I arrived in Germany at the end of September 2020, and for the most part knew what I was getting myself into by coming during a global pandemic. The idea of hitting up Oktoberfest, going out to clubs and meeting a bunch of new people were already ideas that I had gotten out of my head. I cautiously knew entering Germany during this time would be much different, which was a vital mindset to have since a few weeks in, things would get a whole lot worse again.
However, when I first got here, it was exciting and normal with restaurants and bars open, no mandatory masks while outside, etc. and that all made it seem really hopeful. I remember the town feeling lively, people eating and drinking at outdoor cafes and it still felt like summertime. I took advantage by going to a couple authentic German restaurants, a nearby bar with German beer and did some clothes shopping.
Plus, I was able to go to the office to start my brand new internship which now feels like a luxury. I got to meet my manager and some co-workers, get a tour of the HQ and have my very own desk to work at – all very typical for the internship experience. All in all, life seemed rather normal and I got to experience commuting by train to work and the working full-time lifestyle. I sure am grateful to have been able to go during those first two weeks, since after that, the lockdown here hit hard. I remember being in Munich at the time visiting my boyfriend when the company sent out an email stating we would work from home for a few weeks due to the government’s new regulations and we would take it from there. At that time, I really believed that we’d be back in a month! Ha! Gradually, everything closed except for grocery and essential stores, masks were a priority everywhere and there even started to be a curfew (8pm to 6am) as well as household rules, basically meaning you could only see two people outside of your household at a time. Of course, these measures were with proper intention by the government, to decrease the spread of infection since Germany has had its ups and downs with infection rates spiking and so forth. From there it was a matter of adjusting to a new lifestyle in my newly adopted foreign country.
For the longest time, I have only worked well outside of my home, as I consider working at home to be a great distraction. Being able to separate home and work has always been essential for me, so working remotely was definitely the hardest adjustment. In an outside work space like an office, library or even a coffee shop, I could mentally bury away all my other thoughts and worries, and get something done because I knew I only had so much time to be there and I worked productively and efficiently. With work from home, it took awhile to create this again in my living space. At home, I wasn’t going anywhere, so I had all the time in the world and that initially diminished my productivity. Once I tried some tips and tricks (to be continued in another blog post), over time I progressively learned to work well from home – and even like it. I know this to be true, because I recently went back to the office and noticed my productivity levels were the same as if I were home. To me, this is an accomplishment, since I managed to overturn my mindset which before made me think I couldn’t work from home, when actually, I believe it is all just mental. Plus, the office, library, or coffee shop are only really fun when there are other people there, whether you know them or not. The social aspect of the pandemic is another story.
I consider myself a social person who likes to meet and hang out with others very regularly, so the special households rule here made life challenging. For example, I had planned a Halloween party with a group of people and last minute had to cancel due to this rule, which at the time was new. From there, it led to more and more events not being possible which was a true downer for me. I really missed social interaction and also felt like this was a tough adjustment. Let alone not being able to plan any simple events like just meeting for a drink after work at a local bar. Unfortunately, I still haven’t mastered this as I did with work from home – Facetime, group calls and messaging just isn’t the same in my eyes! I’m open to recommendations!
Okay, now looking at the bright side… one silver lining of being in Germany during the pandemic was hiking. Nobody can close nature! Well, they could have closed the trails, but they never did. Perhaps in Germany this is too important, but also it’s very easy to social distance in this activity which made it justifiable. So during these past months, I have been on many incredible hikes that really gave me those picture perfect moments of being in Germany. That is worth it to me! I got to marvel at the Alps, cute German mountain towns, and sensational views of the valley’s and countryside.
A few times I even got to experience what they call “mountain huts” here which are basically super German style restaurants that serve amazing food and drinks about mid-way up the mountain. Think delicious Käse Spätzle (cheese noodles), Kaiserschmarnn (it’s actually Austrian but it’s essentially torn up small pancakes with raisins, powdered sugar and a cream sauce), and of course German beer or Apfelschorle (apple juice mixed with sparkling water). (Oh, and I could probably write a whole blog post about Germans obsessions with sparkling water…) Anyways, the perks of hiking here are plentiful (beauty/mountain huts/exercise) and I really think these past few months wouldn’t have been as meaningful if I hadn’t had these experiences.
Like I mentioned earlier, Germany has had its ups and downs, or waves, with the pandemic’s severity, so when the cases were lower, I also got the opportunity to visit a few towns in the region and states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. This also made life feel more normal when I could stroll through and explore an old German town like I normally would. Of course, you always had to carry your mask for entering stores and enjoying a dining experience was also not possible, but that entitled me to enjoy the bakeries and cooking later at home. Oh for the money I have saved!
All in all, I feel pretty fortunate for all I’ve been able to do here in Germany during the pandemic. From getting to explore towns and castles to hiking and still learning about and enjoying the local daily life, I certainly can’t complain and am coming away with countless memories. I know a lot of other people have had it way worse, and even being away from home during this time was a luxury. If it weren’t for my work permit, I surely wouldn’t have been able to come and surely not as a tourist since all borders have been closed to temporary visitors for as long as I can remember. So even though I have missed out on bigger events like Christmas markets and Oktoberfest, group social encounters and whatever lies missing from the restrictions we’ve had here, I still count myself very blessed and am grateful for this unique experience. Someday, this period of covid-19 will be behind us and I know I will still look back very fondly of this experience, and even not have changed it at all. I always try to look at the bright side and find silver linings wherever I go, even amidst a pandemic.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed my little memoir of what’s it been like living in Germany during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Hopefully you got a taste of how Germany is during this time and that you too are able to reflect on the ups and downs of wherever you are during this novel time.
This slideshow shows photos of my time in Munich during October when there weren’t any restrictions yet