'You never know what you'll encounter'

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'You never know what you'll encounter'
US Consul General Richard Beer. Photo: United States Diplomatic Mission to Italy

For US Consul General Richard Beer, there is no average day in the office. He talks to The Local about the daily challenges faced at the consulate in Rome, particularly ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to Italy in March.


Why did you choose to work for the foreign service?

I worked as a journalist for 10 years, during which it seemed that I was the guy sitting outside a room somewhere waiting to be told what happened inside. I decided to go over to this line of work and be the one on the inside.

The idea of living and working in other countries, while representing the United States, is something that I found very appealing.

SEE ALSO: President Obama to visit Italy in March

After working everywhere from Havana to Tel Aviv, how did you come to be in Rome?

When our tour is coming to an end we’re given a list of places to pick from, where there are openings in our field of work.

I took one look at Rome and thought, “I’ve got to go there, if at all possible”. I arrived here in August 2011.

This is one of the largest diplomatic communities I’ve been in; just about every country in the world has some sort of representation here.

Read the US Department of State's Italy profile

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

There isn’t an average day, it can vary quite a bit from one day to the next. You come in here and you never know what you’re going to encounter.

It could be just a series of people who need emergency replacement passports, or we may have a destitute American who needs assistance being brought back home, or a death case could be brought to our attention where we have to assist the next of kin in making arrangements.

SEE ALSO: 'Diplomacy is more than Ferrero Rocher parties'

Do you deal with mostly Italians or Americans?

We are a service provider and Italians come to us for visas if they are going to the US for a special reason; as temporary workers, students or diplomats.

About half the people we deal with are not Italians, but people of other nationalities who live here and come to us for tourist visas to the US.

That all happens downstairs at the consulate; upstairs we’re dealing with issues faced by American citizens.

Read more about services for US citizens in Italy

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Millions of American tourists and 30,000 college students come to Italy each year; the biggest challenge is to keep them properly informed so they don’t encounter any misfortune.

Unfortunately, the nature of our work is that the Americans we see are generally the ones that do encounter some sort of misfortune - they were robbed, someone in their party got sick while they were here, or in extreme cases, some die here.

The most difficult time since I arrived was the Costa Concordia disaster, in which two Americans lost their lives.

What do you like most about your job?

There are a lot of good things about just being in Italy, getting to know Italians and travelling around the country.

I oversee consular operation in Florence, Milan and Naples and travel to each of these about four times a year.

What advice do you have for people interested in working at a consulate in Rome? What skills are needed?

It helps to be a morning person! Also being able to work with different types of people; interpersonal skills.

We advertise when we have openings for local staff - people living in Italy who are mostly Italian, but could be Americans too.

Find out about job opportunities at the US embassy and consulates in Italy

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