Who are you?
My name is Simone Franzke, I am from Cologne (Germany) and live in Gothenburg (Sweden).
Where and how do you live?
I moved to Sweden two years ago with my spouse Kersten and our dog Bella. We bought a nice house in the very eastern part of Gothenburg. I work as a teacher for the International School of the Gothenburg Region. Besides that I am blogging and podcasting about our life in Sweden and do some small freelance projects.
How is the situation around Corona and the regulations right now where you are?
When we once will be asked „how did you experience the corona crisis in Sweden?“ we’ll have to admit, that we were not very much affected - at first glance. Every day life nearly continued as normal. There have only been and still are recommendations and appeals by the government how to behave, like washing your hands and keeping distance. Schools (pre schools, primary schools and middle schools), restaurants, cafés, shops and even museums stayed open all the time. People were asked to work from home if possible, but for me as a teacher it meant classes as usual.
There are no restrictions on leaving the house, only meetings with more than 50 people are not allowed.
The Swedish government puts a lot of trust in the National Board of Health in its decisions and in return people still trust the government. Although the death rate is - according to the other nordic countries - very high. Actually no one knows the real numbers of infections, because only people from risk groups and medical staff get testet. The strategy behind it is to achieve the status of herd immunity. The National Board of Health believes this will better prepare Sweden for a second Corona wave. They also say - and said from the beginning - that a total lock down wouldn’t stop the virus from spreading, because it would still be in the world.
But the problem is, there was no proper strategy to protect old people and risk groups. They were just asked to take care of themselves and were left to the responsibility of others. This led to quick spreading of the virus in old people's homes and care facilities, with the result that many people died there. The government has tightened the rules for dealing with these risk groups now, but outside these facilities you can still see a lot of older people taking walks together with their children and grandchildren. Interestingly, surveys show it’s mainly the older, potentially more vulnerable people who agree with the government's soft line.
Nevertheless, I have the feeling that people have become more cautious during the last weeks. In the beginning of the crisis you would see a lot of people sit carelessly close to each other on the terrace of cafés or restaurants, this has changed. You also find plexiglas walls and distance markers in a lot of shops and public places now.
How did or still does Corona affect your daily life?
As mentioned earlier, our daily life has not much changed - apart from the things we've imposed on ourselves. My spouse had the opportunity to work from home and - of course - all of his business trips were cancelled. We tried to stay on our own and avoid meetings with other people, which is kind of strange, when most of the others don’t do. We didn’t go to cafés and restaurants although they were open - it felt felt wrong and like lacking solidarity with our families and friends who needed to stay at home. When we finally went to a restaurant a week ago, we could hardly enjoy it, taking care all the time and realizing the lack of precautionary measures everywhere . On the other hand we are actually very grateful for the opportunities here in Sweden. Within a ten minutes car drive from Gothenburg you are out in the nature, where you won’t meet a soul. The sea, lakes and forests - there are so many places where you can be on your own. And actually we have also found a new hobby: fishing. Sitting by a quiet forest lake in the morning is wonderful, even if you don't catch anything.
What did or do you miss the most?
I definitely miss my family and my friends in Germany and Switzerland. When Denmark closed the borders in march and the ferries stopped, I felt completely cut off. We realized how far up north Sweden is. Flying is/was still an option, but there were so many cancellations, we were afraid we wouldn't be able to come back. The same for traveling with the car. We’d probably make it down to Germany with our German passports, but would they let us pass in the other direction? Besides that, our parents are in their late 70s and beginning 80s and the more we knew about the Corona virus the more we decided to stay away from them. So I haven’t seen my mom and dad in person for five months. FaceTime or Skype helps a lot, but it’s not the same. Hopefully we can see our families in June.
Any positive things you see in the effects so far?
I think there will be a change of how we deal with remote work or home office. A lot of companies who - for various reasons - did not want to allow this to happen before are now experiencing that it works. This might give more flexibility to employees - especially to commuters. I don’t know whether there will be also a sustainable change in our travel habits. At least for this and the next year people might not be able to do exotic trips and long haul flights as they used to do in pre-Corona times. There will be a stronger focus on destinations in Germany or Europe - I personally appreciate that.
What do you think will life be like in the next couple of months in your country?
I think life in Sweden will go on like it does since the beginning of the crisis. I can’t imagine the government will make a U-turn to a lockdown now. It would mean admitting a great failure, which has already cost many people’s lives. Until mid-July, the Foreign Office is advising against all unnecessary travel abroad. But even that is only a recommendation. Within Sweden a two hours travel would be within the limits of acceptance - but actually no one controls it. So there is still is the big question: will the Swedes have the opportunity to go to their summer houses end of June? I am quite sure that the government will allow it.
Are you making plans yet?
Right now we're just planning to travel around Sweden this summer. Last year we didn’t have the opportunity, since we had so many guests (which was also nice!). We originally wanted to do a road trip down to Croatia end of August, but are not sure, if this will happen.
What are you looking forward to the most after Corona? What's your biggest hope / wish?
I really I hope that we learned something from this crisis: solidarity, empathy, patience, thinking out of the box…
Perhaps there is also the insight that globalization comes at a high price. I am not an opponent of globalization in general, but I think there is nothing wrong with shortening delivery chains and focussing more on regional production again. And maybe we'll be better prepared for the next pandemic.
When I started thinking about it, I'm not sure if I prefered the Swedish way even though it sounded tempting during the lockdown here in Germany... thanks for sharing, Simone!! Stay safe.
More stories, pictures and podcast from Simone in Sweden on simonefranzke.com