So, 2020? I think we can all agree that so far we’ve been in for a very unusual ride!
On one hand I’m feeling so very lucky to be living where we are – a lot of the factors which made Villach a bit of an adjustment for me when we moved here are what has made it one of the best places to be right now. We are in such a bubble! With a small, spread out population the impact of the disease here in Carintha has been minimal, and after 4 weeks of lock down we are already taking steps towards normality.
It’s somehow odd now to walk through the quiet streets of Villach and see shoppers in their mandatory masks walking around, visiting the small stores, and socially distancing with the required 2m (a distance that people seem to think gets smaller day-by-day!) – to know that this street scene, this liveliness and hope, is happening in so few places worldwide. Our respective home countries of England and Italy are having a much more turbulent time – I imagine the quiet that has been forced into our lively cities of Manchester and Napoli is overwhelming to experience.
As an expat, the lockdown has given me some odd mixed feelings. It’s so hard to be away from so many important people at such a tough time, and I almost feel guilty for not experiencing this life-changing event in what was for so long, and what will always be, my home city; guilt for not applauding the NHS with everyone else, for not having a mandated amount of time to spend outside per day, for not having to struggle to buy flour and toilet roll!
Having had a trip back planned for Easter this past week hits a little harder, but it’s somehow comforting to know everyone is in the same situation, that if we had been in the UK now we’d have still been confined to our homes, and unable to see anyone. Though that 1800km remains a much bigger gap than 2m!
The FOMO has of course been quelled entirely – no nights out or quality time with friends back home to miss out on! I’ve been spending more time socialising online than before the lockdown – things like the weekly pub quiz and video chat catch-ups really do help to give some feeling of connection and I dread to think how we would have coped with this situation without our internet-connected world.
The virus has been called the ‘great leveller’ and while I feel that’s insanely untrue with regards to class differences and privilege, as someone who is unable to easily see their friends and loved ones in normal times I do feel like I have been put on a little bit more of a level playing field socially!
It’s been sad to see the destinations at our local station drop off the departures board week by week – I always loved to see the trains heading to Zurich, Zagreb, Venice, Munich… nothing made me feel so connected and European! Now I wonder what the future holds for our borders, as an EU remainer Brexit and these times of divide and uncertainty were already a concern, now I hope even more that countries don’t seek to close off and look inwards – to protect their own and turn a blind eye to those on the other side. We are at such a junction of countries here in Villach – something I always intend to make a blog post about! There’s just something magical to me about the fluidity of the border – being able to cross into another country on a whim, to go to Italy for a pizza, where everyone is hopping between Italian and German.
Hopefully we don’t have to wait long before we can really connect once more.