Diplomats view life in London as tough

Published November 23, 2001

LONDON, Nov 22: Traffic jams are a way of life, opening a bank account is a nightmare, and the food and weather can be atrocious.

Life in London can indeed be tough, according to foreign diplomats posted to Britain who were surveyed by the London-based Diplomat magazine.

Still, most said they were happy with their stay, although nearly 90 per cent of the 327 diplomats surveyed were shocked by high prices, and more than 60 per cent found it hard to make friends with locals.

“Making British friends is nearly impossible,” said one. “It is a one-way system where you invite them to visit, they come and then they don’t invite you back.”

One diplomat called Britain a class-ridden society closed to social changes and plagued by snobbery, pedantry and privilege, but another told the magazine: “I will miss the feeling of a genuine free society and the rule of law.”

Although the diplomats enjoy London’s cultural offerings and shopping, more than one in 10 of those surveyed said it was “not easy” or “difficult” to carry out their duties.

More than 4,000 foreign diplomats work in London.

Elizabeth Stewart, the magazine’s editor, said envoys from smaller developing nations had a harder time because they might not be seen as important by the diplomatic community. Former communist countries, such as Belarus or Latvia, have had less time to set up diplomatic relations.

“They’re new to the city,” she said. “They’ve only had 10 years of independence, 10 years to set up an embassy and develop a network.

“There are pockets of racism, but Londoners are generally very accepting.”

A majority of envoys’ spouses kept busy by taking courses, and 87 per cent were happy in London, Diplomat said.

The survey indicated 85 per cent of diplomats would miss Britain when their posting ended. But almost 80 per cent said they would not regret leaving behind British food.—Reuters

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