Vienna in the time of COVID – Chapter 3

As my wife and I near 168 consecutive hours in each other’s company, I am learning that in these troubling times, good communication is an important skill to master. 

To be fair, my wife and I have always been good communicators. Having spent the first four years of our relationship in a dual-country long-distance relationship, without good communication our status would have slipped from partners to pen-pals. During those four years, we had a standing eDate every evening after work. Our romantic location of choice was skype (occasionally mixing it up with facebook messenger or even viber when skype decided to crap itself) and we would chat every evening through our computers, doing our best to convince ourselves we were a normal couple.

But the good news is that we don’t have to pretend anymore! We share the same bed, kiss each other goodbye when we go to work (back in the days when people used to leave their homes to go to work), come home to the same apartment, and kiss each other goodnight. It is domestic, and ordinary, and we fucking love it. 

With a solid foundation of keeping up the communication chain across international borders, we still communicate regularly and deeply. I keep waiting for us to run out of things to talk about, but so far, I keep thinking of things I want to tell her.

These talks have recently been taking place as we go on our after-work, let’s-remember-what-the outside-feels-like walks. Yesterday, both due to Alex’s work and the desire to be a sterling example of social distancing, we strolled in the late evening when the streets were deserted, the night quiet, and we ambled through our neighbourhood with our conversation as rich as ever. 

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Also in these troubling times, I am learning that not communicating can also be a crucial piece of the mutual co-habitation puzzle. For instance, I have discovered that when my wife is on the last gripping chapter of her book, it is not a good time to tell her a hilariously funny joke, nor to then go into further detail explaining why the joke was so hilariously funny.

Being a bilingual couple brings its own set of challenges. Alex has more than mastered English, but I am still a novice when it comes to German, and so I have many questions when it comes to particulars with the German language. These questions usually come in the form of “But why?! That makes no sense! Why is it like this in this case, but completely different in this case?? I hate the German language!” 

When interrogating my wife on the semantics of a language she did not invent, only speaks, and therefore holds no responsibility for its inconsistencies, I have learnt that when her eyes begin to bulge and lips thin to the point of disappearing, I should promptly and politely shut my damn mouth. This non-verbal communication informs me that she has reached the edge of her explanations and further questioning will only end poorly for me. Perhaps with a fork in my baby-soft skin.

One of my goals from having constant, relentless access to my wife is to try and improve my German skills during this time of COVID. There’s a good chance I could walk back into the normal world (once it, hopefully, resumes) with a broader vocabulary. There’s an equally good chance that Alex will walk back into the normal world with a splitting headache and a sigh of total relief. If I was a betting man, I’d wager on the latter.

The Austrian government is currently doing an excellent job of communicating. There have been press conferences wherein the Prime Minister has given clear instructions with digestible explanations for the decisions that have been reached. They have maintained a strong social media presence and have been supportive and transparent about the actions they are taking. They appear to be proactive in their measures and this speaks volumes.

New forms of communication come through via this process, and some things can say a lot with very little, such as in the photo below. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-03-19 at 07.21.34

(Photo credit: Natalie Kern)

 

For me, being from international origins also increases the importance of communication. Despite being a twin, my brother and I never got our telepathy up and running and so we are forced to rely upon more conventional methods. Thankfully, we live in an age where technology has just about reached the level of the supernatural, so it is an easy thing for my face to appear in the homes of my family and their faces to appear in mine.

The variety of apps that allow for communication are invaluable in this time of social distancing. We can remain safe and social simply with the click of a button. I encourage everyone to lean into these forms of communicating.

Yesterday, my sister-in-law sent out a welfare text to every member of my immediate family, checking in and seeing if anyone was low on supplies (my wife did mention we had run out of a certain Australian treat I enjoy, but apparently Austria is outside of Holly’s delivery route). I had a morning chat with my brother through his google Home while he prepared dinner, I messaged simultaneous with my parents and my cousin and his fiancée throughout my work day (please don’t tell my boss I did this, I don’t think she reads this blog), I have an early morning skype planned with my sister for tomorrow, and will be on the phone with a friend back in Australia come Saturday (Jess, you’re back in the blog!).

Even from our tiny apartment in Vienna, I am able to communicate with the whole world, and by doing so, defeat the distance in social distancing. I recommend you do the same.

Now I’m off to ask my wife about the correct German case to use when referencing someone in the informal collective sense. Wish me luck!

Tomorrow: Media.

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