How Germany’s international residents are affected by the coronavirus pandemic

From people losing their jobs to worries about relatives living far away, here’s how Germany’s international residents are affected by the coronavirus crisis, and how they are getting through it.

The global coronavirus pandemic has affected almost everyone’s life in some way, and people living far from family and friends are facing particular challenges right now.

When we reached out to readers to find how they are coping with the crisis here in Germany, many said they had anxiety over being away from their loved ones or felt homesick, and that they found living abroad, understandably, quite difficult at the moment.

With no idea when they’ll see their family or close friends again, it adds to the pressure of getting through a crisis like this.

“It is very frustrating,” said Vanessa Manriquez, 33, who’s from Mexico but lives in Essen. “First, because although I live with my (German) partner, my whole family and best friends are in Mexico, and during these difficult times I miss them even more.  “Second, due to the language, although I speak German relatively well, it is frustrating to not understand everything that is said in the news, or for example in the doctor or by the authorities – as I needed to be at the doctor recently with a potential coronavirus case which luckily turned negative.”

Julie Greet, 35, who’s from Belgium and lives in Freiburg, said: “It’s quite stressful, knowing that I´m not allowed to see my family.”

Others also expressed their worry for relatives overseas.

“My only concern is that I am not able to assist my elderly parents in this time of need,” said Phil Cooper, 53, who lives in Schömberg and comes from the UK.

Wiesbaden-based Megan McLean, 39, echoed that feeling. She said: “I am very worried about my parents in the US and wish I were closer to them.”

Another reader, Mayada Samy, 29, in Düsseldorf and from Egypt said: “I’m very content with the way the German government is dealing with the situation and I feel safe here (not just in terms of my faith in Germany’s health system (which is stellar) but also regarding the measures being taken by the government to help businesses and secure jobs – yet of course, I would have loved to have been around my family at times like these.”

‘I feel safer in Germany’

However, the majority of foreigners who got in touch with us said they felt glad to be in Germany, and in some cases they felt safer there than in their country of origin. “Very pleased to be here considering the excellent health care and infrastructure,” said Andrew Maul, 37, who lives in Dresden and is from the US.

“Back in the United States we risk financial ruin without adequate health insurance, and even with health insurance health care is very expensive with copays and out of network costs.”

Adam Hannath, 35, who’s from South Africa and lives in Berlin said he “feels a lot safer here”.

Others agreed. Khaled Bhar is from Tunisia and lives in Potsdam. The 27-year-old said he would “definitely prefer to be with family and friends in Tunisia, but from a statistics perspective, being here kind of feels safer”.

Bhar said he felt Germany was “more or less better prepared on all levels”, especially when it comes to the high standard of hospital care.

Plus he pointed out that the death rate appears to be lower at this stage in Germany compared to other countries.

“Also from the economy perspective, it feels like the country is ready to pay and fix financial problems directly or indirectly related to people,” added Bhar.

‘I lost my job’

The pandemic is already causing devastation to the economy as life comes to a standstill. This is having a major effect on people’s livelihoods, with lots of readers saying they had lost their job or they feared that was on the way.

Others said they are now doing Kurzarbeit (shorter work-time, which allows companies in Germany hit by a downturn to send their workers home, or radically reduce their hours, and the state will replace a large part of their lost income.)

Kuba C, 28, from Poland and based in Darmstadt, said: “I lost my job, however it was predicted, as it was in the hotel industry. I soon found another job however. It is somewhat stressful, and I do keep tabs more on my hygiene and wash my hands a lot and use disinfectants.

Another reader, Siva Kattamuri, 32, from India and now in Bremen, said: “With the university shutdown and virtually no job options, things are getting tricky. If the situation persists longer then there is going to be trouble.”

Kara Guminski, 39, is from Chicago and lives in Berlin with her wife and two children. She says the couple is working from home and trying to keep their two-year-old and five-year-old entertained.

“At the same time, my company asked me to take holidays and soon most probably we’ll need to do Kurzarbeit,” she said.

Dating is out, Netflix partying is in

As The Local has been reporting, new restrictions aimed at slowing down the spread of coronavirus have come into force across Germany.

Lots of internationals told us how they’ve been changing their habits accordingly, with the majority of people cancelling their travel plans.

Edyta Mayles, 45, who was born in Poland and lives in Berlin with her two children, told The Local: “My daughter is 12 and since the schools are closed now, she and her brother (16) are under complete isolation.

“They stay at home and keep each other entertained. Since there are two of them it’s not that bad but I believe the boredom will escalate after a couple of weeks. I am planning to keep them indoors until the schools reopen.”

Also in Berlin, Sahil R Kamani, who’s from Malaysia, said he was socialising much less. “I do not go to work and have been home for the good part of the past week except to buy groceries,” he said. “My weekly football games have stopped and I am unable to visit my favourite cafes.

But it’s not without difficulties. Kamani said: “I am in a long distance relationship and my partner was due to visit me this week. We have had to unfortunately postpone that trip indefinitely given the current situation. Not knowing when we would see each other next is rather unsettling for both of us”

Matija, 18, who lives near Würzburg and is from Croatia said she’s “staying at home all day watching movies and playing games”. 

“I haven’t seen my best friend in a while,” she added. “Nothing has changed, except the fact I don’t have to go to school anymore.”

A 39-year-old US native living in Hamburg said: “I was unable to go to Amsterdam last weekend. Dating is on hold. In-person socializing has pretty much ceased. But! Friends and I here are videoconferencing and Netflix partying.”

The situation is causing distress, too.

Birge Elif, 34, from Istanbul who now lives in Berlin, said: “I am socialising less, cancelled my trips to Prague and Istanbul. I am working from home and already stocked some food for a possible lockdown. My panic attacks are way more frequent.”

‘I find the attitude highly dangerous’

Lots of people who got in touch with us – the week before Germany imposed a ban on groups of more than two – said they were shocked at people ignoring the rules. Mayles said: “I think the government is doing what they can under the current circumstances but I am utterly shocked by the carelessness of other people.   “It’s shocking to see that since the schools are closed, families think they are on holiday, organizing picnics in parks, family shopping trips, walks with grandparents, parents and children and so on. People behave as if this doesn’t concern them. Yes, the other residents are the biggest disappointment at the moment.”   Readers in other parts of Germany painted a similar picture.

“NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) is the state with the highest number of incidents, and still people by and large ignore the crisis building up,” said Pucci Dellanno, 52, who’s from Italy and lives in Bonn.

“Frankly, I find the attitude ridiculous and highly dangerous.” Shailesh Bhosale, 35, from India and now based in Frankfurt, said: “I feel rather annoyed that people in Germany are not understanding the gravity of the situation and the German chancellor has to address the nation and emphasise that it is serious matter and everyone has to take it seriously.”   Silviu, 37, in Munich added: “Until Mrs Merkel came on TV, all playgrounds, parks were full. It’s like kindergarten moved in the back yard’s playground. I believe, either people don’t take it seriously or they just don’t understand the severity of the virus”

“I have confidence that the authorities are going to look out for the social best,” said Jo Carmichael, 65, who lives in Aachen and is from the US.

“However, I have been stunned at the lack of respect in social distancing followed by people, young and old. Groups are still hanging out playing football. Groups are standing in the parks talking, hugging and kids playing together.

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