Remember my less than ideal experience with the French Embassy recently? Well, we applied for a British visa, took an appointment via their website, arrived at the prescribed time in the Bahrain Financial Harbour, did the required security checks and took the lift to the 23rd floor. There we were greeted by security guards with those metal detection wands, waved them at us and off we entered a well lit and airy office with an electronic queuing system.
We sat in their waiting area and immediately noticed the complete absence of bullet proof glass and that everyone there was smartly dressed in professional looking uniforms.
Our number came up, Frances took the pre-filled documents to the assigned desk where the lady looked through 5 sets of 26-paged visa application forms, got Frances to fill a few extra required details, handed in our passports which were checked and passed along to another queue after we paid the visa fees of BD820. You have to budget for visas now as part of your holiday finances! Once that was done, we were called in turn to get the finger prints scanned and pictures taken, and off we went on our way (we had breakfast at a newly opened bagel shop on the 2nd floor, simply scrumptious! The choices they have are mouth-watering and mind-boggling too!)
We were called approximately 24 hours later via a text message informing us that the passports were ready for collection. We all got 5-year visas without any bother whatsoever!
And you know what? They didn’t require 6 months bank statements, no stamped and approved hotel booking confirmation, no issued return air tickets. All they wanted were approximate dates on which we intend to travel!
The whole experience was civil and professional.
There was no one shouting and no Napoleon-wannabe patrolling the decks shouting and denigrating everyone in sight, and no frustrated and frazzled women who have seen better days and climes residing behind bullet-proof glass pretending to be Gallic protectors of the French and larger European Nation from the hordes of Bahraini terrorists and who think that without them personally – together with their diminutive mini-Napoleon-wannabe – that the whole of Europe would crumble.
The Brits can certainly teach the French some professionalism as well as give them lessons on how to treat people in a civil manner. However, I won’t hold my breath for the French Embassy or its masters in Paris to seek those direly needed lessons in better customer-care, though.
Off to the UK, sometime soon and with pleasure!