Germany's foreign office has apologised for tweeting a joke about its visa application process being seductive.
The joke was based on the trending hashtag #SeduceSomeoneInFourWords, where Twitter users come up with four words that could spark romance.
The @GermanyDiplo Twitter account tacked on the hashtag to its tweet: "Your visa got approved."
The joke was deleted hours later and a second tweet admitted that humour was "not always our strong suit".
@GermanyDiplo, which represents the foreign ministry's English-language channel, said: "We know the visa process is complex, and visa decisions can deeply affect peoples' lives."
It added: "Our colleagues take these decisions very seriously."
Being funny is apparently not always our strong suit. We deleted the tweet below and apologize to all who were offended by this. We know the visa process is complex, and visa decisions can deeply affect peoples‘ lives. Our colleagues take these decisions very seriously. pic.twitter.com/VP7dmH6l05— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) January 16, 2020
Many people replied to both tweets with their frustrating, sometimes devastating experiences of applying for German visas.
Law student Mamoun wrote: "When I had barely graduated from undergrad, I was offered an internship with the UN in Bonn, Germany. After an extensive visa application process with delays and uncertainty, I was informed - two days prior to the beginning of my internship - that my visa application was rejected. Danke."
Criminologist Galma Akdeniz added: "If your visa application did not make people feel less than human, it might have been funny. But it does. So this is gloating in your discretionary power, laughing at people who are subjected to it. Not cool, and quite out of touch."
But not everyone thought the tweet was offensive.
Turkish journalist Rahsan Gulsan, for example, wrote: "Even though it's terribly hard and sometimes humiliating to try to get visa from German Consulate, the joke is still very funny!"
#SeduceSomeoneInFourWords has become a popular fad, attracting jokes such as "you hungry? I'm cooking".
Other European government offices have tried to make jokes on the hashtag.
Belgium's ministry of foreign affairs tweeted five words: "Some beer, chocolate & waffles?"
And many people pointed out that France's ministry for Europe and foreign affairs' contribution - "Hi, I'm French" - was only three words.