1. Go with Mr. Diplomat when invited (from my previous post Amah, lovely lady, John Travolta and Uma Thurman). I know it gets tiring after some time, but this one is for your own benefit.
2. Check on Mr. Diplomat’s and your appearance yourself (from my previous post Patch of green). Mr. Diplomats are just not wired for this. He is vainer than you are? That’s a different issue altogether.
3. Have high heels at hand (from my previous post The Madam and Royce). You’ll never know when you need to pump your outfit.
4. Have flats at hand. They are your bestfriends after those 3-hour cocktail receptions. Read: High heels. No sitting.
5. Know at least the basics of makeup. Makeups and my skin have a mutual dislike for each other, but as with all other things, it comes with your role. I myself only took a basic makeup class at Shu Uemura just before being posted (very late, I know). It will save you shopping money from having it done professionally for every event. If your makeup kit does not have staples yet, try consulting the InStyle Best Beauty Buys for the most awarded ones.
6. Practice at least one ballroom dance with Mr. Diplomat. The Consul General asked us to jumpstart the dance floor at one charity ball, and Mr. Diplomat and I froze on our seats. Joking about it let things slide, but we do not want to be put on that spot again. Oh, this is still work on progress.
7. Speak the local language. You will meet a lot of government officials of the host country, and throwing snippets of their language into the conversation will get you on their good side pronto.
8. Research ahead on the people attending an event. This will give you bullet points to talk about and will help you associate their face and name with something that you can easily recall. There will be 20 name card exchanges on average for every event, and at the end of the day, each name card should have at least one mental note attached to it.
9. Do not buy food for a week. You will have to attend instant dinners, so stocking up good for a week might stretch out to 2 weeks. We do our grocery shopping every 4 days.
10. Brush up on photography. In addition to being Mr. Diplomat’s mirror, you will also need to document his events. A well-reviewed point and shoot that fits a clutch should do it.
11. Save shelving space for Mr. Diplomat’s plaques. As a rule of thumb, one speech, one plaque. Mr. Diplomat gives at least three speeches a week, so just do the math. I can only imagine how much container van space these will consume upon repatriation.
12. Be aware of other officers’ promotions. You would not want to call a newly appointed Consul General a Consul just because you got used to addressing him as the latter.
13. Do not give in to the beach sun before the national day celebration. I learned this the hard way. Sunburn was written all over my forehead after this year’s Discovery Bay Dragon Boat Race and Festival. Good thing the makeup artist did a good job concealing it for the most important event of the year.
14. Divide the consumership of utility bills. You might need a proof of address under your name when opening accounts and availing services, so save your self the hassle by taking up at least one consumership upon moving to your new place.
15. Start cooking like a chef. That is, if you are not one yourself. Based on our experience, you won’t really need this until Mr. Diplomat is a Consul General or an Ambassador, but being a good cook does not happen overnight either. Again, this is work in progress.
In addition to all that, it is needless for me to say that you need a refresher course on dining etiquette. What is American-style dining? How is it different from Continental style? You will also need to review your own history and culture (never my forte), as well as those of the host country. Most important of all, brush up on diplomatic terms. What is the difference between a consulate and an embassy? Who do you address as Ambassadress? This site that lists Key Diplomatic Terms is a good start.
Did I really survive my first year? Whew!