In our hunkered-down times, daily step counts have slowed to the trickle of trips between the couch and the kitchen, Netflix libraries are being rummaged through, and recipes are now organized from most to least cooking time. While most people in the U.S. aren’t forced to shelter in place yet due to COVID-19, folks in China, South Korea, and Italy have gathered valuable experience staying home over the last several weeks. There’s a lot we can learn from our fellow global citizens.
So, we talked to some expert social distancers about how they’ve been staying busy, the new hobbies they’ve picked up, what they’ve replaced exercise with (dancing, massaging themselves), and, most importantly, the cooking projects they’ve undertaken. “The way we have fun now is old-school physical work: so cleaning up, organizing, ironing shirts,” says Edoardo Monti, who runs an artist residency in Brescia, Italy. “The way that we are coping with it is thinking of it as a very long Sunday. So it's quiet, things are closed, friends are home.”
The art residency founder staying creative, volunteering, and working out on Instagram
I've been doing long-term projects, so, for instance, I just finished uploading and writing stories and creating exhibitions on our Google Arts and Culture platforms so that people can access the collection remotely. Working in the cultural industry and knowing so many artists and curators, what we did was create this artists coloring book. So for every day for the next 30 days, we're gonna continuously upload new artworks by Italian and international artists.
I had a double live Instagram story with a friend of mine from New York. Her name is Nicole Winhoffer, she’s an amazing trainer that works with Madonna, Kate Hudson, and Stella McCartney. So she was my trainer and I was the guy training in a way. People really want to work out.
And while culture is important it is, unfortunately, at times like these, not essential. So I registered to be a volunteer to bring medicines and food to elderly and disabled people in the city of Brescia, because there's a number you can call to get free delivery for food and medicine that if you're sick, old, or disabled.
Now, I can speak for all Italians and say that we love cooking. A lot of what myself and friends have been doing is going to the library, picking up any recipe book that you have—I'm using one from a friend of mine's mother from New Zealand—and the challenge is to go through the book and just open it randomly every day and then create that recipe. I cooked some short ribs last night, which was amazing. —Edoardo Monti, founder of Palazzo Monti
The luxury brand employee in Korea learning how to massage herself
I’ve been cooking a lot. People are making weird coffee experiments where you have to whip it over 400 times. Then the coffee mix becomes a whipping cream. A lot of people make homemade kimchi because they have nothing to do. I made a potato gnocchi from scratch. Usually, when you make pasta you use flour, right? But I grounded the potato and then I separated the water out of the potato and then from the water I took the starch and then I combined the starch and I made the gnocchi out of real 100% potato.
I started watching some YouTube videos to learn how to self-massage and I bought this self-massage tool. Everyone stopped going to the gym and then we are eating a lot, so I feel like I have to exercise. I'm still too lazy to exercise so I am doing a little self-massage for blood circulation instead. —Hye, a merchandiser for a luxury fashion brand
The Italian tailor tidying up his library
During this time, where we are forced to stay home, I try not to waste the days. When I wake up I usually practice 30 minutes of yoga. I also started to tidy up my library since I have a lot of books and I’ve never had time to look at them. And then, of course, I read: To Have or to Be? by Erich Fromm, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, Upwind by Ambrogio Fogar, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
I also take advantage of the time to study in order to set up some strategies to propose in my shop. —Ermanno Lazzarin, founder of Eral 55
The shop owner learning the art of putting things back together
Finally, I had time to use a Kintsugi kit. Kintsugi is the art of embracing damage. By messy mending, you emphasize the marks and scars of a product giving it a new perspective and beauty while offering it longevity. It’s a way to put together broken pieces and to see them in a new and better perspective.
Last month, I bought a lot of second hand tablecloths in the south of Italy, so I decided to give them a new life and dye them pink. And we’re Italian (!), so we spend a lot of time cooking, remembering our old grandmother's recipes, making gnocchi, cakes, and trying to be healthy and safe. —Mariangela Negroni, co-founder of home decor shop Funky Table
The PR agency founder who can do headstands now
Being in China, we were the first in the world to live life under quarantine. It was definitely difficult at the beginning, but I have grown to enjoy it over time. As lockdown was announced just before Chinese New Year, I was with my parents 24/7, and have been able to spend a lot of quality time together which otherwise we would never could. I started a 30-day advanced yoga training camp with my mum and managed to finally do headstands and crow poses.
"It's rare to have such a big chunk of time on hand and it is a true luxury in this day and age. So instead of resisting it, I really encourage the world to take advantage of it, learn, think, evolve."
I also started learning how to use Ableton Live with YouTube videos and made some small techno tracks inspired by the virus and the hospitals China built within a week.
I am now experimenting with new recipes and cooking a new dish every day, which is way healthier, cost-efficient and also a soothing process. I started to realize how many things we can actually do at home which we never had the time for, and how little things we actually need in life to keep us happy. Taking a bath, reading a book I've been trying to dive into since forever ago or picking up my rusted guitar skills have been so enriching. It's rare to have such a big chunk of time on hand and it is a true luxury in this day and age. So instead of resisting it, I really encourage the world to take advantage of it, learn, think, evolve. I hope the rest of the world can really stay calm, cooperate, play your part in prevention, and take this time to become a better self! —Bohan Qiu, founder of public relations agency Boh Project
The boutique owner in Milan dancing for exercise
I’m very used to spending time at home. My job implies as much backstage work as it does on stage! On a practical level, I continue with work and am connected to my wonderful team remotely. I dance around the house a lot: my only form of sport.
I do a lot of filing. Yes, filing! I am a serial accumulator of wish and to-do lists and never have time to keep these updated the way I’d like them to be. Travel tips, books to read, quotes I have underlined in publications over the years, films and documentaries to watch, passwords to update, birthday calendars to complete, lists of thoughts, ideas, projects and images to archive (possibly alphabetically).
I also Facetime often with all my loved ones: great friends and family group chats have been created to keep the love brewing and the support and exchange intense in these surreal times in which the freedom of a hug has been, hopefully only temporarily, suspended. —Uberta Zambeletti, founder of new and vintage clothing shop Wait & See
The creative director fully quarantined in Shanghai
It has been nine days since I’m being quarantined, and I still have five more days left. It’s funny because it feels like forever but the day always goes very quickly by preparing every meal, having meals, washing dishes, cleaning, and working from home at the same time. I’m also doing home training sessions—the gym and yoga studio I signed up here are doing online live streaming sessions during Covid-19. It’s smart. I truly realized how much time and energy I can save over eating outside. It is concentrated Me Time: the right moment to look back on the past few years and get myself together and plan better.
I was in Korea during the Chinese New Year holidays and just came back to Shanghai. From the moment I landed, it took 8 to 10 to get out of the airport when normally it takes me one hour to get home. I needed to fill out paperwork and pass multiple interviews with doctors and nurses. They arrange the bus to your home directly—you’re not allowed to get on any public transportation—so they can be in complete control of your path from the airport to the home. The staff from the government even helped me with my luggage and opened the door to ensure that I’m totally home.
They also offer help for the 14-day quarantine period. Since I'm not leaving the apartment, I will need to order food and groceries but they can only be delivered to the main gate. They also pick up my garbage—this is my favorite part. They set up a group chat with nurses and medical staff and I have to report my temperature twice a day for 14 days.
The policy and rules are ridiculously strict but I’m actually very impressed with how Chinese people are cooperating, helping each other, and following the rules in this virus situation. —Guhee Chung, creative director for Anna Sui Active
The actor, director, and film buff gave us 20 movie picks (plus 3 books) to fill our socially-distanced days.
Originally Appeared on GQ