Diplomacy up close

The Open Day was a cheerful neighbourhood party.

The Open Day was a cheerful neighbourhood party., © German Embassy Warsaw

10.04.2013 - Article

How to let people abroad get to know Germany? An Open Day can do the trick, as our man in Warsaw reports.

Relations between Germany and Poland are close. Not only do their Governments work together closely, Polish and German people have also been coming to know one another better over recent decades through such arrangements as youth exchange programmes and town twinnings. One might wonder what is left for German public relations to do in Poland. Plenty, says our colleague Konrad Lax. Press Officer at the German Embassy in Warsaw for the last three years, he looks back at the Open Day held there.

Mr P. is a real Germany-buff – and often quite a critic of Germany too. In his comment pieces for an influential national-conservative newspaper, he has been known, for example, to compare Germany’s policy on Europe to Kaiser Wilhelm’s colonialist pretensions and describe the German political foundations operating in Poland as Government agents. On this particular Saturday, though, he is primarily thrilled with Germany. Today is the German Embassy in Warsaw’s Open Day, and the journalist is letting his little daughter drag him from one attraction to the next. She is beaming from ear to ear – and he is hooked too.

Public relations aimed at everyone

Germany’s Ambassador Rüdiger von Fritsch photographed with Open Day visitors
Germany’s Ambassador Rüdiger von Fritsch photographed with Open Day visitors© German Embassy Warsaw

The German Embassy wants to use its public relations work to show what exchange and close collaboration between Germany and Poland mean in real terms – in politics, business and culture. Above all, we try to reach Poland’s broader society – not just the upper echelons – and get them interested in Germany. Our events, our website and our Facebook page are all aimed at schoolchildren, taxi drivers, nurses – in short, at the Polish folks next door. That can even be taken quite literally; a lot of our Open Day visitors live in the immediate neighbourhood.

Easily more than 5000 visitors flood the Embassy premises on Open Day. On any normal working day, the Embassy is run by 60 seconded staff from Germany and the same number again of locally employed Poles. Today, there are children in the visa section filling in pretend passports, and hundreds of balloons are sent on their way with postcards attached. Long queues form at the stands supplying sausages, baking and drinks. The Embassy has set up a classroom, with a timetable that includes things like the ABC of diplomatic protocol and milestones of German-Polish relations. Children enjoy themselves playing penalty shoot-outs and building a jigsaw of Europe. The Embassy and more than 30 of its German and German-Polish partner organizations, as well as German companies, provide information about what they do.

A neighbourhood party that invites you on a voyage of discovery

Visitors enjoying the Open Day
Visitors enjoying the Open Day© German Embassy Warsaw

All of this adds up to make the Open Day a cheerful neighbourhood party which centres around the colourful variety of German-Polish relations. Mr P., for instance, knows the art collections held in Germany’s major cities and can recite the various branches of the Hohenzollern dynasty in his sleep – “But here at the Open Day,” he says, “there is plenty for me to learn about Germany that even I didn’t know.”

It’s 7.15 p.m. The stragglers take their left-over bratwursts and the last few balloons away into the Warsaw evening, while the Embassy team gather up empty drinks crates. Mr P.’s little daughter skips out into the fresh air with a bag crammed with quiz prizes and brochures, a contented father in her wake. Of course, Mr P. will continue writing critically about Germany. That’s his job, after all. Nonetheless, his picture of Germany will definitely have gained a number of totally new layers at this Open Day.

Click here for more reports from our “On a diplomatic mission” series.

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