Expat Diaries: How the Pandemic Has Affected Me
Hallo meine Lieben! Hello my loves! In this week’s Expat Diaries, I have finally managed to write some coherent thoughts on the current global pandemic. Here they are!
Everything feels so new and overwhelming right now. Except it doesn’t. There’s something strangely familiar about this current situation. However, that familiarity comes from movies and TV shows. From fiction. We’ve all seen enough disaster movies between us, right? In theory, we should all be masters at managing a global pandemic/crisis.
I think it’s safe to say though, that none of us expected this virus to impact global life so heavily.
What happened in Germany?
On 12th March, the Federal Government announced the closure of schools for 5 weeks. A week later, on 20th March, Germany essentially went into a partial lockdown. The measures were definitely not as strict as other European countries like Italy and Spain, but there were rules put in place to help stop the spread of the virus.
A month later, on 20th April, Germany made the decision to begin easing the restrictions. Shops started to re-open and some students returned to school. On 27th April, it became mandatory to wear facemasks (non-medical) on public transportation and in shops. On 4th May, more students returned to school and hairdressers were allowed to re-open.
Slowly, but surely, Germany is beginning to re-open.
How has the pandemic affected me?
The staying home part has felt somewhat easy for me. I had 6 months of practice prior to the pandemic.
I do feel bad, though, that I am living somewhere full of beautiful cultural and historical sights that I’m not able to visit right now! However, museums and Botanical Gardens have been allowed to re-open this week, providing they adhere to social distancing. Perhaps a local, mini-adventure could be on the cards over the coming weeks?
I am one of the lucky ones. I have been able to continue going to work and keep some sort of a daily “routine” going. It’s just the evenings and weekends that need filling with activities. Although I have been practicing the art of slowing down and doing absolutely nothing, which has also been helpful.
Physically, I am feeling the best I have done since moving to Germany. I lost my passion for exercise somewhere over France during the move, but it’s finally caught up with me again. With great thanks to the Internet and video calling, I have also been able to workout with my friends from the UK. This has been super helpful to my homesickness.
Mentally, I wobble a lot. It’s hard not to, given the situation. We had plans to visit the UK for a weekend in April and for a few weeks at the end of May. My sister and dad had also planned to visit us in June. I was so ready to spend a big chunk of time with friends and family, especially considering the difficulties both Zac and I have faced since moving.
Obviously, and sadly, none of these trips are going ahead. Perhaps it is because I physically cannot get to the UK that makes it feel worse. Perhaps it is because I feel useless and helpless to all of my family and friends when I am stuck here. Either way, I am having lots of sad moments right now.
The Expat Life is new to me and I’m still learning so much. I think the biggest realisation so far is that you can only be a successful expat when you have open borders. Having that opportunity to travel and visit home when it all gets too much can be a game changer. It’s certainly feeling like one to me.
Privilege + Gratitude.
So, all that to say that I am actually doing surprisingly okay. There have been and will continue to be times when I feel completely awful. But in practising gratitude, I remember how extremely privileged I am to be here. I have so far not contracted any symptoms, I have not experienced any personal food shortages, I’ve been allowed to leave the house and I still have a job.
I have found myself checking both UK and German news websites several times a day to stay up to date with all the information. Given some of the heart wrenching stories I have read from all over the world, the fact that I am alive, employed and surviving is a luxury that I am extremely grateful to have.
UK v Germany
To continue on the note of gratitude from above, I am also extremely grateful to live in a country that has been labelled as one of the world’s leading in the fight against this pandemic.
Factually and statistically speaking, Germany is a much better place to be than the UK right now. We have had less confirmed cases and far, far less deaths. Germany started testing early, healthcare here is top notch (I should hope so too considering the insurance costs! #GodBlesstheNHS) and we have an actual scientist in charge of the country. All things that help, I think.
Germany has also been named the second safest country in the world during this pandemic, according to a ranking compiled by the London Deep Knowledge Group. The founder of DKG quoted that Germany is “one of the leading nations worldwide when it comes to crisis management” and that the country will have “significant economic advantages after the pandemic”.
There have been no queues to enter supermarkets in our town, the great ‘panic buying’ phase only lasted a couple of weeks, and bakeries have stayed open so I can get my weekly fix of Pfeffer Baguettes (literally the best bread on earth don’t @ me). Also, I have found that Germans tend to be pretty good at, and keen on, following the rules set in place. All in all, I feel like we at least picked a good country to become expats in.
None of the above stops me from deeply missing my home though.
The UK now has the highest death toll across all of Europe. The NHS is struggling, particularly in big towns and cities. Boris Johnson occasionally appears on TV to give a very vague outline of the government plans for crisis management. Too many people still appear to be breaking lockdown rules, including those in positions of power. Entire industries have or are collapsing and so many people I know are on Furlough or have been let go by their struggling companies completely. It’s a sad state of affairs to watch unfold.
However, I am also watching as communities are built and come together like never before. People are meeting their neighbours for the first time. There are huge volunteer efforts to help the elderly and vulnerable who are unable to leave their homes. I am seeing more positive news stories pop up on various timelines and feeds than ever before. It makes my heart swell up like the Grinch and makes me so incredibly proud to be British.
I am also desperate to give my nan, sister and friends a massive bear hug. To go for a coffee or pint with those I miss so dearly. I want to hit up a Spin class and get my sweat on. Of course, none of these things would even be possible if I were in the UK right now. But still, the feeling of emptiness and sadness remains within me. I am still incredibly homesick.
Where would I rather be during the pandemic?
So, where would I rather be right now? The honest answer is Germany.
But what will be the first thing I do as soon as international travel is permitted? Book the first available ferry back to the UK for a long visit. Some of my family and friends are not huggers, but they will not have a choice this time!
Has the pandemic affected your daily life? How are you coping? Let me know.
I trust that you’re all intelligent people here, but I have to say that all views and opinions are my own. Where I talk about ‘Germany’ and ‘Germans’ I am speaking purely about my town and surrounding areas in Bavaria. As a Federal Country, other residents and citizens will have had entirely different experiences to me.