7 best things about embassies

Kamran Abbasov25 April 20212422 views8 min. read
7 best things about embassies

Opening an embassy is a significant way of diplomatic relations among countries. A foreign embassy is a country’s official office in another country’s central or capital city. An embassy is a place where ambassadors and diplomats of a home country do their job. It is where communications and talks between home and foreign government officials take place. Strictly speaking, the word “embassy” denotes a permanent diplomatic delegation led by an ambassador. As per the common use, we also call a building an embassy when the diplomatic mission members occupy it. In British English, the office of the diplomatic mission is called the Chancery.

When there is a conflict of interest between two states, one country’s officials may arrange a meeting with the diplomatic delegation of another state to express their displeasure. If an issue is a bit more serious, the ambassador could be recalled by the home country. The worst-case scenario entails the complete cessation of diplomatic relations.

Another interesting facts about embassies is extraterritoriality. Usually, according to the diplomatic regulations, the embassies hold extraterritoriality status, meaning they are exempt from local laws. In other words, individual members of the permanent diplomatic missions are in the state of being exempted from the jurisdiction of local rules and regulations. The officials of the host country may not enter the embassy without the sending country’s permission. An attack on an embassy is considered to be an attack on the sending state. According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats have diplomatic immunity in the host country.

Embassies are the place where mostly dull and dull paperwork is done. But just like other boring things, these places may sometimes bear exciting features. Here, I will write about the seven best random things and interesting facts about embassies worldwide.

Going full Rambo

german passport

As I said, Embassies mostly enjoy extraterritoriality status. Ambassadors and diplomats enjoy diplomatic immunity. Roughly speaking, the building of an embassy becomes the host country’s property. So, if there is trespassing into the building or a sudden attack toward the embassy, they may defend themselves and their country’s interest by going full Rambo. In history, the instances of embassy workers getting armed happened several times. The US ambassador Francis Terry McNamara made an adventurous plan to escape with the other US and Vietnamese workers with a boat in the South China Sea. Another heroic case happened in Laos in 1973. When there was a coup attempt in the country, the 2nd man in the US Embassy, John Gunther Dean, went to the airport’s control tower, which coup plotters had allegedly seized, to yell that things were over.

A dangerous job

police car

Working in an embassy can sometimes entail extreme cases of dangerous attacks, murders, and assassinations. It is especially true if your country is not an internationally neutral state, such as Switzerland. Historically, ambassadors have been subject to many attempts of murder, at times successful. For example, the US diplomat Chris Stevens and the other three embassy staff members were murdered in Benghazi, Libya. His death during the Arab Spring caused a lot of anger and mistrust toward the movement. Mr. Stevens was the first US ambassador murdered since the 1979 violent attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan, resulting in Ambassador Adolph “Spike” Dubs’ death. Another recent case happened in 2016, when the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was murdered by an off-duty police officer. The ambassador was killed while he was giving a speech, which happened right in front of cameras. It was a planned murder to ruin the Turkish–Russian relations, which fortunately did not occur. So, if you happen to be dreaming about becoming an ambassador, you should be aware of how dangerous it could be.

Microwave attack

usa flag

Yes, there was an incident related to microwaves during the Cold War period. It happened, as you guess, between the two rivals, the USA and the Soviet Union. Between 1953 and 1976, Russians were aiming the US Embassy in Moscow with beams of microwaves of 2.5 – 4 gigahertz. Most people suspect that the Soviets were trying to jam the radio signals to and from the embassy. In 1976, there was an ambitious epidemiological test carried by the professional of Johns Hopkins University to study the possible adverse effect of exposure to the frequency of those radio signals on the embassy’s workers. The report had never been published in detail, though. This so-called microwave attack on the US Embassy was called the “Moscow Signal.” Later this incident proved the possible adverse health effects caused by non-ionizing radiation. This alleged attack on the embassy had not been revealed until 1976 when several embassy workers returned to the US due to health-related problems.

High Commission

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In most countries worldwide, you will hear that the building where ambassadors and diplomats do their job is called an embassy. But there also exists another term, that is, the High Commission. The High Commission is an embassy of one Commonwealth state in another Commonwealth state. The Commonwealth of Nations is a political association of 54 countries. These countries used to be former territories of the British Empire. The countries included are, for example, Australia, Canada, India, etc. Speaking, embassies and High Commissions are the same things, diplomatic missions. For embassies, we call the head of the task an ambassador, while it is a high commissioner for the latter.

Experts on languages

work desk

Embassies are places for experts on languages and oration. Ambassadors, high commissioners, and diplomats are expected to excel in communication and oration skills. Of course, they have to be experts on languages; otherwise, they cannot perform their duties. They are dealing with an immense amount of paperwork. Also, visa officers at the embassies read dozens of letters of explanations or other visa-related documents, so arguably, they are professional in every aspect of languages.

You don’t want to see them angry

usa embassy

Most people see workers of embassies as nerdy and well-mannered people. But, if diplomats or ambassadors get mad, they can immediately kick you out of an embassy. Those people can even murder when they get furious. One example happened in Equatorial Guinea, where one principal officer at the US Embassy, Alfred Erdos, murdered another State Department officer, Donald Leahy, in 1971. The case involves madness and a lurid sex story between the homosexuals. The murder happened inside the embassy building. On the day of the murder, Alfred was convinced that the Soviets plotted against him, and Donald has something to do with it. So, he stabbed Donald with scissors inside the office.  

Embassy buildings in Washington, D.C.

embassy building

There are approximately 175 embassies in Washington, D.C. Most of them are concentrated in Massachusetts Avenue, the so-called “Embassy Road.” The oldest and the largest embassy in D.C. is the embassy of the United Kingdom. There are more than 400 members of the British Embassy staff in D.C. Canada’s embassy is located in the building, which used to be an old car dealership site. It is the closest embassy to the Capitol building, as it can be justified that Canada is the nearest neighbor of the USA. The Indonesian Embassy is located in a building built by an Irish immigrant more than a century ago. Most of the embassy buildings in D.C. are located in historical and luxurious facilities.

What do embassies do?

working

What do embassies do? They, first of all, represent their home countries. They offer assistance to their national citizens living in or traveling to the host country. It is not like they are assisting in everything; for example, they cannot help you in lost luggage or flight delays. They may help you in severe cases; for instance, if you commit a crime in a foreign country, they may try to get you extradited to the home country. The most urgent case to apply for an embassy’s assistance is when you lose or damage your passport. Some, such as British embassies and consulates, can issue a new passport for you.

Moreover, embassies are responsible for issuing visas for foreign nationals. It is probably the primary role of embassies for you if you love travelling. If you are a travel buff, your passport has probably passed through many embassies and consulates. It is their job to scrutinize you and examine your documents to determine whether you are eligible for a tourist visa, study permit, and work permit. Sometimes, a minor misspelling mistake can deprive you of your pass. If you want to insure yourself against any possible errors in a visa application process and avoid time-consuming document preparation, make sure to check out pickvisa.com. It is an online platform with a pool of visa experts and professionals delivering high-quality assistance regarding visa application processes.

All in all, embassies are an essential part of our lives. Either for getting a visa for traveling to a foreign country or getting assistance from the home country’s embassy abroad, we encounter embassies at some point in our lives.

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