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The Somalis will do Without the Slobber, Mr. Ambassador

When traveling abroad, it’s always good to remember local customs and cultural aversions. It also doesn’t hurt to remember that not all people love your dog as much as you do. This excerpt is taken from Stephen Keat’s oral history.


KEAT: The Ambassador was oblivious to the cultural things you would expect an ambassador to be aware of. When he arrived at post, various Somali ministers and members of the country team were waiting to meet him at the airport.

The Ambassador got off the plane. Rather than greet the ministers, the first thing he did was to go where baggage was being unloaded from the plane.

The Ambassador had a large dog. He got his dog out of the cage, made sure the dog was okay, was petting him, and the dog was jumping all over him. To Muslims, a dog is right up there with a pig in terms of being unclean. After he had this dog licking him, the Somali ministers wouldn’t shake his hand.  They were also insulted that he had gone to see the dog before he went to see them. That got his time in the country off to a bad start.