When I moved to the Netherlands I had to learn to relax while walking in front of oncoming cars. Back in Taiwan I have had to learn to relax while eating indoors or being in crowds.
For the last week Taiwan’s local COVID cases (as opposed to cases among quarantined travelers) have been in the single digits and they mostly know exactly who these people have been in contact with. That means that here on the East coast, risk is minimal.
But it has been hard for me to get used to being back in a low risk environment. I survived omicron in Europe by being extremely cautious and paranoid: always wearing an FFP2 mask, never eating indoors, avoiding crowds, etc.
But here’s the thing. Even though risk is minimal here, most people are still wearing surgical masks. When I go for my daily walk around a mountain lake at least 2/3rds of the other people on the path are wearing masks.
Compare these two announcements about relaxing mask mandates, one from Taiwan and one from the US:
In Taiwan: “From March 1, people will also be exempted from wearing a mask… when they are driving alone or with family members in a car, exercising either indoors or outdoors, or taking individual or group photos indoors or outdoors”
In the US: “70 percent of Americans can now stop wearing masks, and no longer need to social distance or avoid crowded indoor spaces.”
I went to the night market and a jazz concert last night here in Taiwan, and I was able to do so without feeling the slightest bit of anxiety. My parents back in the US cannot afford to let up their vigilance in that way, even for a second. On the other hand, driving in Taiwan…