Expats and travellers expect British diplomats to help them with some strange requests, says the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Embassies and consulates are open in many of the world’s major cities to promote British interests locally and to offer a lifeline to expats and tourists in trouble.
But thousands misuse the emergency service – and to prove the point the Foreign Office has compiled a list of the 10 strangest inquiries made last year in no particular order of merit:
- An expat who had just moved to the south of Spain was concerned that laws that make nudity legal on beaches would also extend to naked men and women walking around the streets
- Another expat with a taste for home pleaded with local diplomats to tell him where he could buy British bacon
- In Lebanon, an expat asked diplomats to help her recruit an English butler
- A desperate traveller implored one embassy to give him detailed travel advice on what to see and do on a visit to Coventry
- A European filmmaker asked diplomats to help cast a British expat in the role of a pensioner
- A British man seeking work in Singapore asked for advice on how to find a black market job without a work permit
- A mum whose son was a fan of a British YouTuber’s Minecraft videos asked diplomats to put her in touch with the video poster
- A businessman hoping to develop and export plug sockets to the UK asked an embassy for help with developing his project
- Diplomats in South Korea were approached by a man with a hoard of old pound notes who wanted to cash them in
- A woman complained that diplomats were not available to give her a guided tour of St Petersburg, Russia
British consuls deal with 500,000 callers
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister James Duddridge said:” Our consular staff try to be as helpful as they can but sometimes people try to take advantage. They are there to help British citizens who have genuine emergencies and not to deal with spurious inquiries.
“Every minute they handling a call about butlers or nudists is time taken away from dealing with life and death cases, so people should think before picking up the phone.”
More than 500,000 calls were made to consular services. Around 38,000 concerned issuing replacement travel documents.
Other help was given to 3,250 hospital patients, 4,770 suspected offenders held by police, and families and friends of 3,760 British nationals who died overseas.