WOULD YOU LIKE A CUP OF TEA?

     

The hospitality of other cultures is something we Foreign Service types come khổng lồ appreciate over the years. In my time overseas, I have often noted how mở cửa others are to lớn us, newcomers lớn their country và visitors to lớn their homes or places of work.

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I can just about guarantee that I will be offered tea or coffee when visiting any other foreign ministry in the world; I certainly wouldn’t predict the same at Main State. There is a lesson there for all of us as we engage in diplomacy và aim khổng lồ access others’ cultures.

In my five years in India, I saw a spirit of welcoming in every scenario in which I was someone’s guest. Whether invited for dinner, visiting a store or coming for an official meeting, I was offered a connection, in many cases, a physical one—a drink, a bowl of nuts or some cookies.

The gestures sound formulaic, but are meaningful. Human beings are social creatures, and we like those times when someone reaches out to lớn touch us, even if not by hand. The idea that this other person wants lớn engage us, symbolized in the food or drink, opens us up lớn dialogue và building a relationship.

My professional role could have gotten in the way of these connections, but I think the cultural norms were too strong. As a consular officer with oversight of the visa process, I conducted site visits to lớn quite a few people’s homes to verify the information on their applications.

On many occasions, I was in a position of actively questioning someone’s honesty in their own living room. Yet on no occasion did they fail to ask, “Would you lượt thích some tea?” No matter how difficult the line of inquiry I brought to lớn their home and no matter how serious the potential impact on their immigration to lớn the United States và the future of their family, I was a guest and someone with whom lớn connect.

Was I teaching them the importance of doing the right thing, or were they teaching me? It is a life lesson I continue to lớn ponder.

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The best illustration of this willingness lớn help came on a site visit to lớn a house where we suspected a giả “son” was living. It was a very rainy day, and we had done quite a bit of driving to lớn a more rural area before getting out of the vehicle. We headed inside, were offered the obligatory drinks & commenced our investigation.

Interviewing the family và reviewing their documentation, we got a clear indication they had fabricated a relationship solely for immigration purposes. Confident in our findings, we confirmed for the family that they were now ineligible for visas và would not be traveling lớn the United States. We packed up our things and headed back out into the rain with big smiles for our excellent work.

So, what happened next? Of course, we got stuck in the mud. The skies had opened up. My colleagues & I were in our suits. Even with our best efforts, there was no way lớn push the vehicle free. Trapped right outside our interviewee’s home!

India came khổng lồ the rescue.

Those very same family members we had accused of fraud five minutes earlier came running out lớn the vehicle and, working together, we got it loose. Miễn phí again lớn drive away, we waved at those who had gone against our regulations and balanced that against all that they had just done to lớn help us. Was I teaching them the importance of doing the right thing, or were they teaching me? It is a life lesson I continue khổng lồ ponder.

Perhaps we should reconsider how we “task” one another via email without making a real connection. If we did try to get lớn know others better, if we did buy that cup of coffee, if we understood others’ sincere policy differences, we might just come up with ways for us all to bởi our jobs better.

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Josh Glazeroff is a Foreign Service officer who has served in Santo Domingo, Durban, New Delhi and Washington, D.C. He previously served on the FSJ Editorial Board & is a current thành viên of the bossvietnam.vn Governing Board.