It is a long-standing custom to write to the chief of mission at
your new post when you find out about your assignment. This letter
should express your interest in the new assignment and offer your
services before your departure. Writing to your new supervisor is a
thoughtful, although not required, gesture. If writing to a new
supervisor, a letter is the traditional form, but using technology
such as e-mail messages is often acceptable as well. The once-common
practice of newly assigned spouses writing to the principal
officer's spouse is now rather unusual and generally not expected.
The administrative staff will need to know about the details of your
arrival. Administrative staff members will help you with specific
arrangements for housing, shipping belongings and any other
logistical matters. The person you will be replacing is also a
valuable resource and you should consider contacting him/her for
You should make the post aware of your travel plans so
arrangements can be made to meet you, help you through customs, and
provide transportation to a hotel, temporary or assigned housing.
Many posts assign a sponsor to meet newcomers at the airport, look
after their immediate needs and introduce them to the mission
community. As a general rule, you will meet with an administrative
or personnel officer at post soon after arrival. Most newly arrived
officers are expected to advise the mission upon arrival either by
phone or in person. However, the next business day is also
acceptable at many posts.
Each post has its own traditional way of greeting newcomers and
introducing them to other members of the mission. A personnel
officer or an orientation packet will explain this process. Usually,
the employee will be introduced to senior officers and colleagues at
the office, but family members may meet members of the mission
community in a variety of ways. Individuals or couples may call on
you (the employee), you may call on them, parties may be planned, or
the post may sponsor periodic receptions for arriving and departing
families. These events are designed to help ease your family's
transition. The employee and the family will benefit from
participation in these customary welcoming procedures.
The purpose of making calls is to introduce yourself at post. The
more people you meet, the more likely you are to be comfortable and
successful in a new assignment. There are two different kinds of
calls: office (also known as official) calls and social calls.
Office calls are actually face-to-face meetings, not telephonic
contacts, and take place in the office or residence of the person
being called upon. Office calls continue to be the primary way of
meeting the individuals with whom the employee will be working.
Social calls, or personal visits to another's home, are still made
at some posts but informal introductory social functions, phone
calls, and invitations are used more often as a way of getting
acquainted. In the past, both types of calls involved the exchange
of social calling cards but this gesture has mostly been replaced in
business settings with the exchange of business cards and almost
entirely eliminated in social settings. Be sure that you are
following your mission's customs. If the post has a protocol
officer, check with him/her for details. If not, consult your
sponsor or supervisor for guidance.
New members of the staff should call upon the Ambassador or
principal officer within two working days. Usually, new employees
are taken around the mission to see the facility and meet colleagues
on the first day. This introductory tour often serves the purpose of
the "call on colleagues"; another may not be necessary. If, for some
reason, you are not introduced to others, ask whether it would be
appropriate for you to make appointments to introduce yourself. You
will not need to use calling cards for the calls you make within the
If your new position requires that you deal with the host country
government or with its citizens, you should make appointments to
meet them in their offices. Often, chiefs of mission are expected to
make office calls upon all other foreign chiefs of mission in order
of diplomatic precedence. Other officers are not expected to call on
their counterparts at other missions, although they may decide to do
so. If you do make such calls, you may ask a co-worker who is
already acquainted with the other person to accompany you as a means
of formal introduction. Official calling cards may or may not be
used depending on local customs, but business cards will probably be
exchanged. Colleagues at post can usually suggest the names and
positions of the individuals to be called upon.
A third-person diplomatic note to the host country generated in
the post's personnel office may announce the arrival of new
officers, usually high ranking officials. Others are announced when
the mission issues its biannual diplomatic list. However, officers
serving at smaller posts often find that their pending arrival is
widely known and/or eagerly anticipated, so do not assume anonymity
based on rank.
A social call is a visit to the home of the person being called
upon. Although becoming less common, some countries. customs may
continue to require formal social calls as the employee's primary
method of meeting both business and social associates. Since the
custom has been virtually abandoned in the United States, you may
not be familiar with how it is done. A few guidelines for practicing
the art of making a social call follow. One call, either official or
social, may satisfy the requisite need to make a call in both
instances. Although spouses have no obligation to make either
official or social calls, it is acceptable for them to accompany the
employee on social calls. If the spouse chooses, he or she may make
a social call alone upon the spouses of the employee's colleagues,
either within or outside the mission environment. In some cultures,
social calls for the employee and/or spouse are considered
obligatory. Check with post for local practices.
When making an appointment for a social call, indicate if a
colleague or spouse will accompany you. Children are generally not
included unless specifically invited. Stay no longer than
approximately 20 minutes unless urged to do so by the host/hostess.
According to strict protocol rules, social calls which foreign
colleagues make on the employee and/or spouse are returned within a
week or two. However, depending upon local custom, social calls may
or may not require return calls. Check with post for guidance.
Acknowledging calls from people within the US mission is less formal
and often as simple as inviting the person who called to your next
Check with the protocol officer or Community Liaison Officer at
post about possibilities for informally meeting other US families.
Generally, established families introduce themselves to newcomers
and include them in planned activities rather than engaging in
formal social calls or exchanging calling cards.