This expanded second edition adds a global perspective to a surprisingly readable explanation of foreign consuls.
Arguably, Americans are generally less worldly in foreign affairs, in part because of the country’s physical isolation from much of the rest of the world. American citizens are also likely to be ignorant of foreign consuls, even though consuls may be located in their very communities. Yet as Hofstadter, a Finnish-born transplant to America who spent time as a consul, explains, these officials help “in the development of commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations between their countries and the U.S. locales where they are posted.” The author handily explains what consuls are and their primary functions, as well as proper etiquette when it comes to dealing with them. While the book is most relevant for American government officials, academics, or businesspeople who might have interactions with foreign dignitaries, it could be of interest to a broader audience because it is so enjoyable to read. Hofstadter writes with a great deal of polish and good humor in a style that is informal yet authoritative. She is particularly adept at creating engaging chapter openings through her use of anecdotes that often demonstrate various blunders caused largely by people who haven’t a clue how to interact with consuls or how to make the best use of their services. The author discusses some of the key areas in which consuls have an impact, including facilitating travel as well as cross-border educational exchanges. Particularly interesting are explanations of the distinction between “career” and “honorary” consuls and the differences between consular and diplomatic personnel. Also useful (and somewhat dizzying) are the variety of definitions: “consul general,” “consul,” “vice consul,” “consulate,” “consular corps,” and “diplomat.” The details about how to address consuls (both in person and in written form) and seat them at events are admittedly mundane, but they will certainly help avoid embarrassment for individuals responsible for such things.
Well-written and lively, offering an engaging way to learn about the sometimes-perplexing world of foreign consulates.