The One Thing You Absolutely, Positively Must Have in the Foreign Service

Is a sense of humor. That goes double if you are a spouse. Trust me.

You have to be able to laugh at 1.) all the weird places we live, and  2.) the giant, impersonal, often-dysfunctional bureaucracy controlling our lives. And about a million crazy things in between, from packout fiascos and giant bugs to serial unemployment and medical evacuations.

If you can’t laugh, you will cry. OK, you will probably cry on occasion anyway, but it’s the laughing that will keep you from crying into a bottomless glass of wine some days. This is why Foreign Service people (and expatriates in general) can be some of the funniest people you’ll ever meet. You couldn’t make up some of the sh** that goes on in our lives if you tried.

It’s also why the Foreign Service loves April Fool’s Day. I edited three post newsletters: every single year we had at last a front page April Fool’s article if not an entire bogus edition. It’s a long tradition at overseas posts, because well, see above.

April Fool’s “cables” (now emails) are a tradition, too. Diplopundit has run a few, but sometimes the bureaus send them out as well. I remember one cable asking for bidders on an immediate opening in Antarctica. “Must speak fluent Penguin.”

So, Diplopundit ran an exceptionally good April Fool’s cable this year. It was a “leaked memo” citing cost-saving measures such as re-using paper towels, not flushing toilets, and a “Sheep and Goat Landscaping Initiative.”

The problem was, these very clearly bogus points were prefaced by a couple of items that despite being ridiculous, in today’s climate were almost believable. Which leads to all kinds of questions about life imitating art, truth being stranger than fiction, and so on.

But, anyway. Someone at State had forgotten about this great Foreign Service tradition. Or didn’t know about it. Or couldn’t tell a real cable from a fake cable. Or something. And told Diplopundit to take down the post.

Diplopundit did not take it down. If fact, DP is sticking around for a while now. Good!

You absolutely, positively must have and keep a sense or humor in the Foreign Service. Otherwise, there’s nothing but frustration, bitter tears and too much vodka.

I sure hope this is not completely forgotten over the next three years, nine months, and fourteen days!





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