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food / travel

Dining In The Street: COVID-19 Could Replace Cars With Tables

The streets of Vilnius on May 10
The streets of Vilnius on May 10
Kat Bohmbach

As the new pandemic reality requires radical rethinking about how we live our lives, one hint of where we may be going could appear this summer in a neighborhood near you. The re-opening of bars and restaurants coinciding with warm weather is pushing city officials to reallocate the space that diners and motorists can occupy. It remains to be seen if this is the beginning of deeper post-COVID-19 shift in urban planning in favor of pedestrians over cars and drivers. In the meantime, here are three examples of a new look for the summer:

  • In France, where outdoor cafés and restaurants are typically crowded with tourists and locals alike sharing apéros and conversation, we may begin to see a gradual reopening this month of les terrasses, yet no formal plans have yet been made. But according tot he Le Parisiendaily, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo will be making some major changes to the city's layout, for locals and commuters alike, that could include the closure of at least 30 roads from cars and traffic, including Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre, and a few other tourist-heavy areas, to open up more through-ways for pedestrians and cyclists. As far as for restaurants, cafés and bars? The mayor is also making space for them in some major ways, such as letting them spill out into the street and parking spaces so that they can still serve while respecting sanitary conditions. According to Hidalgo, "Entire streets could be reserved for them free of charge."

Paris' Rue de Rivoli on May 9 — Photo: Xinhua/ZUMA

  • In Lithuania, public spaces are turning into open-air markets and restaurants in an attempt to help small and local businesses stay-afloat during the pandemic. In the capital city of Vilnius, in the winding streets of the historical center, there are currently 18 businesses spilling out onto sidewalks and streets in an effort to respect the designated 2-meter space between tables. Le Mondereports that there are more than 160 restaurants already looking for a space of their own to open shop back up after the most restrictive lockdown measures are lifted on May 11th. According to Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius, "this measure will help small establishments survive and keep jobs, while the tourist season, which is increasingly important for the city's revenue, is slow to start." To give an additional boost to the restaurant and hotel sectors, new events have been created to get more people back to work, like open-air concerts and even converting the tarmac of the Vilnius airport into a massive drive-in movie theater.

  • In the United States, restaurants and stores in Tampa, Florida, are now allowed to take up more space and spread out to meet social distancing requirements and safety measures. As a part of the city's new economic package elegantly referred to as the "Lift Up Local Economic Recovery Plan," restaurants and stores can now expand onto sidewalks, streets, and even into parking lots and spaces. "Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy," Mayor Jane Castor told the Tampa Bay Times. "We need their help to safely and successfully re-open our city and get back to all the things we love — one step at a time." These "cafe and retail zones' will be opening up across the city and will face strict regulations to prevent overcrowding, such as all restaurants are to be reservation-only, police will be on duty, and an old pre-coronavirus concept takes on new meaning: No loitering.

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus pandemic from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

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How WeChat Is Helping Bhutan's Disappearing Languages Find A New Voice

Phd candidate Tashi Dema, from the University of New England, discusses how social media apps, particularly WeChat, are helping to preserve local Bhutanese languages without a written alphabet. Dema argues that preservation of these languages has far-reaching benefits for the small Himalayan country's rich culture and tradition.

A monk in red performing while a sillouhet of a monk is being illuminated by their phone.

Monk performing while a sillouheted monk is on their phone

Source: Caterina Sanders/Unsplash
Tashi Dema

THIMPHU — Dechen, 40, grew up in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Her native language was Mangdip, also known as Nyenkha, as her parents are originally from central Bhutan. She went to schools in the city, where the curriculum was predominantly taught in Dzongkha, the national language, and English.

In Dechen’s house, everyone spoke Dzongkha. She only spoke her mother tongue when she had guests from her village, who could not understand Dzongkha and during her occasional visits to her village nestled in the mountains. Her mother tongue knowledge was limited.

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However, things have now changed.

With 90% of Bhutanese people using social media and social media penetrating all remotes areas in Bhutan, Dechen’s relatives in remote villages are connected on WeChat.

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