What has the pandemic done to our life in Germany? The time after the major lockdowns was often described as an era without handshakes and hugs. As an era of urban exodus and online shopping, restaurants and cinemas dying.
Other experts, on the other hand, predicted enormous catch-up effects and a new golden twenties, with social life in full and excessive going out. What can be said now – in the summer of 2022 – about the upheavals in the country? What will our time after the pandemic look like, our post-corona era?
Eating out, for example: “A lack of staff means that it has become more difficult, for example in Berlin, to dine at a very high level at lunchtime,” reported a representative of the hotel and restaurant association (Dehoga) last autumn. Some restaurants have canceled the lunch menu, also because there is a lack of staff. Reduced opening hours can also be experienced elsewhere. Many restaurants – from the apple wine bar in Frankfurt am Main to the beach bar on the lake to the hearty tavern in Upper Bavaria – only open in the evening or on a few days, staying closed from Monday to Wednesday.
“In our industry, you no longer know when it will be full. It used to be clear when a rush was to be expected, but those times are somehow over,” says a waiter in Oranienburg near Berlin.
The union Food-Genuss-Gaststätten (NGG) recently spoke of a “stutter start” in the industry after more than two years of pandemic. “Several companies have already taken forced rest days because they lack staff,” reported NGG chairman Guido Zeitler.
Enzo Weber, a professor at the Nuremberg Institute for Labor Market and Vocational Research (IAB) of the Federal Employment Agency, expects that the staff shortage will not become permanent. Gastronomy workers are just not standing right in front of the door when it opens because they have been looking for other jobs in the meantime – in test centers, in logistics or with delivery services, for example.
For Sebastian Henn from the Schiller University Jena, the last word has not yet been spoken when it comes to the change in the gastro scene, the alleged country life trend, the death of cinemas and online trade. The professor of economic geography does not believe that there is a general trend towards cities becoming thinner. “I am skeptical as to whether the pandemic will actually lead to an increase in the importance of the surrounding area – by the way, also because we have not had major outbreaks of Covid-19 in the densely populated urban areas, but often in rural areas or small towns and metropolises not really as Drivers of the pandemic could be seen.”
In their free time, however, millions behave differently than they did three years ago. Some people, for example, enjoy being delivered from the online shop or restaurant after the working day more than they used to. According to a survey commissioned by the digital association Bitkom, 26 percent of people in Germany ordered groceries online at least occasionally in the Corona autumn of 2021 – before the start of the pandemic it was only 16 percent. If you go shopping less, you probably have more time at home – for example for series on streaming services.
And the cities? After the Corona years, vacancies reduce the attractiveness of many shopping streets, and fashion retailers in particular had to close. And yet: As far as inner cities are concerned, the city trip is now being stylized into a more conscious experience, explains Henn. “The need for a change from an increasingly digitized everyday life is growing.” For example, it’s about eating an ice cream while strolling – instead of doing everything via online platforms.
Likewise, going to the cinema will not lose its attraction. “As a rule, a visit to the cinema does not simply consist of watching the film – this could in fact often be done better from the sofa at home. But the point here is not to do it at home.” In the best case, as a couple or with friends, you can end the evening in a bar or club. “In other words, it’s about the ‘around’.”
All in all, however, warns economic geographer Henn, the post-corona era harbors the risk that interpersonal interactions will decrease. That many people remained in their own milieu: “The exchange between different social groups is becoming less important.”