Celebrating German Unity

The annual german embassy’s event for our national holiday is a rather big thing. Dozens of big black limousines queue up before 17, Dongzhimenwai Dajie, at 6 o’clock, other people in suits arrive on electric scooters to avoid the traffic jam. Security is tight but not paranoid. As the weather is fine this time everybody is gathering outside. Party tables are everywhere. In the back garden a stage is installed for the welcoming speech and the music ensembles. I cannot help thinking that on a rainy party day even the spacious rooms of the embassy would have felt like Beijing subway during rush hour.

Ambassador Schaefer welcomes his guests of honour, the german state Lower Saxonia’s prime minister Christian Wulff, a Christian Democrat with ambitions for the german chancellorship, and some minister whose exact rank and position I do not understand, I’m too far away from the stage, something with science. An improvised orchestra plays the national anthem and hastily, as if a little ashamed of this burst of nationalism, turns to some other music.

“Exchange as many name cards as possible”, a friend had advised me, and that indeed seems to be one of the favorite pastimes during the event. Whenever you meet somebody, his hand jumps into his pocket, and even among germans people have adapted the chinese way of presenting their name card with both hands and a little bow.

In the colorful crowd – there seems to be everything from business men in their workday suits, or fashionably clad bohemian types, to even a bunch of german exchange students in jeans and sweaters – I especially like the military guys from other embassys. With their greased hair and operetta style uniforms they seem to come from a completely different planet.

After running around and making a number of random acquaintances I talk with some friends, with T., who is working for a European Union project and living in Beijing for three years, and B., who is the communications director for a big german company in China. His gravitational field seems to attract all the german China correspondents, so I’m happy to also meet Mr. Stern, Mr. Handelsblatt and Mr. Frankfurter Rundschau.

“And tomorrow, we can all go to the French embassy’s event”, one of them says.

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