How long have you been in Japan?
I recently celebrated my second anniversary. My first year was a blur of language training, but I started working in the consular section last year, about six weeks before March 11. To say it was a baptism of fire would be an understatement.
Have you worked in the British embassy in other countries?
Yes. I worked in Jamaica for 2.5 years at the British High Commission [the UK embassy equivalent in a Commonwealth country]. I have around two years remaining in Japan and have no idea where I’ll end up next—one of the great things about being a diplomat.
What is different about working here, as opposed to in other countries?
Jamaica is famous for the laid-back approach of its people and I think it’s fair to say that Japan is the polar opposite. The pace of life here is very different. There are also clear differences in language and culture. And the music: reggae vs J-pop is a bit like chalk and cheese!
Have you learned anything from Japanese diplomacy?
Bow. Exchange business cards. Get down to business. Japanese diplomats are intelligent, accessible, and committed to doing the best for their country—all things those of us working in the British embassy try to be.
What’s the number-one question British nationals ask about at the embassy?
Two are pretty much neck and neck. The first is: “Can you get me out of this police cell!?” We do many things to help, but getting directly involved in the Japanese judicial process is not one of them. We leave that to lawyers. The second is: “Can you give me some money?” We are unable to donate money, but can help get funds from other sources—like offering to “phone a friend.”
What’s the number-one question Japanese nationals ask?
We also provide more routine services such as registering births, death and marriages. So we often get Japanese citizens asking: “How do I get married to a British national in Japan,” and no—we don’t offer a match-making service.
Are there any new developments our British readers should know about?
Coming up to the anniversary of the 3/11 tragedy, we’ve been reflecting on how we might have done things differently. One of our major difficulties was trying to contact British nationals, so we want to encourage you to register for LOCATE on our website. This database helps us get in touch during a crisis. It is not, as some have suggested, a tool for the taxman! You can also sign up for emails highlighting changes to our travel advice for Japan. Finally, we have Facebook and Twitter accounts with the latest news from the embassy.
When you’re off-duty, where do you like to relax in Tokyo?
I live close to Yoyogi Park, which is a great place to kick back in summer. It takes people-watching to a new dimension. What I really like to do, though, is hit the karaoke booths—I’m not fussy about which—and belt out a few Beatles tunes. Either my singing skills have improved considerably since arriving here, or Japanese people are way too polite to tell me I’m rubbish!
And finally… Are licensed British pubs in Tokyo considered official UK soil?