Even as some places are starting to open up again, the fact remains that literally billions of us have been under some sort of lockdown for going on nine weeks or more and now it feels like we’ve entered the stage where we’re all playing some form of “quarantine bingo.” By which I mean, cooped up in our homes with few places to go and a finite number of things to pass the time, a combination of Instagram and word-of-mouth has led many of us to quickly fill up metaphorical coronavirus bingo cards with all the same activities, whether that’s baking banana bread, watching Tiger King, hunting down sourdough starter, downloading Houseparty or trying to explain to your Boomer parents how to use Zoom.
While many of these pastimes have gone global (Tiger King, like COVID-19, seems to know no geographic bounds), there nevertheless are more localized quarantine trends emerging around the globe. We asked some friends in places like Paris, Tel Aviv, New Delhi, London, Seoul and more to share with us their own stay-at-home habits and explain what viral activities are popping off in their respective cities and countries.
India: Perfectly Round Roti Challenge
“The idea of a recipe going viral on social media is a very Western thing,” New Delhi-based journalist Varun Rana says. “That said, we do have one ancient national obsession, which is perfectly round rotis (unleavened Indian bread cooked on a hot plate and served fresh off it).” As Rana says, now that many Millennials and other young people are “no longer staying at home with their parents and don’t have cooks or help coming in daily, they’re making their own rotis” and sharing the results on their feeds.
France: Babka, Banana Bread & Baguettes
In the land of butter and baguettes, apparently babka is the new carbo-star. “It’s an Israeli cake but a lot of Israeli restaurants have opened up in Paris in the past [few] years so everybody knows [it],” Paris-based film producer Leslie Sicouri explains. And “banana bread and cookies are also a must. And, of course, people are cooking their own bread.”
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South Korea: Dalgona Coffee, 16th Century Zombie Thrillers & AR-Infused K-Pop Concerts
“Next to drive-thru virus testing centers, Korea’s most ingenious innovation during the coronavirus outbreak may be the breakout viral video recipe for Dalgona coffee, which has become a super-spreading hashtag across social media communities around the world,” says Seoul-based music industry executive Bernie Cho. The insanely popular fluffy, whipped coffee that looks a lot like butterscotch pudding has taken over Instagram, YouTube and TikTok since the lockdown began. And, for Koreans looking for a new show to binge while they sip their brew, Cho says one popular program is Kingdom, a “fictional 16th century zombie thriller about the political turmoil caused by a pandemic pandemonium spreading across the Korean peninsula.” Released on January 20 — the same day South Korea announced the first reported case of COVID-19 as Cho points out — the series, whether in a case of “art imitating life or life imitating art” has “struck a nerve with audiences.” Not to be outdone, the country’s biggest entertainment juggernaut – K-Pop – has also attracted a huge audience tuning in from home. “The biggest music company in Korea (SM Entertainment) and the biggest online platform in Korea (Naver) recently banded together to launch a brand-new live music streaming service called ‘Beyond Live,'” Cho says. “Unlike other live music streaming events hosted at home and offered for free, ‘Beyond Live’ backs up its bravado by real-time streaming AR-infused K-Pop concerts that feel like epic music videos performed live and by charging upwards of $30 USD for the international, interactive, immersive experience. With over 75,000 online fans from 100+ countries tuning into K-Pop boy band SuperM, ‘Beyond Live’ is bending the curve on the battered live concert business.”
Israel: Challah & “Unorthodox”
Unorthodox on Instagram: “#unorthodox
It’s perhaps no surprise that in Israel, the worldwide bread-baking trend frequently manifests itself in braided loaves of challah in time for Friday night Shabbat. Tel Aviv-based magazine editor Meryl Fontek says that she and her roommate have formed a quarantine pod with their neighbors and celebrate Shabbat together every week, often with homemade challah one of the neighbors bakes and different chicken recipes Fontek tries from Sababa, a popular cookbook from author and food writer Adeena Sussman, who Fontek explains is “a celebrity in Tel Aviv.” The spring has also brought a whole new crop of local celebrities, many of whom have now found worldwide acclaim: the cast of Netflix’s Unorthodox. The show, which was also a favorite among friends we spoke to in India, France, the UK and Spain, has found a huge audience in Israel although, Fontek says, there’s been some criticism in Israel for its portrayal of Judaism and the ultra-orthodox community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But, with many of the stars like Shira Haas (Esty) and Amit Rahav (Yanky) hailing from Tel Aviv, Fontek says it wasn’t long before she and her friends in the city all “started following the actors on Instagram.”
Spain: Pastries & Party Clothes
Along with cooking classic Spanish recipes like tortilla de patatas, empanadillas and pulpo, Spaniards are “not shying away from sweets,” Zaragoza-based photographer Carmen Daneshmandi observes. During the lockdown, she says tons of Spanish friends and neighbors have been “baking bizcochos (pastries) or standing in line for them outside the local bakeries – there’s a longer line there than the grocery store sometimes!” While bakeries may still be considered essential businesses, restaurants, tapas bars, nightclubs and concert venues have remained shuttered — but that doesn’t mean the city’s famed thirst for late nights has completely gone away. “There’s a funny Spanish sense of humor about getting dressed up and putting on appearances just to go to the kitchen or living room,” Daneshmandi says. “I say it’s a Spanish sense of humor because Spanish people are very much about going out (all ages and backgrounds and not just going out as in ‘clubbing’) and being in the streets and enjoying food, drink and socializing. So it’s their way of translating that embedded part of the culture at home.”
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UK: Haircuts, Hospitality & Houseparty Fatigue
Banana bread (again!) came up frequently when talking to friends across the pond but other baked goods got shoutouts, too, particularly olive oil and lemon drizzle cakes. With all that baking, it’s only natural that Brits might be thinking wistfully of tea parties and garden luncheons. “The inner-hostess spirit is rising with friends,” London-based fashion writer Emma Elwick Bates says. Describing friends’ posting “trayscapes” and other chic, cottagecore-style activities on social media (“Linen! Polish[ing] the silverware! Bud vases!”), the springtime “Merchant Ivory weather” has people dreaming of “alfresco moments and being fêted.” And, while the Brits are still stuck indoors, Houseparty has become a sorry substitute for the real thing. “The Houseparty train was exciting and addictive during week one to two of lockdown,” London entrepreneur Violet Manners says. But now, nearly two months later, the app has “definitely taken a nosedive (at least amongst my friends).” Another thing to look forward to when the lockdown gets lifted? Showing off your new quarantine hairstyle in the flesh. According to London designer Ashish Gupta, he’s noticed “lots of people are shaving their heads or bleaching their hair.”
Nigeria: “Money Heist” & Agege Bread
“Nigerians are obsessed with Money Heist! There have been some intense conversations about it online,” Lagos-based designer Adebayo Okelawal says about the popular Spanish series on Netflix. (The thriller was also a favorite among our friends in Italy, India and Spain.) When not binging the show, Okelawal says that, like in other countries, he’s noticed friends and followers experimenting with recipes and hoping to make “a meal that looks good for the ‘gram.” Along with the perennial banana bread, he says a lot of Nigerians are trying “new ways of making jollof rice” as well as Agege bread, the subject of a “trending tweet.”
Additional reporting by Mickey Boardman
Photos via Instagram and Getty