How the eagle joined the bear

How the eagle joined the bear: The origins of “Welcome to Berlin”

Following the restoration of much of the Federal Republic of Germany’s external and internal sovereignty, Bonn, which in the wake of the division of Germany had originally been considered merely a temporary seat for the federal agencies, became increasingly important as the location of diplomatic missions. And so Bonn was to get something that the diplomats already knew from many capitals, such as Washington and Paris: an institution, supported by the foreign ministry, designed to help the partners of accredited diplomats to settle in the host country and get to know it better.

“Welcome to Bonn” was established in 1984, following the French model, thanks not least to the strong and active support of the wives of State Secretaries von Staden and Meyer-Landrut and two wives returning from Paris, Sylvie Haas and Doris Eberle, who had been delighted with how “Bienvenue en France” had made things easier for them there. The Federal Foreign Office supported the club’s work from the outset, the wife of one of its State Secretaries becoming its patron. Many women married to Federal Foreign Office employees, but also Bonn’s society ladies, contributed to the club’s success in the ensuing years through their voluntary commitment. What initially started out as a “welcome morning” every two or three months quickly grew to become a programme of group activities, jours fixes, outings and trips to other Länder in Germany.

In Berlin a similar need was perceived for the 200 or so partners of diplomats working in the consulates-general and embassy offices. In 1994, Monika Diepgen, wife of the then Governing Mayor of Berlin, and Jutta Fischer, wife of the Chief of Protocol in Berlin, who was seconded from the Federal Foreign Office, therefore set up the “Welcome to Berlin” club for diplomatic spouses. This club, too, offered a wide range of joint activities and events.

When the Federal Government moved to Berlin in 1999, the two clubs, with the Federal Foreign Office’s blessing, joined forces to become “Welcome to Berlin – Berlin diplomats club based at the Federal Foreign Office in Germany”. The club began work with an office at the Federal Foreign Office on 19 May 1999. One of the State Secretaries of the Federal Foreign Office acts as the club’s patron.

Our logo, half Federal eagle and half Berlin bear, reflects both this history and the strong bonds and good cooperation enjoyed by our active members, half of whom are partners of Federal Foreign Office staff and who thus have their own experience of having to make a fresh start and find their feet in a different culture. Those members who come from Berlin and the surrounding area, by contrast, are familiar with the region and can use their ties with institutions and public figures to further the club’s work. Our joint goal is to offer our foreign guests, including an ever increasing number of male members, a forum for friendship, tolerance and understanding and to enable them to get to know and understand their host country, Germany, better.