“Describe Your Mustache” And Other Strange Visa Questions

visa application form
Dr Aek Muldoon, Flickr

Anyone who has done a lot of travel understands that travel-related bureaucracy falls into its own special category of weird and unusual. The bizarre questions you get asked on customs forms or during the immigration process can leave you scratching your head, and now a new survey has revealed the truly wacko questions that are sometimes asked during the visa application process.

A poll by a visa submission website asked travelers to recount the most unusual questions they had ever been asked. Among the strangest, was a question on a Mexican visa form asking the applicant to “describe their beard/mustache.” The responses applicants could choose from included “scanty,” “bushy” or “clipped.” Meanwhile, a man traveling to a Middle Eastern country was asked “how many wives do you intend to bring?” during his application process.Some seemingly odd questions may have a rational basis for being on the application form — Australia, for instance, which takes quarantine very seriously, asks if travelers “have been to a farm in the past six weeks.” Others just boggle the mind. Several travelers were asked, “What side of the bed does your wife sleep on?” when applying for a U.S. visa, while those heading to China were asked about the reason for visiting, with “visit” being one of the available responses.

Those behind the survey say that while the questions may seem weird to us, it’s simply a sign of cultural differences, and travelers should be careful not to joke when filling out visa forms or answering immigration questions.

Tell us, what’s the strangest visa question you’ve ever been asked?

10 Weird Items That You CAN Travel With

slgckgc, Flickr

The prohibited items list from the TSA might seem long, but as it turns out, there are plenty of weird things that you can in fact travel with.

1. Snow Globes
As long as it appears to be less than 3.4 ounces (which the TSA points out is about the size of a tennis ball), and you can fit it into your clear, plastic bag with all your other liquids, feel free to pop your favorite snow globe in your carry-on.

2. Ice Skates
You might think that a blade that allows you to do double sow cows on frozen water wouldn’t make it past security, but ice skates are carry-on friendly.3. Antlers
Just like a bicycle, as long as its correctly packaged and you pay the fee, you can check a rack of antlers (provided there’s enough space on the plane). The skull must be wrapped and the tips covered though, and on some airlines they need to be in a hard sided box, so be sure that you work on your antler packing skills before you head to the airport.

4. Christmas Trees
Delta is all about the holiday spirit, and is happy to accept your Christmas trees as long as they’re wrapped in burlap.

5. Really big musical instruments
We’ve all seen the 20-something indie singer songwriter get on the plane with his/her guitar. But what about those instruments that won’t fit above or under the seat in front of you? KLM will actually let you book an individual seat for your instrument. Just in case you didn’t want to be separated from your harp for too long. That piano will have to travel as freight, however.

6. Needlepoint
Didn’t have time to finish up that needlepoint sampler while staying at Grandma’s? Pop it in your handbag along with your knitting needles.

7. Live lobsters
Yes, live lobsters and even crabs are perfectly fine to check on many airlines, like Southwest and Alaska even lets you pre-book live animals as you would your dog. It’s all dependent on how you pack them though, so check individual airline regulations. You can even have the animal as carry-on, as long as it’s in its own bag with nothing else in it.

8. Crematory remains
Depending on what airline you’re flying, you can carry-on and check crematory remains, according to TSA regulations. Little known fact: TSA agents are not allowed to open containers carrying remains, so be sure to pack in a container that can pass through the x-ray, like plastic or wood.

9. Parachutes
Yes, you can bring your parachute, as long as you arrive an additional 30 minutes early to the airport since the security officers might need to open the entire thing to inspect it.

10. Monkeys
Well, not just any monkey, but if you have a service monkey (yes, that’s a thing) they are more than welcome aboard. You may be asked to remove the monkey’s diaper for the TSA agent however.

Experts Agree: Squat Toilets Are Good For You

squat toilets
Sean McLachlan

Chances are your morning glory isn’t good for you.

In the Western world we’re second place when it comes to doing Number Two. A growing number of medical experts agree that our seat toilets aren’t nearly as good as squat toilets, which are what’s used on the majority of places in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

It all comes down to positioning.

The medical textbook Gastroenterology, the definitive reference to the subject and written by three MDs, states, “The ideal posture for defecation is the squatting position, with the thighs flexed upon the abdomen. In this way the capacity of the abdominal cavity is greatly diminished and intra-abdominal pressure increased, thus encouraging expulsion …”

In plain English, squatting releases pressure on your rectum and makes it easier to poop. Sitting in a Western style toilet is means you’re pushing against your own muscles. Many doctors say that using squat toilets reduce the chances of constipation, hemorrhoids, even bowel cancer.
Neuroscientist Daniel Lametti writes that wile there haven’t been any smoking gun statistics for cancer, it makes intuitive sense that people would be less constipated if they squat and less likely to put strain on their anus that would cause hemorrhoids.

Having spent a great deal of time in countries where squat toilets were the only option, I can testify that squatting is easier on the bum, if not the thighs. You get through your business quicker, and it does feel easier and more natural. It’s how we’re built, after all. Interested in learning more? Check out this article on how to use squat toilets.

Eccentric England: The Headington Shark

Headington Shark
Henry Flower

Once again, I’m back in Oxford for my annual summer working holiday. I love this place. This quintessentially English city offers beautiful colleges, the world’s coolest museum, even the chance to bump into the Queen.

But all this pales in comparison to the sight of a giant shark crashing into a roof.

The Oxford suburb of Headington is a bit dull, so local resident Bill Heine at 2 New High Street decided to commission sculptor John Buckley to create a 25-foot shark to adorn his roof. It was put up on August 9, 1986, the 41st anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing. As Heine explained, “The shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation … It is saying something about CND, nuclear power, Chernobyl and Nagasaki.”

The clipboard Nazis in the local council were not amused. They tried to have it removed as a pubic hazard. When their engineer said it was perfectly safe, they tried various other excuses. Much legal wrangling ensued.

Decades later, the naysayers are all gone and the shark is still there. It’s a much-loved local landmark, a modern folly. I see it every time I come in on the bus from London and enjoy pointing it out to newcomers. There’s even a Headington Shark Appreciation Society on Facebook with more than a thousand members. So if you’re coming to Oxford, pop on over and see the Headington Shark.

Horseburgers: Slovenia’s Unusual Delicacy

horseburgers
Sean McLachlan

The horse has been with us for thousands of years. A loyal steed that has pulled plows, helped us migrate to new lands and carried us into battle, there is no more noble animal. We’ve honored the horse in myth, art and song, so what more fitting end to this fine beast than to eat it?

Horse meat is a good source of iron and is a free-range meat that’s low in fat. Horses produce far less methane than cows, so they’re easier on the environment too. As I mentioned in my post about Slovenian cuisine, Slovenia is one of the many European countries where horse is considered a delicacy. I’d never tried it before so while I was in the capital Ljubljana I decided to set out to one of the most popular places to eat horse – a horseburger stand called Hot Horse.

The branch I went to is in Tivoli Park, a large green area filled with families enjoying a sunny weekend. Hot Horse is located right next to a kid’s play park offering slides and games. No pony rides, though. That would have made my day.

Hot Horse looks like pretty much any other fast food place you’ve seen, with garish colors and plastic furniture. I ordered a horseburger, small fries, and a Coke for €6.50 ($8.67). As you can see, the thing was huge and slathered with ketchup and mayonnaise. I had to scrape much of this off to actually taste the horse meat.So how was it? OK. It does have a distinct flavor, a bit like beef but more mild with kind of a nutty taste. I enjoyed it but wasn’t converted. Of course, I was eating a horseburger in a fast food joint and not a horse steak at some fine restaurant, so perhaps I wasn’t experiencing horse meat at its best. Still, I came away more glad for the experience than impressed by my meal.

This made me think of all the other exotic meats I’ve tried – kangaroo, bison, alligator, ostrich – and how I wasn’t converted to them either. There’s a reason that beef, chicken and pork are the most popular meats around the world. They’re the most flexible, able to take on all sorts of different flavors depending on the recipe. They’re also cheap and easy to raise.

While the big three aren’t my favorites (venison takes first place, followed by game birds) they constitute 95 percent of my meat intake because they are easy to find, easy to prepare and easy to afford.

So if you’re in Slovenia, try out some horse. Just don’t expect Hot Horse to rival to Burger King anytime soon.

Check out the rest of my series, “Slovenia: Hikes, History and Horseburgers.”

Coming up next: Ten Random Observations About Slovenia!

horseburgers
Sean McLachlan