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Has COVID-19 changed UK culture for the worst?

People queue socially-distanced in line for shopping during the coronavirus lockdown
Has lockdown changed our culture for the worst? (Source: Brian Roy Rosen via. Flickr)

By Francesca Ionescu | Contributor

The outbreak of Coronavirus seemed so distant back in February, almost unimaginable when watching other countries go into lockdown. Now six months and a few days since lockdown was announced, life feels strangely normal. Thinking about how people would just sit next to strangers in pubs or walk into shops no matter how many people were in there already feels wrong, despite it only being half a year since that would go unnoticed.

A lot of the changes have been brought due to the Coronavirus lockdown, and have changed the way we act and view the world and have turned UK culture for the worst, disrupting the normal pattern of life and showing a disregard for others’ safety and wellbeing.

One of the biggest changes was definitely the normalization of working from home. Any sort of office job was carried on remotely, including agencies, call centers, and administrative jobs. According to HSO, by April 2020, 42.9% of adults in employment were working remotely. This change meant every call would start with an apology for any background noise, which shows exactly how ‘Zoom meetings’ have eliminated the already thin line between work and home. The 9-to-5 work style has been the most popular for office workers, who can then leave their jobs, go home, and be physically separated from their workplace which is a source of stress for many. The elimination of the commute means work never has a clear end, and working parents have to integrate their family commitments into their work routine.

A part of UK culture that has not changed in itself is pub culture, but the change in circumstances has made pub culture one of the worst things for the working class during the Coronavirus lockdown. Around 69% of pubs reopened at the beginning of July, and that meant a return to normality for hospitality workers, except bringing the added pressure of having to create a safe environment for the customers as well as avoiding getting ill themselves. Customers, however, have shown that drinking and pub culture is not COVID safe, as every pub outing has tables trying to mingle and getting angry regardless of servers telling them to stop.

There are also a lot of people not wearing masks as they believe there is no need if they are in food and drink environments. Pub culture is going out often and going hard, and before COVID, it was a funny and nice part of the UK’s charm. When this charm puts other people in danger, it changes our culture for the worst.

A lot of the disregard for servers and hospitality workers is rooted in the idea that they work ‘lesser’ jobs and this shows, a lot of the time, customers are disconnected from the reality of working a hospitality job, where safety depends on other people’s consideration.

As far as having fun is concerned, one of the bad changes to UK culture is the change in festivals and concerts. In July, Gisburne Park Pop Up was the UK’s first socially distanced festival, which seems to take away the whole joy of festivals, such as getting to know new people and making unusual connections with strangers. The new guidelines also allow for fewer people and despite this, it still not completely safe. Sharing tents and the metal ‘cages’ installed for distancing with other people, even friends, is still dangerous, especially as masks are not compulsory in outdoor settings.

In Europe, the classic British stereotype can be perceived as a very cold and distant person. The distant part has become extreme during lockdown, creating constant distrust between people. Priti Patel’s statement that she would call the police on her neighbours if they were disrespecting lockdown rules sums up the ‘witch hunt’ mindset that has bred between people, out of fear that anyone around you could be carrying the virus.

A Home Affairs Committee has reported that during the crisis, anti-Asian hate crime has gone up 21%. This is more than just simple animosity, but instead turning into hatred for people that might have no contact with the virus, which has now become a sort of normal – to doubt anyone that you believe might be more likely to carry the virus. This is by far one of the worst long-term changes, as people turn against each other.

The problem is that this is becoming the new normal, watching movies and seeing people sit together and go out to crowded places and on busy buses and trains feels wrong, and it brings the fear that things will never be fully normal again.

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