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Protocol Office Article 2012.04.01 For­eign flags in ver­ti­cal for­mat

National flags are frequently flown in vertical format, especially at trade fairs, sport events and company headquarters. They are typically preferred because the flagpoles can be placed close together and the flags fly freely even in light winds. 

Whereas the rules of corporate design may dictate a company’s presentation down to the last detail, including the appearance and use of company flags, similar rules for the use of national flags are often ignored. For example, according to Section I no. 1 of the Directive concerning the German flags, the federal flag is permitted for official use by federal, Länder or local authorities, and by public-law corporations, institutions and foundations under the supervision of federal authorities, only in horizontal or banner format, not in vertical format or with an outrigger. 

Whether all foreign flags may be displayed in vertical format is also doubtful. It is often questionable whether such display is permitted, especially for those flags whose design elements include coats of arms or other symbols, such as stars or geometric forms. 

In view of the fact that national flags are state symbols, and apart from whether improper display violates the regulations of the country in question, it should be noted that in many cases respect for national symbols at home and abroad often takes a back seat to practical concerns or the desire for a supposedly better visual image.

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