My pretty new passport.
It doesn't look any different from my previous passport but it is. For the first time I have a lovely passport picture which I can stomach showing to people for the next 10 years. My passport also has more pages, because, well you never know, and it now says "Wuhan, China" as my place of residency instead of "Dublin, Ireland". My very first passport said "Koblenz, Germany". I wonder what my next passport might say...
When I consciously realised that I had to renew my passport and couldn't (for visa renewal purposes) ignore next year's expiry date any longer, I resolutely surfed the website of the German embassy to get all the details of the things I would need.
I was somewhat afraid, scratch that, I was very afraid because when I had to renew my passport in Ireland I had to pay the embassy four visits before they were finally happy to accept my application. You see, Germany loves bureaucracy and German embassies are no different. I still can't get over what they did to my photograph in 2009, the photo didn't look that hideous when I had it taken in Germany (precaution due to the insane biometric requirements the embassy has) but somehow the photo looked hideous once it was inside my passport.
The same biometric requirements for the passport photo gave me a solid migraine. How do you explain to someone in the country of 差不多 (cha bu duo / almost, okay, good enough) that you can't accept any of their attempts at pleasing you because it doesn't meet the requirements your embassy has.
I tried in vain to have passport pictures taken here in Wuhan but the outcome didn't match any of the requiremts I specified, even though I was very clear with my instructions.
In the end I went to the one photo studio in Beijing, which the German embassy recommends, and I had my picture taken there. I chanced all my luck because even the embassy said that the photo studio mightn't get things right on the first try. But they did do a fabulous job! Everything worked out just fine and I got the photo I needed from them!
I'm not even going to show you failed attempt from the photo studio here in Wuhan, it looks hideous! If you are German and you need to renew your passport in China "Gold One Photo Studio" is where you go, it will make your life a lot smoother.
I took an entire day just to sort out the passport debacle, since I wanted to a to avoid trouble. I enjoyed a more or less good breakfast before I set out to find the photo studio. Three subway changes and a short walk later I had what I needed plus a rumbling stomach that made me chase a nice place for lunch and then I continued my passport renewal quest. It required a taxi ride and an uncomfortable walk in the dry heat. Once I was inside the embassy I just had get a number and wait a little while, and then got to submit my application.
To be honest I was really worried they might find some reason not to accept my application and send me back to get more things for them but it all went fine and without a hitch. I asked for express processing and after handing over a lot of cash I was told I'd be notified in two weeks to come and pick up my passport. That was the bad news... Unfortunately the German embassy in China does not send out any passports, while the German embassy in Ireland does...or at least they did in 2009.
Fortunately for me I have friends in Beijing and one of them agreed to pick up my passport and send it to me. It was a piece of cake, really, I expected my passport renewal to be painful but it wasn't. The German embassy in China clearly knows what they are doing!