Yesterday I attended an event I had been looking forward to for some time now, the Welcome Morning of Willkommen in Berlin or WIB. WIB is a great way for a diplo wife new to Berlin to meet other diplomats’ spouses, German FFO spouses and other well-connected ladies in Berlin. More information on the club below.
I arrived right before the speeches were about to start so I rushed in and sat wherever I could. I sort of felt silly because I had no idea how to use the headsets so I could hear the translation. Each seat in the big hall had one – awesome!
The speeches were given in a mix of English and German and how these headsets work is you connect the earphone to the jack, turn it on and choose either German or English. The speeches are given in a mix of both languages and there is a translator to translate the speech to English or German, whatever the need is at that very moment. There is a little bit of a lag, because it’s a person translating in real time, but it definitely beats not understanding half of what is being said. For future newbies to the WIB here is a simple how-to.
So on to the speeches. The warm welcome speech was given by the Patron of the club, State Secretary Prof. Dr. Harald Braun. I could feel that he was very proud of the WIB and how it was fostering relationships between the diplomatic community in a social setting, between the spouses and families of diplomats assigned in Berlin. Indeed it is something to be proud of immensely. Since this is only our second post, I am not familiar if other countries Foreign Ministries organize such clubs, but the WIB is turning 15 next year and I really admire the effort of the movers and shakers of WIB to make diplo-spouses feel welcome to Berlin. What a perfect name “Wilkommen in Berlin” is for the club. The new club President also gave a speech and I could feel the excitement she had over the year ahead and the groups and activities planned. The new Chairmanship was introduced for 2013 – 2015 and we learned what each of them was in charge of. Having 400 est. members and 38 different activity groups, each with monthly activities, on top of the monthly Jours Fixes is no easy task! I really admire how organized the WIB is!
These impressive ladies below are the chairmanship board for the current year.
- SUSANNE BARONESS OSTEN-SACKEN President, Advisory Board, Liaison Embassies and Representations of the Federal States in Berlin
- TONE KORSSUND-EICHINGER Vice-President, Public Relations, Liaison Embassies and Representations of the Federal States in Berlin, more…
- JULIA PENTAGNA GEIER Treasurer, Memberships, Office Coordination
- JULIANA BEELEN-HEIDL Group Coordinator
- DR. MED. ULRIKE LAMLÉ Press, Liaison Foreign Office
- SARA NACHAMA Website, Internet
- OLIVIA NIKEL Jours Fixes Coordinator
- CHRISTEL SIEGERS Secretary, Jours Fixes Coordinator
Once how the club worked, different group activities and some guidelines were explained to us, off we went to the 2 rooms outside where there were delicious refreshments and the different booths for the activity groups were set up. We could go to the different tables of the clubs we were interested in joining to get more information and decide on which ones we wanted to sign up for. There is a maximum of 5 clubs for the first set, however there are clubs which are not included in this limit (i.e. Berlin by bicycle, Ballet, Opera, etc.)
The different clubs had group leaders and scheduled activities prepared. Usually they also had German and English hand-outs with the details of the very first group meeting.
Out of the 38 different activity groups, I am interested in the following:
- First Steps in Berlin – practical trips to get to know our own neighborhoods better (i.e. where to get fresh fish)
- Dinner is served
- Design – visit studios, exhibits, talk to designers of jewelry, fashion, furniture, etc.
- The Unknown Berlin – instead of the usual tourist attraction, this group explores off-the-beaten-path but significant places, institutions and people in Berlin
- Antiques, Palaces and Gardens – visit private and public castles/parks/villas and antique/handicraft stores and exhibits.
The person who sends out all the emails to the members is Elke Bilgin of the WIB Office, so I was happy to finally put a face to the name. Nice to meet you Elke!
There is no guarantee to get the clubs one signs up for. There are some groups that have a limit on membership, and if you sign up late or you’ve been with the club for a couple of years already, they usually prioritize new members.
I am definitely looking forward to attending regular group activities with other people who share the same interests. It’s the perfect timing really because I am still so new to Berlin and barely know anyone here. I love that Germany has this FFO affiliated club. It’s a great way for the diplomatic community to form bonds beyond work.
The club has approx. 400 members from over 100 countries. Diplomatic members are the partners of accredited diplomats in Berlin and diplomats themselves, while the German membership is comprised of established and well-connected ladies in Berlin as well as spouses from the Federal Foreign Office, who have witnessed the various aspects of diving into new cultures and surroundings themselves. All German members work on a voluntary basis. They wish to introduce the broad spectrum of German culture, with all its facets, to the diplomatic members of the club, as well as encouraging and supporting cultural exchange.
If you are a diplo-spouse new to Berlin, I highly recommend getting in touch with them, introducing yourself and getting yourself invited. This year started in September so I am very lucky. There is an annual fee of €50 per year. Some of the groups have an annual fee of €5-10 while the entrance fees to the different museums, galleries, etc. that members sign up for are for their own expense. Joining a groups is not the same as signing up for the activities. We are not required to attend each activity, it is up to us to sign up for the activities that we want to join. We can join as many or as little as we want but once signed up, we should get in touch with the group leader/s if we are not able to make it so they can open up a slot for other interested group members.
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