Hi Reddit! I’m Suzi LeVine, the American Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. I am also a former technology exec and a mom to two amazing kids.

It’s an honor to serve the American people as an Ambassador and I can personally attest to the critical role Ambassadors play in U.S. foreign policy making. Right now there are 60 Ambassadorial nominees who are still awaiting confirmation by Congress – that’s 60 countries where the U.S. isn’t representing its foreign policy interests as well as it could.

Fun fact: My first trip to Switzerland was when I kicked off a solo 6 week backpacking trip from Zurich. I was 18 and, after buying my first Swiss Army knife, promptly learned how sharp they are when I cut straight through an apple into my hand. Let’s just say that I learned how excellent the Swiss healthcare system is.

Verification: https://www.flickr.com/photos/statephotos/15302277727/

UPDATE: Merci viel mal. What terrific questions! Let's do this again sometime! And, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @AmbSuzi.

Comments: 212 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

nyshtick34 karma

What do you think of the common criticism that too many ambassadors are appointed because they were fundraisers for the President & the Democratic/Republican party? You can look up individual donations here and it appears that you've donated quite a bit to the President & the Democratic Party? Do you think that more ambassadors should be career diplomats or is there value in having individuals close to the President serve as ambassadors?

AmbLeVine22 karma

Fair question. I believe that there is tremendous value in a blend. The answer is not "or." It is "and." Different skill sets are appropriate in different situations and places around the globe. For example, my professional and volunteer experience as someone who has created partnerships, organized communities, led teams, initiated start-ups, etc., is a terrific match for Switzerland where I work with the likes of Nestle, Novartis, and ABB. Alternatively, someone like my friend, Michael Hoza, the new U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon, brings decades of foreign service experience and is equipped to take on the likes of Boko Haram.

TryAnotherXX26 karma

Grüezi! Great you do this AMA! What do you think can the USA learn from Switzerland? Or the Americans from the Swiss (people)?

Grüsse aus der Schweiz

AmbLeVine47 karma

Grüssich. (I'm learning from the Bernese.) Thank you, honored and excited to do this AMA. I think that at least one thing that the U.S. can learn from Switzerland is about the vocational education training/apprenticeship programs. At least one thing that the Swiss may choose to learn from the U.S. is, in regards to our flavor of innovation, our freedom to fail, learn, recover, and succeed.

strawmannequin25 karma

Hi Ambassador,

Thank you for doing the AMA. To what extent have the recent recent revelations from data leaks (Snowden, Manning) changed how host countries interact with US representatives? Do you perceive a greater reluctance to share information or a fear of eavesdropping?

AmbLeVine18 karma

I spend a lot of time listening to Swiss and Liechtenstein citizens about this and am impressed by the willingness to have a substantive discussion on the balance between privacy and security. I understand their concerns, and it is an ongoing process. I recommend reading President Obama's remarks from January 17 on this issue: http://go.usa.gov/wnrh.

seitgeist18 karma

Do you have to deal with a lot of people revoking their US citizenship nowadays? Because it isn't exactly easy being a dual citizen these days ever since FATCA came around.

AmbLeVine11 karma

I have deep empathy for those who are wrestling with this decision and situation right now. My team and I are actively working to alleviate some of the concerns.

Herr_Buenzli13 karma


AmbLeVine8 karma

Diplomatic experience does not just derive from work in the Foreign Service. Let me tell you about team oasys from Jordan or team onebuzz from New Zealand. These were two teams and two groups of students with whom I had the honor of working in my capacity at Microsoft to shine a spotlight on innovators using technology to change the world. That's diplomacy. (in other words - I believe that my experience throughout my career has been very beneficial to my position as Ambassador. For example - I have worked with students from across the globe to understand and recognize their aspirations and skills - and have had the opportunity to see how those skills helps build, support and sustain economies - regardless of country size or location.

I_do_the_lords_kiss13 karma

What was it that brought you into this line of work?

AmbLeVine38 karma

An airplane. No, seriously. The President asked me to do this, because of my background in technology, innovation, education, social responsibility, and the outdoors.

CreepyOctopus12 karma

Ambassador, you were the first in such a position to be sworn in with your hand on an e-reader instead of a book. That made the news on some tech sites, but the news reports lacked some kind of background. Whose idea was it, and what was the thought behind it?

AmbLeVine9 karma

Great question! (By the way, what is the plural of octopus?) As for the e-reader, I wrote about this in my blog post here: http://go.usa.gov/wnBz. After reading, let me know if you have any additional questions.

Pantlmn9 karma

What did you study in college? Do you think it helped you to get this job?

AmbLeVine17 karma

I have degrees in both English and engineering. My objective on my first resume was to communicate technology to non-technologists. Ever since, I have been somebody building bridges between communities and groups in different ways. I believe that that's why I have this job.

muskyhunter118 karma

Do you think that presidents should continue to appoint plush state dept posts to their highest donors? I do realize this goes both ways, and both parties are involved in this practice.

AmbLeVine1 karma

I think that the State Department and the Foreign Service overall benefits greatly from the blend of both Career and Non-Career appointees as Ambassadors and the skills and expertise that they each bring. Please see my other responses on this.

I_do_the_lords_kiss6 karma

What is the most challenging moment of your Career thus far, and how did you overcome it?

AmbLeVine19 karma

I tend to approach challenges as opportunities. What can I learn? How can I grow? With whom can I learn from their mistakes? The hardest element of this ambassadorial job so far was frankly, waiting to get confirmed. In my overall very nonlinear career, the hardest moment was going back to work in 2009 after four and a half years home with my kids and hearing people say that I was no longer qualified.

ohdpilla6 karma

It's always been a dream of mine to work for an embassy--or in the foreign service. I'm fluent in French, 24 years old, and I love America. How do I go about making this dream a reality? EDIT: I forgot to say I am an American...and of course I love it.

AmbLeVine6 karma

First off, go for it! http://careers.state.gov (In fact, I think the deadline for summer internships is next week, and that's a great way to get a taste of this career. Stop wasting time on Reddit and go apply. :-)

elpaw6 karma

Do you get paid double?

AmbLeVine7 karma

Switzerland's a bonus.

karmanaut6 karma

What have your interactions with the Swiss banking industry been like? Are they actually interested in working with you on issues like tax fraud, or do they just not care about what the US wants?

AmbLeVine6 karma

I have many interactions with the Swiss banking industry, Swiss banks, and customers of Swiss banks. The industry has taken some very tangible and positive steps, and the Swiss are working with the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service closely.

Yoshitsuna6 karma

Hello, what was your impression on Switzerland and its people the first time you visited the country and how did it evolve? Sorry for the poor english, I'm Swiss

AmbLeVine19 karma

Sorry for the poor English, I'm American. Just kidding. :-) Before I got there, I had my expectations set for a reticence to be open and engaged right away. What I found instead was that at all levels, people have been forthright, honest, and warm.

TheOnlyOmlet5 karma

What's is it like traveling back and forth between countries? Is it a cultural shock?

AmbLeVine20 karma

This is my first time back in the U.S. after starting in June. Yes, there is a cultural shock depending on where I am in the U.S. For example, in Switzerland, pedestrians do not cross against the light. In Seattle, pedestrians do not cross against the light. In D.C., what light?

RichardAnus5 karma

If I had only one day to spend in Switzerland, and I've never been there before, what should I do?

AmbLeVine21 karma

Ask for more days. Barring that, get a train pass, hike a mountain, eat some chocolate, and wash it down with the excellent wine that Switzerland does not export.

shortsightedsid5 karma

The Swiss always state that they are Neutral. How does affect your work in situations like building consensus to fight ISIS? I'm sure they too find it barbaric but how do you convince them to contribute and not stand away as neutral bystander?

AmbLeVine37 karma

The Swiss Government just officially categorized ISIL as a terrorist organization showing that neutrality can have teeth.

courtiebabe4205 karma


AmbLeVine4 karma

I love this question! The answer is yes and no. I never find that I am treated differently in this capacity as a woman, AND I look forward to having more women in the room when I have meetings with executives across Switzerland.

courtiebabe4203 karma


AmbLeVine2 karma

To clarify: as an Ambassador - I have not been treated differently. Over the course of my career - per my note above, I, sadly, have.

someredditorguy4 karma

I've seen that Liechtenstein has one of the highest GDP per capita (via CIA World Factbook). Is this just a strange side effect of having such a small population, or does the country seem particularly affluent? Since it is so tiny compared to Switzerland, do you actually ever take time to get to Liechtenstein?

AmbLeVine10 karma

Any country where the monarch opens their home for free pretzels and beer is doing something right. Oh, and yes, I've been to Liechtenstein and recommend people go there on August 15, their national day, and when pretzels and beer are available in the castle courtyard (that's not White Castle :-) for everyone. Check out my TwitPic here: https://twitter.com/AmbSuzi/status/501401751430651904.

joebooth4 karma

Hey Suzi, We miss the LeVines around Queen Anne! What, if anything, do you miss most being away from Queen Anne and Seattle?

AmbLeVine6 karma

Hi Joe! We miss you guys too. The $5 coffee (let's just say it's a little bit more in Switzerland). One of the things I do love is that from both of my homes, my home in Seattle and my new home in Bern, I get to look out on beautiful mountains and greenery. Come and see!

orangejulius4 karma

Are you involved at all with brokering an energy deal with Ukraine for the upcoming winter now that Russia has largely cut them off from energy? How do you think that will play out?

AmbLeVine4 karma

The United States is working closely with our partners throughout Europe to reinforce Ukraine's energy security.

richardwrinkle4 karma

Sprechen sie Deutsch?

AmbLeVine8 karma

Ich lerne (I'm learning). Aber langsam (but slowly).

karmanaut5 karma

Schweizerdeutsch, oder hochdeutsch?

AmbLeVine3 karma

Ich lerne hochdeutsch. But my family and I are learning schweizerdeutsch via osmosis (to some degree).

Hero_Of_Sandwich4 karma


AmbLeVine1 karma

please see above/below other questions on this. Thank you so much for asking!

Akylees3 karma

How do you feel about American choclate like Herseys compared to Switzerland?

AmbLeVine5 karma

Is Switzerland a chocolate? Just kidding. :-) (Warning: diplospeak coming) I think all chocolate is lovely. What's your favorite?

ultrachronic3 karma

Do you have a Swiss bank account, and are they all they're cracked up to be?

AmbLeVine2 karma

I keep looking for Daniel Craig in the Bundesplatz near all of the banks - haven't seen him yet. If anyone does - please let me know!

mageganker3 karma

Does it get boring being the ambassador to a neutral country while we are on the brink of WW3?

AmbLeVine15 karma

Switzerland has hands-on neutrality and is an incredibly interesting and important place to be at this moment with so much happening around the world.

nyshtick2 karma

How regularly do you speak with State Department officials back in Washington DC? Who is your immediate superior? Wendy Sherman? How much of the day to day operations of an embassy come from officials in DC?

AmbLeVine4 karma

We have regular communications, and it's important to share what's happening in Switzerland with D.C. My technical, immediate superior is the President. That said, we do a lot of coordination within the European and Eurasian Bureau, which is run by the awesome Toria Nuland.

thebuiltclt2 karma

What compelled you to leave your exec job and enter public service?

AmbLeVine6 karma

One, most recently, I was a stay-at-home mom. (Did I mention a nonlinear career?) The technical answer is that my President asked me, and I was and am honored to serve my country.

anwaaransari2 karma

How many times have you met Roger Federer??

AmbLeVine5 karma

None yet, but hopefully he's reading this. Hi Rog!

Hawkseyes2 karma

How was your week?

AmbLeVine2 karma

Awesome! (and better with having done this AMA. Yours?

IntrepidC2 karma

What advice would you give somebody interested in becoming an Ambassador (or at least working for abroad for the State Department)?

AmbLeVine1 karma

I'd recommend getting a taste of it via the internship program or other more interim positions. They can be found on http://careers.state.gov/ - I have immense respect and admiration for the work those working for the State Department do to keep us safe and help our economy!

jamesjoyce18822 karma

In your estimation, are the Swiss people regretting their decision to de facto cancel all their collaborations with the EU in order to restrict immigration? Or are they still happy with that referendum?

AmbLeVine6 karma

To unpack your question a little bit, what will happen from the February 9th vote is still to be determined. I speak with a lot of businesses about the potential implications, but it really is very much an internal Swiss matter.

aelmer28211 karma

Good afternoon Ma'am. As a Marine, foreign policy is almost a requirement to understand my place in the world, do ( EDIT: Marines sometimes no type good) you find yourself taxed being an ambassador to 2 countries, regardless of the size of Liechtenstein?

AmbLeVine2 karma

First off, as the daughter, granddaughter, and stepdaughter of veterans, thank you for your service. I so deeply respect the work that you and your fellow members of the armed services to do keep us safe. In fact, I am honored to have an extraordinary Marine detachment in the Embassy and am working on my Marine Ball remarks right now. As for being posted to two countries, it is double the honor.

eiselein1 karma

Who's at your dream dinner party?

AmbLeVine8 karma

A. Jeremy Renner whose Reddit session is next. Hi, Jeremy! B. Sonia Sotomayor -- extraordinary human being. C. Wolverine -- awesome hair! D. Neil Degrasse Tyson E. Derrick Coleman -- Seahawks fullback F. Marie Curie (no one said they still have to be alive, right?) F. And of course, my wonderful family.