Life in Germany in the Time of Corona

My favorite word right now is fiddlefart*. I’ve got so much time on my hands, and I actually work through my to-do list, but there is not much to show for. This gives me an early taste of what retiring might look like.

I’m on Day 5 now, and we are still free to move. But there are restrictions, and as time passes, there are more to come.

Outdoor facilities such as playgrounds, pools, etc. are closed. This photo shows the playground at Camp King, with a red and white barrier tape at Camp King.

This morning at the super market seemed a normal one. Searching for batteries, I turned the corner into another aisle, and was reprimanded by someone in a closely standing group of three: “Bitte Abstand halten!” (Keep your distance!). Sure, this makes sense. Not.

I just nodded, smiled, and approached the batteries from the other end. The group remained there, and continued talking without keeping distance. Ja, ja, the little policemen are out there. 🙂

Some customers kept the recommended distance while waiting in line. One lady though was almost breathing down my neck, and before I could turn around to say something, her husband pointed it out to her. She then retracted, but not without chiding him first.

I saw an appeal on social media about giving health care workers, and all others assisting in this time of crisis, a big shout-out by applauding. This is supposed to happen by the open window, or balcony, every evening at 9pm. So far I have not heard anything around here.

This coming Sunday, 22 March at 18:00, a Flash-Mob from your Balcony event is planned. We are supposed to hear: Beethovens Schlusschoral Freude Schöner Götterfunken (Beethoven’s final chorale on Ode to Joy).

More information in German here:
Hessischer Musikverband e.V.

These are interesting times.

* to fiddlefart (verb): to linger aimlessly; to look busy while accomplishing nothing.

Life in Germany in the Time of Corona

Day 2 of my self-imposed isolation has begun. It is not a complete isolation yet as I plan on making one last trip to the pharmacy to pick up medication, which wasn’t available yesterday.

It is eerily quiet in our neighborhood. Once in a while I get up from my desk to step on the balcony to make sure the birds are still singing. Very few cars come through our residential area.

Day 3 is almost over.

  • Just heard on the news that the town of Mitterteich in Bavaria is the first city in Germany to have gone on complete lockdown. The city is in the district Oberpfalz (Upper Palatinate).
  • I enjoyed my last Korean lunch – sitting in a restaurant. As of today, some restrict their business to take-out only.
  • Every morning, I watch the Robert Koch-Institute (Germany’s public health institute) update at 10:00. For your information: https://www.rki.de/EN/Home/homepage_node.html
  • Many shops have closed or are in the process of closing. Playgrounds and parks are no longer accessible.
  • I’ve heard that our local supermarket is still out of toilet paper. 🙂

Last, but not least, there is a little German lesson.

die Ausgangssperre (curfew)

Other terms in English, depending on their restrictions, include: shelter at home, quarantine, lockdown;

Life in Germany in the Time of Corona

My professional life has come to complete stop as of Monday, 16 March 2020. I have cancelled all work-related appointments, and will keep socializing at a minimum. I’m not the worrying kind, just more cautious than usual.

With this I want to share my personal observations of life in Germany in the time of Corona .

  • Walking to the supermarket on Monday morning to pick up a few items, I noticed everyone else seemed to be walking faster as well.
  • I held a door open for an elderly gentleman, he then took over with his elbow. With caution.
  • The customer in front of me asked the cashier whether there are any news of supermarkets closing any time soon. She sighed and mumbled something. I’d suppose she’s heard this question, or just small talk, quite a few times.
  • I had to meet a friend on a prearranged errand. And yes, it was different to meet without the initial hug as well as keeping distance while talking.
  • I find it hard to wash my hands for thirty seconds. For so many years, I would remind my kids to turn off the water while brushing their teeth, or between shampooing and rinsing in the shower. The recommendation is to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice for a suitable hand washing. I barely make it through the first round.
  • My husband and I made a final run to the doctor’s office to get our prescriptions. On the way there, he stopped at a wine shop to get me a 10L container of wine, drinkable with a hose. What pleasant surprise! I had to turn almost 60 years of age to have a drink as a 17-year-old might do.
  • I’m guilty as charged. Yesterday evening, I went out for dinner one final time with a friend before all the restaurants close or restrict their hours. Whatever comes next. Including our table, only three were occupied. I overheard the proprietor and staff sharing the latest news, which seemed to change every 30 minutes. They discussed why garden centers could remain open, as well as hairdressers and nail studios. Not one of them could come up with a plausible answer to this rhetorical question.

It is a strange time we live in right now: surreal, on edge, and yet cathartic somehow.

The birds keep on singing and the flowers still bloom.

Gender Equality in a Good Partnership

While researching the significance of being a ‘Good Wife and Wise Mother’ (ryosai kenbo) in the Japanese society, I found some noteworthy articles on this topic.

In the early 90s, I was called a ‘career woman’ for working in Japan, which occasionally came with a  negative connotation. For some, I should have stayed at home, being a ‘kanai’ (Japanese for: in-house person), looking pretty, and cooking well. And yes, maybe wearing Snoopy socks while fixing my husband’s meal.

Gender equality is far from being the norm in Japan — the country ranked 101st out of 135 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index in 2012.

For the longest time, it was the norm for a Japanese woman wanting to achieve the ryosai kenbo status in society. This has changed though. Japanese women are less likely to get married these days.

Surprisingly though, even as late as 2016, the Japanese man is still looking for these traits in a wife. If you look at the men’s expectations below, it will become clear as to why fewer Japanese women opt for marriage.

Based on this article 10 Qualities Japanese Men Want their Wives to Possess from 2016, this 10-point list really puts Japan’s gender inequality in the spot light:

——————————————-

10. She has good “money sense,” and knows how to manage the household finances. It is not acceptable if she overspends.

I want the same good money sense from my male partner too.

9. She knows how to cook well, and can make good meals for guests.

Yes, my husband can cook a good meal. Especially on the weekend, if he has time to scour the New York Times recipe section to cook something new for us.

8. She is good at housework, and can make a clean and comfortable living space.

He’s not around that much to do housework, and I work from home. I do most of it.

7. She has a successful career, and a good education.

This is a rather high demand on a Japanese man’s wish list. Have a successful career and raising successful children too..? Is the same man capable of having a good education, a successful career, and raising children on the side as well? No, these are double-standards.

6. She has a positive attitude, and speaks to people with a sincere heart.

We all like to be surrounded by people with a positive attitude.

5. She has a good character, and excellent social skills.

My husband has a good character, and since he is a working man, he also has developed good social skills.

4. She is gentle, kind, and obedient.

I like a partner with a gentle heart too, but I would not expect him to be obedient. This would not be a partnership. Definitely gender inequality.

3. She has a healthy figure. She loves sports, and is good at one sport, or can play an instrument, or dance.

Don’t overdo it here! After a full day at work, raising successful children at the end of it, you expect your partner to do sports, dance, or play music…? I’ve read the Japanese wife is supposed to bring your slippers, run your bath, and fix your meal when you come home at 11 pm. Sorry, I won’t play the Shamisen for you that late.

2. She must be nice looking, and is willing to raise children; the more, the better.

My husband is nice looking. Thank you.

1. But the most important quality is a good family background; that is what most Japanese men put as the first priority. A good family background brings lots of benefits to the future family. Well-raised kids will get along with other family members, and there will be a harmonious family life.

One of my former students in Japan told me she had to write something similar to a CV and resume before she could be asked out on a date by the man of her choice. He submitted her paperwork to his parents. When it was approved, she could go out with him.

Yes, the family background is still a first priority.

Take my input with a grain of salt, but do keep in mind that we hope for respect, dignity, and equality in any relationship.

Here I played the role of a ‘Good German’ really well: dressed in Bavarian clothing, selling German goods in a Japanese department store. These career women… 🙂

Selling German goods in Japan

More articles to read on this topic:

Three Versions of the Good Wife in Japan (article in the JapanTimes)

Joshiryoku-How is Girl Power defined (women’s ability to look after their appearance and being insightful enough to care for others by savvytokyo)

Recycling Point for Corks, Candle Stumps, and Paper Rolls, in Oberursel

I care about recycling very much in order to help our environment by reducing waste, so I’m always on the lookout for more items to recycle.

The Sheltered Workshop (WerkstĂ€tten fĂŒr Behinderte) in Oberursel collects corks and candle stumps for up-cycling. So the other day, I made another drop-off, and also inquired if they collected anything else. They do. They have added paper/tissue rolls to their list or recyclables. One of the employees pointed it that paper rolls should have nothing printed on it.

Oberurseler WerkstĂ€tten fĂŒr Behinderte
Oberurseler Str. 86-88, 61440 Oberursel (Taunus)

Visit their website for more details: http://o-wfb.de/kontakt/ and they are also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OberurselerWerkstaetten/

Also, Jacques Wine Shop in Oberursel takes in used corks for recycling purposes as well. His collection also goes to a good cause.

https://www.jacques.de/rund-um-den-wein/14/weinkultur/kork-ist-zu-schade-um-ihn-nur-einmal-zu-benutzen/

  • cork: der Korken
  • candle stumps: die Wachsreste (pl)
  • paper roll: die Papierrolle
  • recycling point: die Recyclingstelle, der Wertstoffhof

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