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Socializing despite Social Distancing: How to Connect in Times of Crisis

While social distancing, self-isolation, or even an enforced quarantine is the best way to slow down the global Coronavirus pandemic, these measures can unfortunately take a bit of a toll on your mental health after a while. Being confined to your apartment with just your Netflix account for company may seem like fun at first, but cabin fever will set in sooner or later. This applies even more so to expats, who are often far from home, who are worried about family and friends they’ve left behind, and who may not have a large support network in their adopted hometown yet.

Therefore, it wasn’t an easy decision for the InterNations Team to cancel all our official events and activities for the time being — but public health comes first. However, even if our members can’t meet in person right now, the first few online-only events have popped up already. For example, the Madrid Yoga & Meditation Group is organizing a five-week video course on mindfulness-based stress reduction, while the Munich Kaffee & Kuchen Group has introduced baking at home as an alternative to exploring local cafés. All of us could probably need a bit less stress and a delicious piece of cake (or two) to take our mind off the news!  

If you want to follow their example and set up your own virtual events, here are some great ways to connect with other expats and global minds.

Socializing for Introverts

Bookworms and art lovers are often considered to be sensitive souls: no matter whether this stereotype about introverted readers and creative types is true, it is pretty easy for them to move their social activities online. They could simply host the next couple of sessions of their book club or creative writing workshop on video chat.

Even a museum visit isn’t that hard to organize — many famous institutions have digitized their collections, and there are plenty of museums you can visit online, from the Louvre to the NASA Space Center. Why not sign up for a virtual tour together and discuss your favorite artworks or items afterwards? Take a look at this great list by Google Arts & Culture if you don’t know where to start.

Chicken Soup Is Good for the Soul

While public life has gradually been coming to a standstill in several destinations, we all need to venture out occasionally to stock up on groceries. Instead of panic-buying five dozen rolls of toilet paper and five kilos of canned ravioli all at once, you might want to get some fresh produce and perhaps give a new recipe a try.

You could get together for a one-on-one chat with another InterNations member and share some advice while doing the actual cooking (or baking). Afterwards, you can sit down in front of your screen together and have a chat over your shared meal. Recipe archives and food blogs are a dime a dozen these days, so you’ll definitely find a dish that’s to everybody’s taste, be it a culinary experiment or some favorite comfort food.

Nobody Binges Alone!

Even though theaters, cinemas, and concert halls have closed down in many cities, this is no reason to postpone the outing you’d planned with your friends from InterNations. “Outing” might no longer be the best word to describe it, though. Reacting to the current crisis, the Berliner Philharmoniker orchestra, for example, has opened a digital concert hall for the next few weeks, where you can watch and, more importantly, listen to more than 600 performances from the past ten years, from Beethoven’s Ninth to the Star Wars soundtrack.

Speaking of Star Wars: While you may have to wait a little until you can see the latest Disney blockbuster or James Bond, this is what streaming services are for. Instead of binge-watching on your own, simply organize an online movie might. With the help of such services as Just Watch, you can easily find out what’s available in your current destination. The James Bond franchise alone should keep your group busy for half a year.

Be Crafty Together

If you prefer actively creating or learning new things to passive consumption, it’s time for an online tutorial! Get together with other InterNations members to teach each other about your shared interests and passions. Everything is fair game, as long as it can take place in a studio apartment: Break out the knitting needles and show off the neat pattern you’ve recently discovered; use that yoga mat for a high-powered at-home cardio workout; dust off your chessboard and bust some moves, just like the InterNations Oslo Chess & Backgammon Group; or find a partner for a virtual language tandem — the possibilities are endless.

Only the fans of such outdoor activities as hiking, cycling, or football will have to improvise a bit. (We’re not quite sure if the InterNations Stockholm Virtual Beach Party counts as an actual outdoor event, though it does sound like an awesome idea!) Perhaps they could at least share fond memories and funny pictures from past activities with one another. Or use the Coronavirus-induced break to start planning ahead for whenever the crisis has blown over. Having a great reunion event to look forward to helps us all stay cheerful, even in difficult times.

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