by Lydia Tan
If you’ve visited Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, you might have come across SPOT the robot dog patrolling the park, reminding people to maintain a safe distance. Well, Singapore isn’t the only country which has come up with innovative ways to enforce social distancing in public. Here are some of the more interesting social distancing measures from around the world.
Some restaurants have resorted to using stuffed animals to mark off non-occupied seats. For example, the Vietnamese restaurant Maison Saigon in Bangkok, Thailand uses stuffed pandas at their tables.
The Izu Shaboten Zoo in Shizuoka, Japan, which is best known for their red pandas and hot spring capybaras, has placed big stuffed dolls of their iconic animals at their cafe. Hopefully, no one has been tempted to steal any of these adorable dolls for themselves!
Stuffed toys might be a cute way to fill the empty seats but some eateries are trying to bring back more of that “human element” to their tables again. Restaurants, cafes and bars in countries like America, Vienna and Germany have added dressed-up mannequins to their tables to fill the seats. One such restaurant, Open Hearth in Taylors, South Carolina, added blow-up dolls (dressed up and complete with wigs) to make the place feel less empty.
An Italian restaurant in Sydney, Australia took a slightly less creepy yet still unconventional approach to making the restaurant seem more populated. Five Dock Dining added cardboard cutouts of customers to the seats and even played background chatter through the speakers to emulate a busy atmosphere.
Glass or plastic shields are a common method to create that distance between patrons, which has led to some other forms of barriers being introduced. Vegan restaurant Mediamatic ETEN in Amsterdam, the Netherlands took advantage of their waterfront alfresco dining concept to create a more intimate experience during the pandemic. Five glass greenhouses known as serres séparées (“separate greenhouses” in French, a play on the French word chambre séparée for private dining rooms) that houses one or two patrons. Waiters wear face shields and serve the food on long wooden planks to avoid direct contact.
In a more futuristic fashion, these Plexi’Eat lampshade shields from France are being marketed as a “pretty” way to maintain social distance while eating. The plexiglass prototypes were temporarily tested out at the H.A.N.D. restaurant in Paris, France as the country slowly started easing their restrictions. According to the designer, Christophe Gernigon, he is already getting over 200 enquiries for his product from other local restaurants and four other countries.
We’ve seen those ridiculous pool noodle hats introduced by a German cafe but similar wearable social distancing gear has been seen outside of F&B outlets too. For example, elementary school students at Xinghualing District Foreign Language Primary School designed their own metre-long “angel wings” to school as a reminder to maintain distance. The students and their parents made the wings from recycled materials with different colours, styles, and shapes.
In some villages in India, social distancing is enforced using umbrellas. The rationale is that two opened umbrellas will maintain at least a one-metre distance from each other. A city in Kerala made this rule mandatory and even distributed thousands of umbrellas at subsidised rates or through sponsorships for those who don’t have umbrellas.
1 metre or 6 feet (1.8m) — these are the common lengths accepted for suitable social distancing, depending on which country you’re from. However, some countries have resorted to more visual means for people to estimate, from native animals to even sports equipment. For example, Australian government signs in Sydney’s city centre and national parks in South Australia used one adult kangaroo or at least 3 koalas as markers for a 1.5-metre distance.
In Canada, authorities advise citizens to stay two metres or about the length of a hockey stick apart from one another, in the spirit of the country’s national sport. These interesting visual cues help put into clearer perspective the distance that should be maintained while using symbols that are relatable to the people living there.
In this current pandemic affecting the whole world right now, social distancing is one of the best ways we can protect ourselves and those around us. Whether it be tape markings on the floor or stickers on seats, these reminders all serve the same purpose. As long as we follow the rules and keep that distance, hopefully the day where we can interact freely without these limitations in place will come sooner.