) think the FCO can arrange for them to get home if they lose their ticket, and 15% presume the FCO will lend them money if theirs is lost or stolen.
Kelvin Green, Head of the FCO’s Global Contact Centres, 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.”