The day started off with a visit to the U.S. Consulate general offices. After a week of Vietnamese perspective it was a nice change of pace to talk to a couple of Americans. We spoke to someone working in public affairs and an economic officer. In broader terms they are both foreign service officers. Nearly all FSO’s first tour has them work in visa screening. This particular consulate is the fifth or sixth in the world in terms in visa volume. The process for Vietnamese to get one requires an interview, which usually lasts one to two minutes, where the interviewer takes a “guilty until proven innocent” approach. They have to prove that they are who they say they are or they’ll be denied. Visa’s can take anywhere from a month to get for something like a business trip, to over a decade for immigration because of a sibling tie to the U.S. While they were talking I got the feeling that they disagreed with some of the processes, but did their best not to show it.
They also expressed how little the political climate in the U.S. affects them, and how little it’s affected the Vietnamese opinion of us. I got to ask about the question that I had less than zero percent of an answer to yesterday. Why in the world do they like us so much? The economic officer started with a very professional and political answer about our role as a counter-balance to China, but then he got more into the character of the people that he’s experienced and heard about. He had recently taken a motorbike across the north part of Vietnam. Families would take him in and kids would say hello in a part of the country that one would think to be less welcoming to Americans. He explained this by saying they’re a very forward-looking people. For example, even though we’ve recently withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a move that the FSO’s seemed to disagree with without saying it, they are still open to do business with us.
Being an FSO also seemed like an incredible job, depending on where your tour is of course. Vietnam gets very positive views from the FSO’s. I think they said that near 80% decide to extend their tours in Vietnam, and the economic officer said that he could see himself settling down in Vietnam.
Not enough crab spring rolls.