It’s pretty clear at this point that social distancing saves lives. Just hearing the phrase “social distancing” may send you into a silent rage at this point—and who could blame you?—but we simply must abide if we’re ever going to get this thing under control and minimize collateral damage in the process.
You may have heard a rumor that some countries around the globe have done a marginally better job than the U.S. at mitigating the virus and stopping the spread. I kid: Nearly every other country has done a better job than us, so perhaps it’d be wise to take note of some of their most clever SD strategies. (Or at the very least, wear your dang mask!) As states and cities here begin to reopen, close again, and inevitably reopen (again), it is worth exploring some of these tactics that have helped keep people at least six feet apart. From comically large hats in Germany to angelic wings in China, toy trains in New Zealand, and full-on personal dining domes in Amsterdam, there are lots of approaches to the global problem. Restaurants, parks, schools, and other places where folks gather have been working overtime on creative strategies to keep the distance. Here are some of the most clever.
Dining Pods and Plastic Dividers
In countries around the world, eateries have been experimenting with protective shields of varying types. We first saw pods or greenhouses surface in Amsterdam back in May, and while these might have seemed extreme, they became a huge hit and other restaurants followed suit. Less dramatic (and less expensive, I imagine) versions of the pods have since emerged, including H.A.N.D restaurant in Paris which is using individual lampshade-style shields dangling over and around their heads. Others, including some here in the States, have propped up protective plastic barriers between tables.
Strategically Placed Dining Dummies
Keeping people six feet from each other can be tough, especially after a bottle of wine, but well-placed visual reminders, including hip mannequins or plush stuffed bears, have helped some restaurants drive the point home. Restaurants may not want to remove tables entirely making the rooms feel empty, but some have seated mannequins at every other table has proven a lighthearted and friendly way to remind people to keep their six feet. In a stroke of genius cross-promotion, one restaurant in Vilnius, Lithuania used designer dressed mannequins to distance restaurant guests and display the latest fashion from local boutiques.
Creative Outdoor Seating
Cities all over the world have allowed mass outdoor seating in an effort to help restaurants stem the losses inflicted by the outbreak and closures. Restaurants have begun to spill out into streets, creating much safer al fresco dining areas on sidewalks and in lesser-trafficked roads. New York is one of them with some city blocks looking more like bustling Roman piazzas by the day. The results of New York’s strict adherence to social distancing and careful reopening can be felt as the city recorded zero COVID-19 deaths for the first time in months on July 14. People have seemed to like the new dining arrangements too, with one Manhattan diner I spoke to saying, “It feels really fun and way more social. I wish we’d figured this out years ago!”
Adorable Angel Wings
At a school in Taiyuan, China, students were asked to wear homemade wings to help keep them at least six feet apart in classrooms, recess, and at lunchtime. Children, while not at high risk for COVID-19 complications, can still contract and spread the virus. Expecting famously fearless and easily distracted kids to be conscious of this is a tall order, but these colorful wings help provide a silly-yet-effective reminder to stay distanced.
It’s not just wings: Big hats are so in right now, too. A café in the German city of Schwerin recently celebrated its reopening by giving customers special straw hats with a pool noodle to help with social distancing. German Burger King picked up on the trend too and several locations of the fast-food chain have been giving out 6-foot versions of their famous paper crowns to help customers maintain a safe space.
Toy Trains Delivering Coffee
Another country that totally crushed the coronavirus, New Zealand, has been experimenting with social distancing tactics that have seemingly paid off. Instead of setting up a gawdy barrier to protect himself and customers, the owner of Palmerston, New Zealand coffee shop Cyclista Espresso Bar bought a toy train and retrofitted it with cup holders to carry drinks from the barista station to customers outside.
Header image courtesy of Burger King