Robert Chatterson Dickson, the new British consul general based in Chicago, has been here in his new job a little less than two weeks. But he's not completely new to the city: His wife grew up in Wisconsin and took a fellowship in Ann Arbor (they had first met earlier when he was press officer at the embassy in the Philippines and she was a freelance journalist), so when it was time for him to meet her parents, they decided Chicago would be a good location.
"I first met her parents in the Russian tea rooms here in Chicago," Dickson said.
Dickson's wife hasn't arrived at the new address in Chicago yet, so Dickson has been seeing the city on his own since he got here.
"If you come here for [only] a couple of days, you don't really get the sense of depth, the cultural stuff, the theater, the art galleries," he said. "Washington and the East Coast, which is what we really tend to hear the most about in the UK, seem an awfully long way away."
As consul general here, Dickson has a wide range of responsibilities, including promoting trade and investment, and a large area to keep track of -- 13 Midwestern states. A million Americans are employed by British companies and a million Brits are employed by American companies "and we are very keen to develop that already very strong investment and trade relationship," he said.
Dickson sees another parallel between Illinois and Britain -- both have public expenditures that far outpace revenues. But Britain is taking matters in hand, he said. "Our government is not only raising taxes in the UK, but also cutting back sharply on public spending. ... At the moment there is really solid public consensus that what this is we need to do to get our economy back on a solid footing."
And he already knows there are certain requirements for someone stationed in Chicago.
"Once the season starts, I'll be a Bears fan," he said.
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