Consulate versus Embassy

Posted by apm-wa on 21 October 2018 in English (English)

This week I flew through Istanbul for the third and fourth times in a month, this time en route to Doha from Ashgabat. Since Fly Dubai no longer serves Doha, it takes 24 hours for me to get to Doha via Istanbul on Turkish Air, versus four to five hours via Dubai in the good old days, due to the lengthy layover in Istanbul. The good news is I love Istanbul, having lived there 30 years ago, and use the layovers to visit old haunts and old friends..

I was surprised to find somebody had mapped the American Consulate General in Istanbul as a office=commercial, and set about correcting that. I then discovered that every other consulate in Istanbul was mistagged amenity=embassy. Embassies are in capitals, are defined by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and are headed by an ambassador or chargé d’affaires. Consulates are a different animal, as defined by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and are headed by a consul (if a consulate) or a consul general (if a consulate general, which is just a bigger consulate). .I have gone through Istanbul with my electronic red pen, correcting this mistagging plus adding multilngual names (for some reason the Chinese consulate general was identified solely in Ukrainian).

I turns out the wiki entry for the diplomatic=consulate tag contains erroneous information and people are systematically mistagging consulates. I need to take this up with the Data Working Group. Consulates are not embassies, and we need to strive for accuracy in our map.

Comment from SomeoneElse on 21 October 2018 at 14:39

For info, here are the taginfo links for amenity=embassy (11k uses), amenity=consulate (30 uses) and where else consulate is used, including 782 diplomatic=consulate.

Much tagging discussion takes place on the tagging mailing list. Some of the messages there come from people with a deep knowledge of a particular field; some with a lot of familiarity with how OSM tends to tag things. Some there however do seem to overestimate the power of the tagging list (and the wiki) to change the use of tags within OSM - most mappers just use their editor’s presets.

Whilst OSM mostly uses British English tags for things, there are a few exceptions, often related to tags that have become established, or would be confusing if a British English term was used (“sidewalk” is an example of that), so it’s difficult to say that a tag is “wrong” because it doesn’t exactly match the British English usage of a word. An example of the latter is “city” - everywhere in the US that is legally a city there is not tagged as such (see for example Cando in North Dakota). However in cases such as this the wiki should be clear and point out the difference (as the city page does). If pages such as diplomatic=consulate or key:diplomatic contain factual errors about what e.g. consulates do, then please change them, but the “how to use in OSM” part should really reflect usage in OSM, even if that doesn’t match British English usage, unless that usage was agreed to be in error (due to an erroneous import, for example). There has been some “targetted editing” and “tag gardening” of embassies I believe, and I seem to remember at least one directed editing task to “add certain tags to embassies” that didn’t actually check that the things being edited were embassies.

Best Regards,

Andy Townsend (a member of OSM’s Data Working Group)

Comment from Warin61 on 21 October 2018 at 22:09

Both amenity=embassy and diplomatic=consulate have the status ‘De Facto’. They may not have been discussed on the tagging mailing list, certainly they have not been ‘approved’ by the formal process that goes through that list.

Most people don’t know of the differences, they just want a passport/visa and go to these places for them. So they have been all lumped together as ‘embassies’.

Starting with a clean sheet of paper the tagging may have been better with;

amenity=diplomatic (rather than embassy) and then


OSM though is very hard to deal with when ‘established tags’ are challenged with better more logical tags that actually make more sense. There is a reluctance to change that is monolithic.

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