Report Reveals Bizarre Requests From British Expats

by Ray Clancy on March 2, 2015

When you are an expat recently arrived in a new country it can be hard to find out where certain services are available but a new list has revealed some pretty silly requests.

The latest report from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office shows that strange requests have included where to find a chef that can make a haggis in Brussels.

whythebritisharemovingabroadimage200Last year the FCO’s contact centres also received requests on how to set a television to receive English TV channels in Italy and a request for cheap flights to New Zealand.

Overall it received more than 365,000 calls from British nationals abroad and while the vast majority of these were genuine calls from people who needed help, the FCO still receives thousands of enquiries every year relating to issues that are quite frankly absurd and a spokesman pointed out that these enquiries can take valuable time away from those in genuine need of assistance.

Some of the more unusual calls also included where to find British style hanging baskets, a British woman asking the consulate in Albania how to find out if her son’s fiancée was already married and a caller asking for advice on how to treat a cat’s infected paw.

A man requested that staff at the Embassy in Mexico City go to the airport to check whether he had left his mobile phone on a plane, a woman in Italy calling to enquire how she could synchronise her TV antenna to receive English channels and an event coordinator in Brussels asked for the name of a Scottish chef based in the country who could make Haggis for a Burns Night.

‘Such enquiries stem from a lack of understanding of what FCO consular teams can do for British nationals overseas, so we are launching an awareness campaign to remind UK travellers and residents overseas of the services we provide, and what we can and cannot do,’ the spokesman explained.

The FCO points out that its priority is to protect the welfare of British nationals abroad, and consular staff will always do their best to assist people when they find themselves in difficulty. However, it is important for travellers to understand what services can be provided.

‘It is important for FCO consular staff to be able to focus on our most vulnerable customers, such as victims of crime, those who have lost a loved one abroad or people who have been detained or hospitalised overseas,’ said Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, David Lidington.

‘Consular staff support thousands of British nationals who encounter difficulties overseas every year and we handle over 365,000 enquiries annually. We will always try to help where we can but there are limits to what we can do, so it’s important for people to be aware of how we can help,’ he added.

The FCO can issue an emergency travel document if a passport is lost or stolen, offer support if some becomes a victim of crime or visit people in hospital or prison, but it is not able to pay medical bills, give legal advice or get people out of jail.

‘The role of the FCO Contact Centres is to help enable consular staff to focus on what is important and to concentrate on those in need, but we continue to receive misdirected enquiries from British nationals,’ said head of the FCO’s Global Contact Centres, Meg Williams.

‘We receive hundreds of thousands of calls every year and while the vast majority of these are from British nationals in genuine need of our assistance and services, in 2014 some 38% were not related to consular support at all,’ she pointed out.

‘For example, one caller asked us to help find his son’s missing suitcase as it had apparently been lost by a British airline, the caller thought the British consulate would be able to locate it,’ she added.

Recent research has revealed that the number of people who have knowledge of what embassies and consulates do has dropped to the lowest in three years among young people aged 16 to 24, from 62% in 2011 to 55% in 2014.


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