Then there’s events like elections, in Colombia the sale of alcohol in shops, bars and nightclubs is brought to a complete halt by law for the entire voting weekend. A bit drastic insisting on people vote sober some might say, but there are serious safety reasons behind “La Ley Seca” (Dry Law), which when looking into Colombia’s recent history, isn’t hard to fathom why.
However, volatile political regimes and different systems of government around the world do mean that in some cases, your adopted hometown can very quickly turn full circle into a virtual war zone, as in some areas of the Middle East at the moment. The news has been dominated by the ongoing situation in Libya and the plight of British expats trying urgently to leave the country, a lot of these people will have similar jobs to myself, being teachers in international schools, universities and institutes who've gone to live abroad for a different adventure and experience. It just so happens that on this occasion the adventure has unfortunately got a bit too real and so they've had to frantically pack up and put their life on hold for the moment.
The British Foreign Office appears to have received a fair amount of stick about how they’ve been 'evacuating' these expats, and it got me thinking about a possible predicament in Colombia and what’d happen here in a similar situation. I’ll emphasise now that Colombia is currently very stable politically, probably more so now than at any point in the last thirty years or so, but natural disasters such as the earthquake in New Zealand, can happen here and provoke much needed diplomatic help for citizens abroad.
As Britain supposedly has the highest amount of expats from the developed world with figures suggesting up to 5 million of us live abroad (I'm not sure what that says about Britain itself!), it's no small feat to look after and provide assistance when required to them all through costly embassies and consular offices. Obviously, most enquiries are probably to do with passports lost on a drunken night out, amongst other more bizarre requests, some of which just take the piss really, but do provide entertaining reading.
From time to time however, more serious situations arise as in Libya and New Zealand now, and British citizens genuinely need help, and for this the Foreign Office has a service called 'Locate'. It encourages expats abroad to register their personal details in case of emergencies so that assistance can be organised, whether that be sending an email with some advice or an entire chartered plane as in Libya's case. If you're reading this from abroad and you're not registered, I recommend doing so. I've got no experience of actually using it myself, but you never know when it could come in handy, and for the sake of spending a few minutes giving a few details about yourself, it's hardly an effort.
It's worth looking at at their travel advice whenever you're going away, it's specific for just about every country in the world, and is constantly updated. I do think it can be a little too cautious, but I suppose they have to be like that, and going on a weekend trip to Paris is not quite the same as backpacking around South America, but it's horses for courses, and if anything did happen, your parents would be the first to complain anyway!