Americans in Berlin

Corona: „The news from New York scares me“

Many New Yorkers live in Berlin and are worried for their friends and family at home. We talked to six of them.

Carol S. plays online games with her partner in the United States

Carol S. plays online games with her partner in the United States

Foto: Reto Klar / FUNKE Foto Services

Berlin. The figures from New York are rather alarming. Over 80,000 infected and more than 2,000 dead in just a few days. Last week we asked Italians in Berlin what they heard from their relatives and friends back home - this week we spoke to New Yorkers who came to Berlin and are now experiencing the quarantine here. Nevertheless, they are in close contact with their loved ones at home. Like all of the Italians last week, all of those interviewed here speak German.

Tara Harvey, 32: I moved from the New York borough of Queens to Friedrichshain and I can hardly imagine that the city is as empty as the pictures suggest. In New York, nobody usually stays home for long in their small apartments. Fortunately, my parents are fine. My mother is teaching at a university in New Jersey, but her neighboring school wants to open again next week. The principal is very religious and says he trusts in God protecting his school. I am glad that I am now in a city where people recognized the danger early on and also is a place with a functioning health system. Once I accompanied my friend to an operation in New York. It was scheduled for the morning and we still had to wait all day in the hallway. That was long before this crisis. There are also only very few jobs with something like a sick leave — let alone paid leave. Many of my friends have big financial worries.

Tyson Barker, 38: Most of my friends live in Manhattan or Brooklyn, where I also lived. Now I have a flat with my partner in Neukölln. When I talk to my friends, it’s scary because the capacities there are already overloaded. At the same time, it is encouraging to see the people in the city moving closer to one another. I heard that a radio station is playing the song „Empire State of Mind“ by Alicia Keys every evening at 9pm. Many New Yorkers turn up the radio, open the windows and sing along. Like many Americans, I watch the press conference with President Trump every evening. But there, unlike Christian Drosten's podcast, you don't have the feeling of learning more every day, unfortunately. What worries me most is I heard about 50 police officers and firemen got sick. Because they have to deal closely with COVID victims. That is terrible news.

Jessica Loudis, 34: I lived in Brooklyn and was there again three weeks ago. At that time there were a few first cases, but it was still relatively quiet. On the plane to Berlin I saw the first person with a mask. When I arrived in Berlin the next day life was different, I’ve been in home office since. My exchange program ends in June, but I still don't know if I want to return to the United States then. I have been here for a year, my German is good and have an apartment in Kreuzberg at the canal. I find it interesting that the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, was very unpopular for a long time. But now that he's enforcing tough measures, some friends of mine already want him to be president.

Erick F., 36: My mother lives in Queens, my father in the Bronx. It was normal for us to meet each other regularly. Now I live near the Berlin Ostbahnhof. I learned last week that a great aunt of mine died from Corona. Five more of my family are ill but in stable condition. I'm just afraid for my parents now. My father has diabetes and my mother is not healthy either. I work in the tourism industry and I am now on short-time work. This system of government subsidized wage doesn't exist in the United States and that worries many of my friends. What struck me most was the report by a New York nurse who works in two hospitals. She rides the subway all across New York every day. Patients are lying in the corridors in both hospitals.

Carol S., 31: I used to live in Brooklyn and Manhattan, now I live near Tempelhofer Flugfeld. Since I am here with a scholarship, we were all urged to fly home early. I decided to stay here until I am scheduled to leave, and I think that was the right decision. I work from home and my German course takes place via videophone.

I read the New York Times every day. I read one report that said a 17-year-old who later tested positive for COVID-19 was not treated because he had no health insurance. He died. A friend of mine was so weak that after a few meters of walking she was unable to breathe. She dragged herself to the emergency room and was given some medication. She's feeling better. But that scares me.

Unfortunately, my partner is not here, but in the United States. We found an interesting way to communicate. We play “Animal Crossing”, an online game in which small cartoon characters on an island can set up a nice house. You get "money" by walking along the beach and collecting shells. Yesterday in the game my partner sat next to me on a bench. A little fire crackled in front of us. It was nice for a moment.

Ben Miller, 27: The information I get from New York all sounds pretty rough. I often hear a sort of panic that I don't hear from my friends in Berlin. Four out of ten Americans cannot cover a sudden 400 US-Dollar expense. For them it is impossible to wait for unemployment benefits. I also find the sudden admiration for Governor Andrew Cuomo strange, since he is partly responsible for the fact that several hospitals have had to close down in New York.

I just started my job as a research assistant at Freie Universität Berlin on April 1st. It all runs smoothly, and the university is very flexible. I live on the so-called Red Island in Schöneberg, a rather leftish part of town, and I take a walk every day. I have heard from friends from Wedding that the police stop them more often, especially if they look like they were not born here.

Here you can also read a german translation of the text.