Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bi' Çay İçermisiniz?

For my first year in Ankara, I am a Transatlantic Diplomacy Fellow - that is, I am part of a diplomatic exchange program with the Government of Turkey.  I'm working at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a year before I move to the Embassy in 2018.  I just started at the MFA this week, so I'm getting my feet underneath me and trying to learn my way around a new set of acronyms with my rusty Turkish.

(If you're curious about the program, here's a piece written by a Turkish diplomat who served in Washington a few years ago.  We do this type of exchange with several European countries, so it's not just Turkey.)  

With all of three days under my belt, it's hard to generalize about the differences and the similarities between our respective agencies, but there's one thing that I absolutely adore:  the tea service.  It's a well-known fact that Turks are constitutionally incapable of functioning without tea and, to a lesser extent, coffee; it's one of the many reasons I love it here, since the nation is as caffeine-addicted as I am.  At the Ministry, all you have to do is call the floor tea station and put in your request - tea, coffee, water, whatever.  Five to ten minutes later, someone shows up and delivers caffeine to your desk, then comes back a bit later to pick up your empty glass.  At the end of the work day, the tea attendant comes by to settle up with everyone.  Brilliant.  You can order for yourself, for your office, for your guests, whatever.

It's always struck me as strange that the Department of State (in most cases) doesn't pay for coffee, tea, or water to be used in official meetings.  Most people I know spring for refreshments out of their personal pockets instead.  I get that it could seem like a waste of taxpayer money, but I wish I could quantify the returns we get by showing basic politeness and hospitality to our guests to set against the cost of providing coffee.  The system at the MFA here seems just right - yes, we pay for our caffeine, but someone is there to provide the service expeditiously if we need it for official purposes.  And, as far as I'm concerned, keeping my veins humming with strong Turkish tea is crucial to my official duties.