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Realities of Foreign Service Life

3.8 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0595250776
ISBN-10: 0595250777
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Realities of Foreign Service Life
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  • Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work, The Essential Guide to the Foreign Service
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Patricia Linderman is a writer, translator and Associate Editor of Tales from a Small Planet, www.talesmag.com. She has lived as a Foreign Service family member in Trinidad, Chile, Cuba and Germany. Melissa Brayer-Hess is a writer, teacher and Managing Editor of Foreign Service Lifelines, www.aafsw.org. She has lived in France, Nigeria, Russia, Algeria, Egypt, and Ukraine. Melissa and Patricia have also co-authored the guidebook The Expert Expatriate: Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad (2002, Nicholas Brealey / Intercultural Press).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (October 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595250777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595250776
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #706,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Kolb on March 7, 2003
If you're looking for a book that deals with the non-embassy life of Foreign Service personnel and their families, this is an excellent book for you. The book is more a series of "behind the scenes" stories submitted by different people who have connections with the FS. Some are actual FS employees. Others are spouses. One of the great things about this book is how varied the stories are. One details the experiences of shopping in different markets all over the world. Another is a Q&A session where they discuss everything from the best way to pack your belongings to how to prepare your children for a new location. One man describes the joys and difficulties of being a bachelor in the FS. Yet another explains how best to bring your pets with you when you move. And another descibes the trials of trying to find American food in different countries. And these are just a handful of some great and honest essays!
I originally bought this book thinking it would help me prepare for the Oral Exam. I thought it might deal with the innerworkings of an embassy and what the varied embassy personnel do on a daily basis. For example, how an Administrative Officer finds housing for people. If that's what you're looking for, this book is not for you. The book rarely touches on any of those topics. Instead it deals more with the personal issues.
However, I still think the book should be read by anyone and everyone who's considering a career in the FS. In the first chapter, the authors state the purpose of the book: they want everyone to know what the FS is like. If this encourages people to join them, then great. If it causes people to rethink this career and even chose something else, all the better.
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I have been collecting books on the Foreign Service ever since I became interested in joining. This was the first one I read and remains one of my favorites. It gives a brief glimpse into actually working for an embassy (it has a pro/con list of being a FSO at the beginning, which is both funny and useful), but concentrates mainly on personal life outside the embassy. While those who bought the book expecting a detailed assessment on the actual job of an FSO will be disappointed, it is clear even from the book jacket that actual FSO work is not the topic of the book. The short essays in the book cover everything from traveling with pets (I didn't even know you could have pets when you travel as a FSO) to dealing with crisis. It definitely is a reality check, because it is very easy to become caught up in the process of becoming a FSO and deciding which career track you would like to pursue, while forgetting about the lifestyle you will lead outside of work. I would recommend this book to anyone, of any age, who is considering the FSO as a career, or to anyone who will be living and traveling with a FSO relative.
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If you're a female spouse of a foreign service officer, have never traveled abroad, let alone to somewhere with anything less than first world ammenities, and are used to being surrounded at all times by friends and family, then THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU! Of the more than 35 anectodes of foreign service life, only perhaps five were written by men. I tired of the endless complaints of insects, heat, cold, limited work opportunities for spouses, broken house items, crazy driving, corrupt infrastructure,broken infrastructure, etc., etc., etc. Having lived, travelled, and owned property abroad, most of which in the Third World, I was really hoping to see some the of the brighter sides of this adventure. Where were the great relationships with locals and their families, the adventurous forays into the bush to see local flora and fauna, the interesting challenges of learning a new culture and language, the unique perspective that one gives to one's child by growing up in a foreign land, the fun, adventure, and excitement of...Going local? While some of the stories are insightful and somewhat telling, I found it somewhat misleading. I really expected that the authors would spend more time sharing the unique perspective of foreign service life as well as the common inconveniences that we often face right her in the USA. Is the common FSO family really this petty, displaced, and inexperienced? I'd hate to think that these are truly the "Realities of Foreign Service Life."
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This book is simply key in helping you understand what a life in the Foreign Service is like. Several essays provide different insights into the ups and downs of living overseas and the unique challenges of the Foreign Service. You simply must read this before considering that career, and more importantly your spouse must read it also. Arguably, the spouse gives up more to join the Foreign Service. Until I read this book I was on the fence but not too far into the text I decided this wasn't for me or my family, which is really a great thing. If I relied on the State Department view I would have exerted significant time and effort only to find out later or too late. Some critics complain the book is too whiny, and it does come across like that at times. But look at it this way: if you read all the negatives and are still motivated, then the Foreign Service would be incredibly dense to NOT take you.

One of the interesting takeaways for me was that your will likely be evacuated sometime in your career. If you or your spouse can't deal with the thought of flying the wife and kids out of a dangerous country, sitting on C-130 troop seats while the other stays in a dangerous situation, the Foreign Service isn't for you. If you don't mind living like a king overseas and living like a pauper in Washington, the Foreign Service may be for you. If you have to have fast access to pop-tarts you may think twice. If the thought of you or your kids contracting dysentery or other crazy diseases with less than great medical care bothers you, think again. If your spouse has career aspirations you need to seriously consider this option. Before you order that subscription to The Economist, get this book first.
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