Humans of the Embassy: Helen Jen, Public Affairs Section

“I got a job at U.S. Embassy Singapore in 1973 after the company I worked for closed its office in Singapore and my boss recommended I apply here. I started as the assistant secretary to the Section Chief. Our bosses were very serious back then. They have gotten younger over the years – or maybe we have gotten older. There used to be a barrier between American and local staff. We didn’t interact much and didn’t attend office meetings. Over the years, it’s become more integrated, transparent, and interconnected. Now we joke more with our bosses and work with our colleagues from other sections of the Embassy. American diplomats are also more diverse. In July 2005, we had our first female section chief; in the same year, our first female Ambassador. We now attend Independence Day parties and for Thanksgiving, section heads serve lunch to all the staff. It’s really nice.

The toughest part of the job is when you have to do many things at the same time. That can be stressful. But food helps. I like feeding people. Every morning, my husband and I go out for breakfast. I get us coffee and he gets us food. He also buys my lunch so I can eat at the office where it’s nice and cool. Usually, I also pick something up for the office. Sometimes it’s youtiao; other times vadai. After lunch, I cut up some fruit. Food is a language everyone understands.”