off to sweden

Sometimes it is difficult to like crowds of people. I really try, I do, but sometimes it is just not possible, especially when you are tired after an almost 40-hour-journey with a two-year-old who did not let you sleep, and you arrive at an airport where social distancing is unheard of and the sport seems to be to crowd the area as much as possible. 

We have been wanting to go to Sweden ever since our son was in the early stages of his fetal life, but care about him made us not go and then came corona and a war and going to Sweden seemed so far away. When we finally after more than three and a half years boarded the airplane it was with big anticipation and big stress and anxiety. My wife had spoken to the airline company many times and we felt satisfied that they took the corona situation seriously and that we would be safe while flying. Entering the aircraft the captain reiterated the mask policy – both mouth and nose needed to be covered when not actively eating. Furthermore, used masks should be placed in a special garbage bag so that the staff did not have to touch them. It took about five minutes for me to realize that the mask policy is just fancy words with no substance or meaning. 

Many people did not care at all about wearing the mask and nobody said anything about it. The worst part though was the stewards and stewardesses, who many of them did not follow their own employers mask mandate. There were stewards and stewardesses walking up and down the aisles with their noses bare, and when serving drinks, touching the mugs and cups and everting, they also touched there masks in-between asking the next passenger what to drink. So if the masks do any job of catching airborne particles, they surely made sure to try to pass them on to the passengers. To avoid panic I ended up not drinking almost anything (the most nono on a long flight). 

Having traveled between Sweden and Japan many times, I think I have never heard so much sneezing and coughing on an airplane before as I did this time, and during the journey I experienced people removing their masks to sneeze, people using them as necklesses, people taking them off while talking to make themselves heard. All in all I believe the mask mandate, when not at all enforced and with people being people (which unfortunately means an apparent lack of following rules), I feel like it has no effect at all (if not the opposite, considering the crew’s constant mask touching). 

We finally landed at Copenhagen airport, got our bags after having been fraternizing with what felt like half the population of the world all cramped up in a small room, and headed towards the trains. There, in the arrival waiting area, a man stood by the barrier that all arriving passengers pass by. Tilting his head upwards, his chest opening, he sneezes straight out at all the passers by, no indication whatsoever to try to cover his sneeze with his arm or anything. Sneezing in the face of someone in the middle is a pandemic – there and then I just wanted to be home again. Maybe that is what culture shocks are all about, and I have had a few of them while visiting my old home. Which will be next weeks topic when I hopefully will be refreshed and adjusted to life away from Japan again.

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