Germany: the one country on earth that is happier during Corona than before. This country loves social isolation, practicing it voluntarily as a rule. In my mandatory integration classes, we learned Germany has the highest number of single-person households in the whole world. There is no nation on earth better equipped for this anti-social existence. It is completely normal to race those BMW’s and Audi’s home after work to promptly lower the shades. Every night as the garage doors drop, so do those war-proof rolling shades. Once down and safely incubated inside, the outside world ceases to exist.
A nation of neurotic anti-social hypochondriacs is relishing the current requirement to remain home and stay away from everyone. It is an order, punishable by a steep fee. I have not heard one complaint. In fact, most people have admitted they’d be dandy if things stayed like this forever. (When first the Spring Festival and then Oktoberfest were cancelled, no German seemed to give a shit. The Americans I work with on base were damn near tears.) They are less stressed having been ordered by the government to essentially stop small talk. People think they’ve won the lottery! As restrictions have continually loosened, they wonder: what if we could vote for social isolation forever?
I have never seen Germans so free and radiantly smiling. It is disconcerting. Part of the ease of the quarantine measures here is the relative freedom. Unlike France and Spain where residents were on house arrest until recently, in Germany people could always go outside. Families can gather with no problem. Non-family members can hang out in small groups. Biking and jogging duos are everywhere, enjoying the sunshine. Families are picnicking, hiking and gardening. The only thing reliably absent from grocery stores are flour and yeast. Cakes are springing up with the daffodils. Smaller stores are opening and even some gastronomic enterprises will be able to reopen in about two weeks.
Why are Germans into the quarantine? Maybe because they tend to be more in their head. Thinking is a solo activity. The Mediterranean cultures are perhaps more centered in their feelings. Americans are driven by personal will and are future minded.
I just need to give up trying. I have been so bold to say good morning to my fellow commuters that I see every. Single. Day. And they all give me withering looks like I just asked if I could eat their children. Chill out, it’s called being friendly. It makes me miss the squishy Portland vibes that require talking to familiar fellow commuters. I used to be a popular girl on Line 15, ya’ll. Once I fell asleep on the way to work downtown but the bus driver knew me and thought I was funny so he pulled over and let me out on that surreal freeway interchange near Goose Hollow just because he didn’t want me to be too late to work. Trimet, I love you. Deutsche Bahn will probably soon arrest me for harassing fellow passengers with my unwanted overtures of politeness.
Anyway. I’m staring at a lot of fields, straining to make myself feel something like fulfillment and thinking of friends in harsh lock downs who would envy my ease of movement. Everything is easier with sunshine.