As for many of us, my homes and family are located across borders. Throughout the pandemic, the reality of this has proven difficult. During the recent Christmas period, I shared updates about the travel/Corona rules for the UK and Germany. It was an extremely stressful period, and I promised that I would share more of my experience.
Throughout this period, I spoke to a few Brits based in Germany who said that they also felt on edge. Those who made it home were grateful to be back to the UK. However, it was mentally taxing to constantly keep an eye on the ever-changing regulations, cancel and rebook flights, and plan for the possibility of having to go into quarantine when returning to Germany.
Going home for Christmas usually means cramming 12 months of socialising into anything between 10 – 14 days. It’s a fun, exciting, extremely busy and heart-warming time of year. Until the pandemic hit, I had never imagined it to be any different.
It was complicated, but I was fortunate to be able to head back home to London for Christmas. There was an unexpected amount of stress with having to fill out a passenger locator form, quarantine for 5 days and then pay for an unwelcome £147-PCR(!!!) ‘test to release’ from isolation. But I was home and I couldn’t wait to have some normality over Christmas.
However, just days after landing in London, the Corona infection rate flew up and the UK plummeted into lockdown. So Christmas was essentially cancelled. To top it off, Germany closed its borders to the UK. At this point, only nationals and residents were allowed to enter Germany (with a 14-day quarantine!) and due to the recent Brexit deal, I didn’t actually own a residency card – nightmare!
But in all honesty, I was just glad to have made it home. All of this was out of my hands and socialising was minimal – it was nice not to be extremely busy and experience London at a slower pace. In hindsight, this was definitely just novelty playing its part.
I was fortunate to be able to head home for Christmas. However, just days after landing in London, the infection rate flew up,
and the UK plummeted into lockdown. To top it off, Germany closed its borders to the UK. No, you didn’t misread that. The same thing pretty much happened again! The Omicron variant had spread its way through the capital, making the UK a Corona hotspot for the second Christmas running!
Nearly two years into the pandemic, and the UK government decided not to go into lockdown. But social plans were being cancelled left, right and centre as friends continued to test positive. I went from being so excited to see everyone to actually just thinking that I’d rather not meet up with anyone at all. At one point I knew approx 30 people who had Corona! For so many, another Christmas was cancelled. And as someone who lived abroad, I felt a different kind of pressure.
Dodging the virus
Being home for just under a month when you live abroad is a luxury. You have just a few weeks to see all your loved ones. And once those weeks are up, they are up. These moments are extremely precious as you can’t just see family another time; it’s either now or what feels like never.
After Christmas Day, I felt a sigh of relief amongst friends in the sense that it was now “ok” (in the lightest sense of the word) to catch Corona because Christmas was over. But I didn’t feel this relief at all. The closer it got to my return flight, the more anxious I began to feel.
Omnicron seemed to be everywhere and I had to avoid it like the plague. Oh no, like Corona!
On 3rd January 2021, the UK was moved from Germany’s ‘variant’ list to its ‘high risk’ list. This meant that I would no longer have to quarantine on return, but I of course couldn’t fly if I tested positive.
For me, this was great. But the people I was really thinking about are those with children who are not able to quarantine because of having to attend school, for example. I was thinking a lot about those who missed yet another Christmas with family in the UK because of the pandemic and the ever-changing rules. These people could have visited home and not had to quarantine on return to Germany. They could have had a Christmas with family.
I was glad not to have to quarantine, but as my partner’s birthday (which I was in quarantine for last year) was coming up, and I had a few other important things on the agenda, I really needed to get back to Frankfurt as and when planned.
I barely socialised for the last 5 days that I was in London. I just felt like to go an entire month without catching it was too good to be true, so I wanted to be safe rather than sorry before heading to the airport.
It’s hard when such valuable time of being with friends and family just slips from your hands, but at this point I really felt that I had to make a choice.
I finally felt that sigh relief when arriving at the airport. The intense weeks of trying to avoid the virus were over, and I didn’t need to worry about the knock-on effects of catching Corona just days before I was due to fly.
Christmas is usually a fun, exciting, extremely busy and heart-warming time of year. But this time round, when asked how it was, I replied with “not the best.” It was stressful, but I would honestly do it all again because the time spent with those I did get to see was priceless.
To those who I was in contact with or experienced something similar over Christmas, you are certainly not alone! I hope you also felt that sense of relief when you knew you’d get back to where you needed to be. Let’s hope for a better Christmas in 2022. For now – Happy New Year!