The Foreign Service Journal, May 2011

34 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / M A Y 2 0 1 1 their own gathering for a few locals and two American travelers who had wandered across the border from Afghanistan, dirty and hungry. Embassy communities vary from post to post, and even from year to year, depending on the mix of peo- ple, post management and priori- ties, and overall morale. Larger posts in more developed countries tend to offer more anonymity and more of a choice as to joining in em- bassy socializing or focussing out- side the embassy community. Smaller ones, especially hardship posts, tend to have closer communities, where people are more likely to socialize together and look out for each other. Singles are always well-advised to consider the type of community and environment they prefer when bidding, rather than after they show up at a new post. Otherwise, they may expect a great dating scene and long nights out at local clubs, but discover that the man- agement officer’s Scrabble tourna- ment is the only social game in town. Information can be gathered ahead of time through the commu- nity liaison offices at various posts and the Transition Center at the Foreign Service Institute, as well as from unofficial online sources like “Real Post Reports” on the Web site Tales from a Small Planet. No matter the post, the key to a fulfilling social life as a single in the Foreign Service is creating a support net- work from local friends, expatriates from various coun- tries and embassy colleagues. Support Networks Singles have to seek out new support networks at each post, and it pays to do this early in a tour. As one of the vet- eran singles on a January panel hosted by the Foreign Service Institute said about starting out each assignment: “You’re only new once,” so accept as many invitations as you can. Even if what you really want to do is go home and put on your pajamas and curl up with a good book, single colleagues advise that you’ll be glad later for making the effort to go out anyway. Such networks also help singles navigate daily life over- seas. “Whereas many married employees depend on their spouses to take primary responsibility for household mat- ters, singles must handle such demanding issues [them- selves],” comments Judy Carson, a recently retired FS single. “These include dealing with time-consuming obli- gations such as entertaining for work, planning travel and moves, taking care of finances and property, finding doc- tors, taking care of elderly parents and disabled siblings — without the assistance of a helpmate.” Married spouses who both work full-time may face similar challenges, but also may have more income to spare for hiring help when they need it. Single parents in the Foreign Service must navigate the complexities of raising a child outside the U.S., often with- out much assistance. Plusses include the ability to afford domestic help at most posts, as well as access to (and tu- ition for) good international schools at many posts. At the same time, schools will probably have to play a large role in F O C U S When you work for the American embassy, it is often the case that before you are seen as a man or a woman, you are an American official — “the third sex.”