I recently changed jobs and because the Taiwan branch of my new company is just starting up, management has decided to send a bunch of us to the head office in Germany for training. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t really be worth posting about but as everyone is well aware, circumstances right now are everything but normal. Simply put, I’ve had a chance to go traveling internationally despite a global pandemic. This is something that I think is worth posting about.
First of all, we are ten people in my team, I am the only European, the rest are Taiwanese. Normally people from Taiwan can enter Europe freely without any paperwork but in this case my colleagues needed both visas and some special paperwork to prove they need to enter Germany during the pandemic. Despite living in Taiwan I needed none of that, as a European I could just “go home” as it were.
Secondly, when we got to the airport, it was nearly deserted. There were a few other travelers and some staff but at any given moment, the number of people around you could more or less be counted on your fingers. I found this so fascinating that instead of waiting at the gate and reading my book, I went on a little photography adventure, walking back and forth through the place trying to document the emptiness.
Corridors of closed shops
Empty tax-free and luxury brand stores
Some random shots of an empty airport
Some more random shots
I think I did get some pretty good photos but they do not quite capture the feeling of being in a place that know is usually busy at all hours, but now it’s nearly empty. Perhaps this Frozen Moment gets across more of that feeling than the photos do.
About an hour before boarding I was finished taking photos and took a seat by the gate. As I sat there more and more people showed up as if they had been hiding somewhere while I was walking around. All in all there were far fewer people taking the flight than there normally would be, but not quite as few as I had expected. While sitting there waiting I noticed that some of the people took different precautions ranging from a simple mask and perhaps some gloves, to some really serious setups including full body suit, gloves, hair net, mask and goggles. Knowing that I was flying out from Taiwan, one of the safest countries in the world when it comes to Covid 19, I opted to only wear the mask as required by flight safety regulations. Not sure what I will do when flying back, I have prepared a lot of equipment in case I need it.
As soon as I got on board I took one extra precaution, I wiped down all the surfaces I would be touching like arm rest, screen, tray table etc with disinfectant wipes. Once I had settled down I got a clearer picture of how few people were on the plane, I could see that everybody around me got an entire row of seats for themselves. This of course made my flight far more comfortable than it usually is because I could lie down while sleeping. Except for that it wasn’t much different compared with taking a normal flight, I just had to wear the mask the whole time and was more careful with washing my hands.
When we landed in Frankfurt it was also rather empty but not quite as empty ass Taipei and it didn’t feel as bizarre. One interesting thing was that when we reached immigration there were apparently too many people there because an airport official of some sort stepped in front of us and told us to follow him. He then lead us to another passport checking counter in a different part of the terminal. Once we were through immigration, things were more or less normal for an airport but with fewer passengers. The only real difference was that everyone was wearing a mask and there were 1.5 meter markings on the floor by the baggage pickup conveyor belt and the customs checkpoint. To be extra safe I did wear googles the whole time in the airport and I actually put on some vinyl gloves to pick up my bag from the conveyor, then wiped it down with disinfectant wipes, never know how may people might have touched that thing during handling.
In Germany things are more or less normal, everyone wears a mask when they enter a store and try their best to keep 1.5m distance to other people but for the most part that’s it, life just goes on. One thing that stands out though, at least in comparison with Taiwan, is that restaurants record names, contact details and time of visit of all their customers to help authorities with contact tracing. Other than that, the most extreme measures I’ve seen here are smaller shops limiting the number of customers who can enter at the same time.
Before I finish I want to add one more thing: the company where I get my training is located in a small town surrounded by green fields and other equally small towns. Social distancing simply isn’t a problem because there aren’t enough people in the area, so by my judgement we should be pretty safe here. Big cities like Frankfurt and Munich however, are risk zones at the moment so that does limit where we can go in the weekends. It’s a bit sad, especially for those of my colleagues who have never been in Europe before. Seeing as I’ve been to Germany plenty of times it doesn’t bother me too much but it would of course be nicer to not be limited.
I might write something more about this topic in the future but that’s it for now. Stay safe, wear a mask.