When I arrived in Germany, I was anxious and stressed out from the move. Since misery loves company, I sought out books written by diplo-spouses about their experiences abroad. Sometimes I just want to read about how other diplo-spouses managed in their posts – culture shock, language barriers, exotic adventures and occasional spies. The diplomatic life is a bit unique in the expat experience because of strange situations that you find yourself in, that you would otherwise never have experienced had you or your spouse chosen any other profession. Sometimes it can be hard to relate to, so reading books by other diplos or diplo spouses helps you feel that it’s not so strange after all. Here a round-up of what I’ve read so far. These are not for those expecting deep diplo-existentialist ramblings, brilliant political analyses or literary masterpieces, but for light reading only.
Books By Diplo Wives
The Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse
This book was recommended to me by a fellow Filipina Diplo Spouse and was the inspiration for her blog with the same name. This book was laugh-out-loud all the way. TD read it and enjoyed it too. It really reminds me of my in-laws who also had many adventures around the world as a diplo-couple. If you want a good laugh about crazy post experiences, this is a nice light read. It’s nice to find humour in your experiences after, even if during that time it might have been trying.
This by far is my favourite diplo book, just because it makes me feel less alone in my struggle to cope with so many new situations I find myself in.
Diplomatic Incidents: Memoirs of an (un)Diplomatic Wife
I could relate to this woman who didn’t feel that she was made for the diplomatic life. If you love the nomadic life of diplo life, this might not be too enjoyable to read, because you probably won’t be able to relate. I however, was never built for this kind of life (I’ve only ever travelled outside the Philippines twice in my life before I met The Diplomat – and I was perfectly happy to stay local.) so I can relate to Cherry Denman. The writing is very British, so there were so references and expressions that I didn’t get. I got it second hand on Amazon.de.
Other Diplo Reads
Good Manners & Bad Behaviour: The Unofficial Rules of Diplomacy
I was interested to read this, because ever since TD has entered into the foreign service, I’ve strived to learn more about etiquette and manners to improve myself and learn how to deal with all sorts of situations. Rules of etiquette are constantly changing and the role of diplomatic wives too. It’s interesting to read how it’s changed from someone who has experienced it. It’s also good to read about situations that aren’t covered in the Emily Post Etiquette books.
Parting Shots: Undiplomatic Diplomats – the ambassadors Letters you were never meant to see
Up until 2006 British Ambassadors ending their posts, wrote a last despatch for the eyes of important people in the British government. These were frank, funny and gave a unique insight into the post and culture at that point in time. These were never meant for public reading, but with work of Matthew Parris and Andrew Bryson, we are able to see them.
The Spanish Ambassador’s Suitcase: Stories from the Diplomatic Bag
From the same authors of Parting Shots, more despatches from British Ambassadors at post. I got this for TD and he seems to have enjoyed it. You have to remember that we both have very irreverent sense of humour. So reading about the difficulties of transporting a gift horse from Turkmenistan to London and other curious situations diplos find themselves in is funny for us.
These aren’t really diplo books, but I thought I would include a shortlist because I think they are useful to have them around for reference whenever the need arises. I came from a province in southern Philippines so multi-course meals and multiple utensils weren’t the norm for me. I’ve learned some tips and tricks from the MIL (like the perfect solution for keeping napkins on your lap instead of slipping down your silk dress and on to the floor) but there is still so much to learn about proper etiquette, party entertaining and formal dinners. I have so much more to learn and master, but I try to keep on learning. Though most of the receptions I’ve attended have been mostly cocktail set up, I never know what I might need to attend in the future so it’s better to learn and practice slowly.
- Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition (Emily Post’s Etiquette)
- Emily Post’s Entertaining by Peggy Post
- Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That: A Modern Guide to Manners
WHERE TO BUY ENGLISH BOOKS IN BELRIN
You can try Dussmann – das KulturKaufhaus which is a massive bookstore, DVD shop and gift shop. It has a huge English selection. Address below.
For most of the books above, I got them on Amazon.de secondhand. Yes secondhand! It’s soooo amazingly cheap! I just searched for the titles of the book in the Englische Bücher section and click on the gebraucht options. For example you can get Diplomatic Baggage for only € 0.01! Choose books that are sehr gut or gut with Verkäufer (sellers) that have positive reviews from buyers. So far I haven’t been disappointed yet. The books won’t be perfect, but it’s in great condition. You can pay around 3 or more Euros to have it delivered to your doorstep or you can pick it up so it’s even cheaper. Unbelievable right?
You can get the German versions of the books too, but I find them more expensive. More than € 15 for a used (gebraucht) Diplomatic Baggage book.
Dussmann – das KulturKaufhaus
Friedrichstrasse 90, 10117 Berlin-Mitte MAP
Tel: +49 (0)30 2025 1111 / Fax: +49 (0)30 2025 2445
Mondays -Fridays 9 am – 12 midnight
Saturdays 9 am – 11:30 pm
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Mirella McCracken says
Merry Christmas beautiful!
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you to Mirella!
I find Diplomatic Incidents absolutely hilarious. 😀 I was lol’ing at her anecdote about her Filipina household staff.
I haven’t read The Diplomatic Baggage, but I’ll check that one out.
Hope a Filipino diplo-spouse can someday publish a book about his / her experiences being married to a Filipino diplomat. Bet there are so many funny (and well, not-so-funny) stories to tell. 🙂
Dear Ann, I was laughing at those anecdotes too. You will definitely find The Diplomatic Baggage funny. Let me know what you think when you get to read it!
I can’t say I haven’t thought of the possibility of writing a book but to be honest these diplo-spouses books can be met with a lot of negativity and criticism from people who are outside the diplo world. There are others who feel that we shouldn’t be so honest about the crazy things we experience. For example, when I was reading reviews on Diplomatic Incidents, there are people who think that just because you are a diplomat you cannot complain about things any more because the gov’t is paying you – it doesn’t matter if they are paying you properly or not. It’s definitely a tricky balancing act! I do hope to see a book by a Filipino diplo-spouse one day. Maybe someone will be brave enough to be first! =)
Thank you! I l absolutely loved “Diplomatic Baggage”. Found it when we were living in Belgium a few years ago, read it, loved it and have reread it many times since.