Today was an especially exciting day for us here in Vietnam, because we got to visit the American Center, an office for the US Consulate. The American center is really interesting to look at with a huge American Flag decal on the wall, plush chairs, and lots of books and movies. These books and movies include those banned from Vietnam by the government that the United States deemed to have educational value. Anyone can enter the American Center and choose to check out a book, read the book there, watch a movie, and discuss anything you’ve read or watched without fear of the Vietnamese government’s retribution. This provides an important opportunity for Vietnamese Citizens to become educated about things their country doesn’t allow them to talk about or question. This benefits the consulate because it encourages a favorable opinion of the US government and the United States in general amongst Vietnamese Citizens which is good for international relations.
Besides the library and video archives of the American Center, the Consulate also is in charge of visas to the United States. In order to get a visa a person has to bring all of their necessary papers, including bank statements and other documentation. They then are interviewed by trained foreign affairs officers who ascertain whether their motives to come to America are pure or not and then they decide whether or not to give the person a visa.
Other members of the consulate have different jobs, mostly revolving around communicating one on one with members of the Vietnamese government with similar positions. They communicate important facts face to face, which although it may not seem necessary, is critical to the success of the state department. It just goes to show how important human interactions and relationships still are in a day and age when a message could be emailed from D.C. to Ho Chi Minh in seconds. This would seem to be especially important in Vietnam because of what the CultureSmart book said about how important personal relationships are in Vietnamese Culture. Hopefully tomorrow I will get to see how accurate the book is about the Me Kong Delta’s Culture.