“Can I take a ham on the plane?” The weirdest calls to Spain’s embassies

Consul in Prague publishes list of strange requests received on its emergency hotline

Losing your luggage: another little drama that can befall travelers. Getty Images/ Paul Thompson
Losing your luggage: another little drama that can befall travelers. Getty Images/ Paul Thompson

“Can I take a leg of ham on board the plane?”

“Does the embassy have the morning-after pill?”

“How do you say enema in Czech?”

These are just a few of the genuine queries received on the hotline at the Spanish embassy in Prague, and which have been put together on one of the blogs available on the Foreign Ministry’s website, En la ciudad de las cien torres (or, In the city of one hundred towers).

Its author is the consul, Pablo Rupérez, who describes the day-to-day work of a diplomat. And one of the more unusual aspects of the job, as described in this particular post, concerns some of the calls made by people who use the embassy’s emergency number.

The queries included: “Can I take a leg of ham on board the plane?” and “How do you say enema in Czech?”

“Since reality is often stranger than fiction, we often receive questions that are unexpected, curious, somewhat surreal, or simply too much for us to deal with,” wrote Rupérez in a post that was published in late January but made it on to the main page of Spanish content aggregator Menéame over the Easter holidays.

“I promise they are all authentic,” he writes.

First, there are those that focus on more or less practical issues:

“Which nightclub does the embassy recommend?”

Then, there are those who think they are talking to a customer service department:

“I arrived at the hotel and the bedsheets in my room are dirty. What should I do?”

Sign up to our newsletter!

The EL PAÍS English Edition is launching a weekly newsletter. Sign up today to receive a selection of our best stories in your inbox every Saturday morning. For full details about how to subscribe, click here.

“I bought opera tickets and the seats have poor visibility. What do you recommend?”

There are also those who never forget their beloved Spain.

“What is the area code for General Pardiñas Street in Madrid?”

“I’m a Real Madrid fan and I want to go to the Santiago Bernabéu stadium. Can you help me?”

Finally, there are the callers who are on a whole different level – possibly an alcohol-fueled one – or who simply want to poke fun at the embassy:

“I am a direct descendant of the Spanish King Charles II ‘The Bewitched’; I demand that someone from the embassy come and get me out of the police station. Plus, I live in Fuengirola most of the year.”

This call, notes Rupérez, was made by a clearly inebriated individual with a foreign-sounding accent in the middle of the night.

“I’d like two bus tickets, window seats please. For Friday. I know that this is the emergency number, but it was just in case it worked. The bus station is really far from my house, you see.”

About Verne

In past times, explorers, adventurers and writers scoured the Earth seeking out the wonders of the world. Today, we have the internet. VERNE: a thousand marvels a minute. Click here for more Verne stories in English, and here for the Spanish page

And as the consul explains in his post, some callers insist on receiving assistance regardless of the irrelevance of their request. Like the passenger with the leg of ham, for instance. Told that the embassy number was for emergencies only, he replied that “ham is an emergency for me.”

Still, Rupérez says most of the calls he and his four colleagues receive are to report theft, loss of documentation, medical emergencies and arrests.

The España.contigo service was launched in October 2015. Since then, Telefónica and Orange customers receive a free SMS on their cellphone when they travel to a foreign country, and are provided with an embassy number to call in case of need.

English version by Susana Urra.

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS