Oh visa gods, hear our prayer.

Like all sensible people, before approaching an embassy I take reasonable steps to ensure success. I like to visit the shrine of the gods of bureaucracy and leave on offering of coffee and doughnuts (in triplicate). Then I put on my ceremonial paper headdress, decorated in black and blue ink only, and do my ‘check all the right boxes’ dance, this is something like the hokey pokey. After that I wrap a sacrificial chicken drumstick in red tape before burning it and sending the smoke the heavens to please my ancestors. This has always worked for me.

Sometimes I even like to light a candle and say a little prayer for all the people who lost their lives and sanity in queues and waiting rooms.


But today I had a revelation. Perhaps there is another way? A logical set of steps that help increase the chance of success without incense and clearly PRINT-ed charms.

After much deliberation and after channelling the spirit of Hermes Conrad for guidance I have devised the following rules:

• Plan ahead. Find out what you need to bring with you and do ahead of time and then do those things. Sometimes embassies lie, let’s say about the currency you need but this can hopefully be resolved with the tools you brought with you. Like your magical visa card.

• Find out what people are saying. Sometimes, people who are either there or who have been before have secret clues to help you. Like: There is no spoon…Or photo booth, whatever. In this way I learned that the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh once had a reputation for being tough, but not anymore, also that they my be faster if you are friendly.

• Smile. Bureaucrats look at miserable, pissed off people every day. It will not kill you to act like your happy to see them (you do need them after all) and they might treat you extra well as a result.

• Don’t act like they should bend over backwards for you. Not everybody knows this, but sometimes, if you work in customer service you go a little crazy. This is because you become overwhelmed by how stupid/rude/inconsiderate human people can be. Embassy staff are not actually customer service personnel. However, as people act like it, they are equally likely to either passively or aggressively lose their heads. This is most subtly displayed by them not helping you when they can do, because they want you to go away.

• Don’t be that person. You know, the one who says stupid rhetorical things loudly, like: ‘Why does it take an hour to stamp a form?!’ ‘Why does it take so long? Last time I was here it took three days, now you are telling me three weeks!’ They don’t know/care to tell you. They don’t make the rules and if you don’t mind there is a room full of people waiting for their form. People who actually left enough time/got their forms in order beforehand.

• Ask questions nicely. Appeal to their desire to help you, after all we all want things to go smoothly. Taking too long? Try: ‘Is there any option to make this go through faster?’ Today, I noticed none of the cases above (real comments btw) were told that there was an express option. Technically they did not ask. But there is, I found out from a guy in the waiting room.


• Say thank you! It’s just polite. Also, if you have to go back they may well remember you as that nice person, who was organised, smiley and polite. I need to go back one more time, but the guy who did my form called me to get my form first today because he remembered me.

I’m sure that some of this probably came of a little harsh, but I do get a little annoyed by rudeness. The moral of the story is this: do your best to get everything ready and be nice to the PEOPLE behind the desk.

Images came from:
http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/the-sting – Zombie pay check
http://mythopoeicrambling.blogspot.com/2011/12/another-one-of-my-nitpicks-but-in-what.html – Technically Correct
http://theinfosphere.org/Bureaucrats -Li’l Bureaucrat