Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 04:38 | SYDNEY
Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 04:38 | SYDNEY

Drink and diplomacy


Graeme Dobell

14 January 2011 13:30

Drink and diplomacy always go together. The British diplomat Harold Nicolson wrote a piece for Foreign Affairs in 1961 on Diplomacy Then and Now, and among his helpful hints was the value of drinking with hacks in bars:

My own advice to the junior diplomat is not to confine himself lazily to the easy circle of his own embassy but to cultivate the society of journalists, both foreign and native. It is from them that he will derive useful advice and commentary. When I look back on the years before Hitler that I spent in the British Embassy in Berlin, I am grateful for the hours I devoted talking to journalists in the Adlon Bar. I learned more from them than I did from any other form of social relations...It was the journalists of the Adlon Bar who first warned me of the coming of the Nazi movement. Diplomatic field work often misleads.

My own experience as a diplomatic correspondent produced a few bits of Nicolson-flavoured advice for other hacks entering the field. When arriving at a diplomatic reception, always do the chat with the ambassador before the first sip. If he or she says something worthy of journalism you will be sober enough to understand it. And when the first drink is safely in hand, head for the door closest to the kitchen, to get first go at the emerging trays of food.

Do not be diplomatic with diplomats. Ambassadors can be confronted and quizzed on all manner of things, great and small. That is why they exist. Do not, though, dance lightly through the minefield of national pride. This correspondent once idly commented to the French ambassador on the quality of 'Australian champagne'. The ambassador's succinct response and elegantly arched eyebrow conveyed the exact and deserved measure of amusement, scorn and sarcasm.

Photo by Flickr user ecstaticist.