Lifestyle

05 Apr 2020, 10:05 AM

Do foreigners in Slovenia feel more or less safe sitting out covid-19 here than in their home country, and what are their experiences? All the stories in this series are here. If you' like to contribute, see here or at the end of the story

Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

 I am traveling with my wife, Rachel. We are healthy. We both retired last year and decided to spend some time traveling around the world. We have been traveling since mid-January, and we arrived in Slovenia on March 1. We have an apartment in Ljubljana with a full kitchen, a washing machine, and a balcony. We expect to stay here until at least late May, but if we can extend our tourist time here, we will because it is safer here than in our hometown of Washington, DC. We are staying sane because we have developed routines. We read news or watch videos on our computers in the morning, we try to go for a walk in the park mid-day, then we have a late lunch (on our balcony if the weather is nice enough), and we read books on our Kindles in the evening. I also take photographs and sometimes amuse my wife by Photoshopping them. For example, I changed the name of the restaurant, "Landerik" to "RachelandErik" in Photoshop. In general, though, it's like we are living the movie "Groundhog Day!"

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 When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

 We realized the coronavirus was going to impact the whole world in a serious way when the northern half of Italy was locked down in early March. Then, when concerts and events here in Ljubljana were starting to get cancelled, we realized that strict coronavirus restrictions were going to soon be imposed here in Ljubljana, which would change our holiday here to be more of a "staycation."

  What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis?

 We are impressed by how the Slovenian government is handling the coronavirus crisis. The general consensus of experts around the world seems to be that if the restrictions seem like too much, they probably are appropriate, and it appears to me that Slovenia is following that example. I wish restaurants were open, or that I could get a haircut, but I understand that these businesses must be closed for the greater good. We feel completely safe here in Ljubljana. With rare exception, people give each other enough space when walking past each other, and the queues inside and outside the shops are orderly.

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 Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it.

 We live in downtown Washington, DC, less than 2 kilometres from the White House. Washington, DC and the two states that surround it -- Virginia and Maryland -- all have coronavirus, and they all recently locked down. There are several differences between how Slovenia is handling the crisis versus the USA. Different states in the USA have had different responses to the coronavirus crisis; some were quick to lock down, and some still have not. In the absence of clear advice from the federal government in the USA, the states have had to try to figure things out for themselves and some of the results have been disastrous. In contrast, Slovenia promptly decreed restrictions, and all municipalities and towns were bound to follow them. Simply by comparing the curves of the rates of infection in Slovenia versus the USA, Slovenia's method seems to have been more effective.

  What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

 We do not receive communications from Slovenian authorities. We check Slovenian news websites to stay up-to-date on Slovenian news related to the coronavirus. We receive regular updates from the US Embassy here in Slovenia, and the ambassador recently hosted a Zoom video call for all Americans in Slovenia, where she told us what the Embassy is doing to help, and she answered our questions. We also receive daily emails from the U.S. Embassy here with news and infection numbers in Slovenia.

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 What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation?

 More pajamas! Yes, seriously. We are in our apartment many hours per day, and I stay in my pajamas for much of the day. I only brought two pairs of pajamas. I wish I had others because it is getting old wearing the same ones most of each day, and I assume my wife is tired of seeing me in the same ones every day, too!

 One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

 My wife and I have learned the importance of health over everything else. You can have all the material goods in the world, but if you get sick or worse, they won't do you any good. And we have learned about the deep goodness of most people. Slovenians have been so kind to us during this time of crisis. It warms our hearts.

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Erik and Rachel Cox are retired lawyers from Washington, DC. In their spare time, Erik enjoys running and photography, and Rachel enjoys studying homeopathy and healthy living. Follow Erik on Instagram at @erikcoxphotography and follow Rachel on Facebook at www.facebook.com/homeopathyexplorer

If you’d like to contribute to this series please answer the following questions and include a paragraph about yourself and where you’re from, and a link to your website if you would like. Please also send 3-4 photos minimum (including at least one of yourself) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject: Corona Foreigner.

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

What do you think about the economic measures the government is taking, are they helping your business? (PLEASE IGNORE IF THIS DOES NOT AFFECT YOU)

When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Slovenia doing better/worse?

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

 

04 Apr 2020, 15:00 PM

Four weeks ago, I was prancing around Istanbul, wining and dining, merrily catching up with old friends and students – and mercifully, getting my haircut by my favourite hairdresser. Invitations flew back and forth, and promises to visit Ljubljana in spring and summer ensued.

I returned joyously to the clean air and green of Ljubljana, and settled down to fine tuning my first English Immersion Experience, an English course, scheduled for the 20th March. We had optimum numbers and it was all systems go .

Then a friend working in China emailed to say she couldn’t come skiing, she was in compulsory quarantine and couldn’t leave China, because of a virus. I was disappointed, but put it down to Chinese politics, and decided to go skiing to Italy after the course.

Then a week later, on Monday, a FB friend in Trieste started writing posts on FB which read like something out of Camus’ Plague, and I investigated The Virus a bit further. It wasn’t deadly, and it was restricted to Northern Italy, so I continued at my usual hectic pace, unconcerned. Then on Thursday, we got our first cancellation for the course, and by Thursday afternoon I had got notice that all my corporate classes would be postponed until the rather ominous sounding- further notice. Schools were shutting, and companies were instigating a  working from home policy. I was left with no option but to postpone our course – a double whammy  for a self-employed (SP) teacher!

The next day, I leapt out of bed at 7am and whilst hurriedly performing my ablutions, I suddenly remembered that all classes were cancelled. My blood pressure plummeted and I passed clean out, whacking my head  on the bathroom tiles. I came to, dazed, with a throbbing and bleeding head and a strong sense of pending doom. I was in Phase 1 – Shock.

I passed rapidly from shock, into Denial, phase 2, mounted my trusty bike, and pedalled furiously into town, where it was quiet but shops were still open. Foolishly I didn’t stock up on my favourite chilli coffee and Japanese tea – in fact, I didn’t shop at all, but stopped off at various  coffee shops along the river and tried to absorb the implications of what was unfolding around me. That night I met a friend in the pub, and we lamented our losses, but decided it would only be for a week or two and started planning summer holidays.

The weekend was eerily quiet, and I cycled out into the country, stopping by at Levada for a late lunch. Halfway through my mushroom risotto, they politely asked me to eat up and pay up, they were closing early, and I was the only customer. They would be shut until further notice.

As I was preparing to leave,  my friend from London called to say how much she was looking forward to coming on the 1st of April. I explained what was happening, and that it looked like everywhere would be shut. She hesitated with disbelief, and then announced she would come anyway. We could cycle and hike, and she would cook.

Meanwhile, the increasingly gloomy Facebook posts from Italy continued, and my old schoolfriend from Spain rang to say that she had bought the last cans of disinfectant from the village shop, and had spent the day disinfecting her house, while her rather portly partner had been stocking up on red wine and beer. She was panicking. He had heart problems and she wasn’t letting him loose. I tried to calm her by explaining that it wasn’t lethal, unless you had health complications, like heart problems, and that old people died from flu every year, and after all, SARS had been much more deadly. After every platitude, her voice grew shriller, and I could feel the terror in her voice. I realised that my platitudes were having the opposite effect, thanked my lucky stars that we weren’t in lockdown, and hung up before we both fell out.

Back home, my landlady informed me of the latest restrictions, that on Monday public transport would cease, and only food shops and pharmacies would be open. She didn’t think it would really affect her and her husband at all. Seeking sanity from London friends, I called them with my woes. They responded with tales of going to the West End, playing tennis, and socialising as normal,  and my actor friend informed me that his show would go on – and he expected me there on the 4th April!

On Monday, I woke early, it was eerily quiet, not even the usual birdsong. As I lay in bed calculating my losses, as by now almost all my Slovenian students had ‘postponed’, my denial moved on to the next stage in the cycle, Anger.

My anger increased exponentially as more and more draconian restrictions were imposed, fertilized by the misinformation and meaningless statistics being spewed over social media and the gutter press. Facebook  abounded with fear-induced threads which spread the panic faster than the virus.

I was also angry at the rapidity with which my once carefree and full  life had been so abruptly curtailed, and that I was, in effect, abandoned in solitary confinement, indefinitely.

Thanks to copious phone calls from loyal friends I’m not yet lonely, but I am alone. And deep down I am a little frightened – not so much by the virus, but by my hypotension caused by the nagging anxiety about work and money, compounded by the fact I have no one to hug, pat me on the back and tell me it will all be better soon.

Meanwhile, my friend  from London was still playing tennis, having dinner parties and going to the West End, but the shutting of Ljubljana airport had made her realise that Slovenia was serious, while in the UK, Boris, the tousle haired buffoon – along with most of the UK, was still in Denial stage.

All over the world, friends were going into lockdown and disbelief. My phone was getting clogged with silly videos, and ‘how are you’s?’ , and one could almost feel the fear spreading its tentacles, while the virus watched and laughed.

Then came the Detachment (not bargaining, as I am in isolation) phase, as I ceased looking at the FB posts and chain messages of amateur epidemiologists and doom-laden soothsayers, and focussed on Prince Charles and George Aligayha, the BBC presenter and erstwhile friend. They had both posted  encouraging video messages of their recovery, despite Charles being 73, and George, 64, being in the middle of chemo. Back in the UK, several medic friends in the ‘front line’  in their 50s and 60s caught it, and reported mild symptoms followed by a week-long recuperation.. Flu is never pleasant, but fear undoubtedly lowers the immune system and will make it worse. Let’s have some positivity, please.

So currently in Detachment phase, made easy by my imposed solitary confinement – I am slowly getting my focus back, and have almost lost that discombobulated feeling I had in the first two weeks.

For physical sustenance, I am experimenting in cooking Jamie Oliver’s  ‘quick and easy’ meals, with mixed results, and I made myself a wonderful immune booster called Firecider, a strong tasting brew comprising ginger, garlic, horseradish, turmeric, rosemary, onion and cider vinegar. After two weeks ‘resting’, it turned out looking like urine, but with a ‘kick’ that both stimulates the immune system, and also doubles up as a rather fast acting laxative. Well, mine did!

For mental sustenance, I’m stampeding through courses on www.futurelearn.com , and I’m currently so caught up in my screenwriting course that I worked last night till 4.30am. I’ve  signed up to BBCi player and binge watch ancient episodes of Porridge with increasing empathy. I cycle deep into the countryside for two hours every day, eternally thankful for the natural beauty surrounding me, and pine quietly for the tantalisingly snow-capped mountains so near, but so out of reach.

But I yearn for the friendly ambience of riverside cafes, and long cool swims in Jezero with laughing, healthy friends and the vitality and joy of the back-flipping twins I once taught. People look so preoccupied, so serious, no one is smiling and the newly introduced masks make it impossible.

However, the next phase is Depression – but if I can remain in actively occupied Detachment phase, and the government grant removes my S.P. contribution angst,  I am hoping to stave off the depression and bypass it to the stage after which is acceptance, and let’s face it – with or without a goodnight hug, a comforting smile and a shared dram – we are all in this together, even if we are living alone. Onwards and upwards!

You can find out more about Carol Jardine at her website, SpeakEasy English.

04 Apr 2020, 10:15 AM

Do foreigners in Slovenia feel more or less safe sitting out covid-19 here than in their home country, and what are their experiences? All the stories in this series are here. If you' like to contribute, see here or at the end of the story

Rick Harsch is an American writer with a voice of his own who lives in Izola. You can learn more about his life and work, pre-coronavirus, in this previous interview.

Firstly, how are you? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

I’m lucky because I was already in relative isolation. Now I have the company of my children. They have phones to keep them in contact with the world. My wife does some editing across the apartment from me. Nobody gets on anybody’s nerves. I am a writer and editor, so the only thing that is affected is that with the suffering I am aware of, for so long in Italy, now in the US, and I fear the coming crisis in India, I can’t write as I would normally. I just understood this yesterday.

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When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

I came to know this was dangerous sometime in February, I suppose, following a sane doctor on YouTube. It might even have been in January. The decision-makers in the US were a week ahead of me at least, but as we know they did nothing. Now the country of my origin, where my parents live, both of them 88, and my brothers, 63, 63, and 62 live, and where all the brothers and sisters I picked up along the way live, will soon have three times the number of infections as China and twice the deaths. That won’t be the end of it, either.

What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis?

What the hell can I say about Slovenia, with what's happening in America? Am I happy with the response to the virus? Surely they should be testing more aggressively, but otherwise people have seemed sane and intelligent. The government is doing what it is forced by circumstance to do. Maybe Janša will try his hand at Orbanism later; for now he’s sane enough to know he has to take care of his people. I feel safe and feel that though I would have closed the schools a week earlier, the government has been doing a good job of following most of the best international protocols.

I have no idea about the economic provisions here in Slovenia. It’s difficult to get social help in the best of cases. The process is absurd: they look at your bank accounts for the previous three months and decide—they don’t interview you to find out what your true circumstances are. I was rejected once because they day they decided I received a check for 2,700€. That was from four months of work that began six months previously. I had been out of work two months and would be for another six. They gave me nothing. Will I get something now? I doubt it. What will have changed? Would it be worse in the US? Absolutely. 70,000 homeless in New York at least. And that’s a cold city.

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How do you feel about the broader response in America?

I awoke too early this morning—which is relevant in that I had no control over my psychomental flux, which allowed thoughts of the prison known as Riker’s Island to stage a break into my mind. The place is a death trap and the virus is raging within. The US likes to put people in jail. The oligarchy quietly banned Foucault.

Riker’s, if you don’t know, is an island more or less in New York City. Let it be representative of all the prisons in the US, including the brains behind the bars of US propaganda, which has led prisoners of the US, from Trump to Harvey Weinstein, from yer average feller to your local hero, to believe they are a special breed of human—so in Wyoming a virus in wide open country of free men is raging against the moronism inherent in the live free and fire your rifle at anything that moves mentality.

Yes, this is the country in which just recently the ‘left’ came together in Oligarchic Panic to defeat Bernie Sanders, whose Medicare for All, would have made the US a nation of re-tooling insurance salesmen but paved the way for the wealthiest nation in the world to have the best health care system in the world.

There is nothing to say about Trump—for one thing, 40 years ago Reagan was equally buffoonish in context, paving the way for Trump, and a growing wealth gap. No, not Trump, but the array of cowards, from his fellow politicians to the media that sits dumbly as he insults them. ‘Fake News’ had falsely, insidiously, virally, insinuated itself into the global lexicon. We had a term for it already: propaganda. “Fake news” is fake news.

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What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation?

I don’t wish for anything I don’t have in isolation except for maybe a small monkey.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

I can’t be sure I have learned anything about myself, as I have had things relatively easy compared to too many others. Regarding others? I’m 60 years old, so it would take more than hoarders and heroes to surprise me.

You can read more of Rick Harsch by getting one or more of his book, available from River Boat Books, with this link taking you to Skulls of Istria, a tavern confession novel st in front on a bottle in Piran.

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If you’d like to contribute to this series please answer the following questions and include a paragraph about yourself and where you’re from, and a link to your website if you would like. Please also send 3-4 photos minimum (including at least one of yourself) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject: Corona Foreigner.

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

What do you think about the economic measures the government is taking, are they helping your business? (PLEASE IGNORE IF THIS DOES NOT AFFECT YOU)

When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Slovenia doing better/worse?

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

 

03 Apr 2020, 19:22 PM

Do foreigners in Slovenia feel more or less safe sitting out covid-19 here than in their home country, and what are their experiences? All the stories in this series are here. If you' like to contribute, see here or at the end of the story

Who are you, and how did you come to be here?

Ciao, I am Luke, or better known as Šepetalec Pašte. I’m a chef and my home country is Australia. I came to be here in Slovenia through a mate I work with in London. To be honest, I had to check the map to see where Slovenia actually was. After few messages back and forth I decided to take the gamble and come to Slovenia. I have been traveling around Europe for last four years, and have based myself in London for 3 years.

I am now working at Bungalow Portorož on the coast.

Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

How am I? It’s a good question. My partner lives in Italy, which been hard because we can’t see each and offer support to other. I live alone and has been a tough not to have a pet or someone else to be with you in these times. It’s very challenging mentally, trying to stay positive and the fact is it’s still the unknown what is going to happen in the coming weeks. I’ve been trying to stay busy with cooking and exercise. I also have a good network of friends that checks up on me to see how I’m doing, and they been offering support. Even with this I still have my ups and downs every day, but we are all going to get through this!

When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

I started to realise that this was going to be a big issue when Italy started to have a lot of cases and the death count start to climb. As my partner lives in Verona I was more informed about what was happening, then they started to close down areas and regions. In the restaurant we noticed a big impact on the number of people coming to Portorož, as the coast is supported a lot by the Italian tourist and other nearby countries.

I think restaurants have suffered the biggest impact because they work on smaller margins with a high turnover, and the future of the industry is very uncertain. 

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What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

I think that Slovenian is doing the best it can. On the government side I’m not well informed, to inform but this is a great opportunity for it to show some support for the people of Slovenia. I’m very lucky to have a great boss that is doing the best he can to support his workers and make sure they can survive through this period, and I think he’s setting an example for other employers to take the lead in this way. 

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How are things compared to Australia?

Coming from Australia I can say that I’m proud of how the Australian people are handling it, offering the jobseeker allowance to people that are now employed. However, many people in Australia have not really taken this so seriously, and as a result it’s going to take longer to recover.

I think Slovenians have done an amazing job to really stick to the rules and show respect for one another, so the country can recover a lot quicker and hopefully been back on track as soon as possible. As an outsider I am impressed on the way Slovenian people have handled this.

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What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

As my Slovenian is not the best I do count on a mate of mine, Tim, and Total Slovenian News to keep up to date, but I don’t reply on direct contact with the authorities.

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What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation.

Just one thing? I would have like to take a lot more with me, but I would have to say I would love to have my partner with me in these times, just to have her with me and to have someone else to talk to, to watch movies and someone to cook for, and the bonus is I’d have someone to wash the dishes. But other than having someone else with me I have mostly what I need here.

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What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself, and one thing you’ve learned about others during this crisis?

As I am alone through this period I have a lot time to think, and you really get to have a look at yourself and the person you are in how you handle such difficult times , I have learned that I am definitely stronger mentally then I realised. I’ve also realised where I want to be and that Slovenian is an amazing country. The people here should be proud of themselves as a nation, and they have always been very welcoming to me.

If you’d like to contribute to this series please answer the following questions and include a paragraph about yourself and where you’re from, and a link to your website if you would like. Please also send 3-4 photos minimum (including at least one of yourself) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject: Corona Foreigner.

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

What do you think about the economic measures the government is taking, are they helping your business? (PLEASE IGNORE IF THIS DOES NOT AFFECT YOU)

When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Slovenia doing better/worse?

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

 

03 Apr 2020, 12:30 PM

Do foreigners in Slovenia feel more or less safe sitting out covid-19 here than in their home country, and what are their experiences? All the stories in this series are here. If you' like to contribute, see here or at the end of the story

Who are you, and how did you come to be here?

I’m Adam E., and American expat from Houston, TX.  I’ve been living in Slovenia since Christmas Day, 2018, but didn’t move here directly from the USA.  I’ve been bouncing around Europe for the past 10 years or so, teaching English, working in tourism, and getting my Master’s Degree in Anglophone Literature and Literary Theory.  I currently work for a children’s book publishing company based in Ljubljana.

Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

I feel very, very fortunate with how I’m currently doing.  I know things could be a lot worse.  I’ve been sheltering in place since March 13th (incidentally Friday the 13th).  I’m in my apartment with my girlfriend and our kitten, so thankfully I’m not alone.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s been smooth sailing the whole time.  To be perfectly frank, we’re both getting a little stir-crazy, but we also understand that we all need to sacrifice something for the greater good.  So, if that means staying at home and taking the necessary measures to protect the most vulnerable, so be it.

When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

I spent the month of January and most of February in the United States finalizing my Slovenian visa.  I could tell then that COVID-19 was going to be a global issue, not just one affecting China.  My return flight was through Charles de Gaulle in late February, and, by this time, there had already been a few reported cases in France, so I wanted to take every precaution I could.  I had two N95 masks at my house in Houston from a painting project my family had done awhile back, so I wore one of those and washed my hands every chance I could.

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What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Now I’m no political commentator, but, from what I’ve been reading about some of the measures the Slovenian government has been taking, it seems like they’re doing a great job of turning extraordinary circumstances into a great opportunity to enrich themselves and enact quasi-draconian measures that would never have been able to get passed otherwise.  I remember when 9/11 happened in the USA, and the Bush administration enacted the Patriot Act, one of the grossest breaches of civil liberties and the right to privacy ever in the history of the USA, to resounding applause from most (but not all) of the general public.  I’m afraid the same thing might be happening here under our very noses, and I’m also afraid I’m showing my hand in terms of which way I lean politically.

With that being said, there has been far more transparency and coherence regarding the government’s response to the virus directly.  It’s been clear which steps are being debated, and the results of those debates are released to the public both in Slovenian and in English.  These measures seem to be slowing the spread of the virus, which can only be a good thing.  They took quick, decisive action, and it’s saving lives.  However, there is one caveat.  It’s been reported that there has been far more clarity in the messages written in Slovenian compared to English.  And while I’m a very happy guest in this country, my Slovenian is not good at all, which has led to some slight confusion on my part about what I should be doing.  Other than that, and the aforementioned political scheming, I’ve felt safe and like there are grown-ups in charge.

How does that compare with America?

The response in Slovenia is diametrically opposed to what I’ve been seeing coming out of the USA, which, pardon my language, has been a shit-show at the best of times.  It really never was going to be anything but that if you see it as part of a nearly 4-year continuum, but I sincerely hoped that it wouldn’t be as bad as it is.  The steps taken here in Slovenia were decisive, the word of experts was heeded, and there has been a modicum of transparency about what has been happening.  America?  How much time do y’all have?  It’s a prime example of a failure of leadership from the highest people in power.  Luckily we have a more federalized system of government, and states’ governors have stepped in to fill the leadership void left by the blowhole-in-chief, but without that, COVID-19 could (and still can be) an absolute disaster in the USA in terms of loss of life. 

There has been no sense of what we as a nation should be doing.  Furthermore, everything has become so politicized in the United States that if it’s the right thing to do but delivered on the wrong channel depending on how you sway politically, it’s dead wrong.  At the very beginning, in early January, Fox News was claiming that COVID-19 was a leftist scare tactic.  I truly hope things will get better, but I highly doubt it, and that is incredibly depressing and disheartening.

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What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation?

There isn’t much we’re lacking for here where I live in Ljubljana, but there’s one thing I do wish I had during self-isolation, and that is a yard.  I live in an apartment, so to have some grass, a bit of space outside, that would be fantastic.  The weather is getting nicer, so to be able to go outside and garden or kick a soccer ball around, that would be most welcome.  Other than that, I feel very fortunate to have so many local delivery services around to get fresh, local produce, a meal every once in a while, and some really nice local wines as well.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis?

What I’ve learned about myself is that, when it comes to self-isolation, I’m pretty good at keeping away from others.  I’m a social person, so I thought it would be very difficult to not see friends, but I’ve had some amazing conversations with my cat, and she’s now bilingual in English and Slovene, so apparently I’m a good teacher as well.  I’ve also been impressed with how the vast majority of Slovenians are doing their part to take care of each other.  Sure, there have been some exceptions to the rules, but for the most part, it appears that they’re all taking this very seriously and pitching in whenever or however they’re needed.  Maybe it’s culturally significant that this is Ex-Yugoslavia and collective action might be part of their social DNA, or maybe it’s just because they’re a more neighbourly people, I don’t know, but I’ve learned a lot about solidarity, and I must say that I’m very grateful to be here during these difficult and uncertain times.

If you’d like to contribute to this series please answer the following questions and include a paragraph about yourself and where you’re from, and a link to your website if you would like. Please also send 3-4 photos minimum (including at least one of yourself) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject: Corona Foreigner.

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

What do you think about the economic measures the government is taking, are they helping your business? (PLEASE IGNORE IF THIS DOES NOT AFFECT YOU)

When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Slovenia doing better/worse?

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

 

02 Apr 2020, 20:05 PM

Do foreigners in Slovenia feel more or less safe sitting out covid-19 here than in their home country, and what are their experiences? A new series on TSN, starting with the writer Andrew Anžur Clement from America, currently holed up in Ljubljana. All the stories in this series are here

Firstly, how are you? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

All things considered, I’m doing fine. I live in Slovenia full time; my relatives normally spend about half of the year here. Currently, I am alone as they have had to cancel their travel plans. I work from home, writing and selling a product that is bought online, so from that aspect my life hasn’t changed. I’m even having pretty good sales!

True, I’ve had to cancel some lunches. However, I grew up in the US and then moved around to different countries in Europe for my studies. Before moving to Ljubljana to write, I was a researcher in the context of a double PhD program in Belgium and the UK, with supervisors in both countries. While I think that telecommuting and video conferencing have been new or jarring to a lot of people, for me they were an essential part of life for years.

The downside of normally working from home is that I also have very few ‘excuses’ to leave my apartment, other than to run out to Hofer every few days. I underestimated the importance to my sanity – and to my creative juices -- of being able to do something to ‘just get out of the house,’ like taking a long walk when the weather is nice. All things considered, though, that is an annoyance at worst.

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When did you realise that coronavirus was going to be a big issue?

I was unaware of the virus’s existence for a lot longer than most people. I was on a plane, flying back to Los Angeles for a visit in mid-February. There was an Asian gentleman with a cough within earshot and the flight attendant made him wear a mask, all the while insisting that he was sure the man wasn’t infected. I remember thinking ‘What is coronavirus?’

I flew back to Slovenia on March 5th. My mother was worried about me travelling because of the virus. I still didn’t think it was going to be a big issue outside of Asia. I attended the SNG’s performance of the opera Louisa Miller on March 6th. Within the next day or two large public gatherings were banned; I believe it was the last performance given by the Ljubljana opera to date.

I don’t think that I fully realized that this was going to affect me until President Trump banned all flights between the US and Europe. My family had been planning to come to Slovenia for three months starting in late March. We are now on different sides of the Atlantic for the foreseeable future.

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What is your impression of the way Slovenia is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Insofar as my personal concerns about actually catching the virus, I feel as safe as can be reasonably expected, given the circumstances and the measures that the government has implemented. I am more concerned about getting sick with something other than coronavirus and not being able to get treatment, given how general medical services have been scaled back. I also worry about needing to get something done and not being able to do it. I have to say that I am less concerned about the latter now, at least in the short term, as public services still seem to be functioning. I had a bit of a scare when my washing machine broke yesterday. The employees at Big Bang were characteristically helpful via online chat and a new one should be delivered to my apartment in a few days.

Still though, I have more general concerns regarding how long this state of affairs is going to persist, or how long it will continue to be sustainable. My business isn’t really that affected by the lockdown in the nearer term, but I have concerns about the longer-term macroeconomic implications of the lockdown. Despite the bailouts in both the US and Slovenia, these can only go so far. At what point will economic pressures make continuing the lockdown undesirable or even unviable? Especially in Slovenia, where the lockdown seems more comprehensive than the US, I also worry about what will happen when so called non-essential services start to become more necessary. For instance, what about when people start to need things like haircuts?

Don’t get me wrong, a number of people are going to die from the coronavirus pandemic. It is serious and that is sad. But part of me honestly wonders if we are kidding ourselves by thinking that we can beat the pandemic in this or any other manner, especially when the only response to the lockdown not working, thus far, has been forcing more lockdown. Where and when does it end? That is probably my biggest worry.

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Slovenia doing better/worse?

Judging by what I’ve heard from family and friends in the States, I would say that the reaction in Slovenia has been more orderly than the response in the US, both on the part of the government and the population. In Slovenia, the government seems to have taken more proactive and calm measures when the outbreak came. People, while somewhat recalcitrant to voluntarily socially distance at first – during the three days between when the epidemic was declared in Slovenia and the start of the lockdown the cafes along the Ljubljanica were completely full -- they calmly complied, with very little panic buying or hysteria once mandatory orders were put in place. In the US, especially during the earlier days of the outbreak, it sounds to me like the government’s measures followed a wave of public panic, in a process that fed on itself. We didn’t have this in Slovenia. My local grocery store has been great and the shelves are even better stocked than usual; my American friends find this shocking.

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What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

I’ve been pleased with the communications from the Slovene authorities, which have seemed calm and orderly. TSN has also been great about proving me with a daily digest of updates.

I have not received anything from the US, but I am not registered with the embassy.

What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation?

A non-temporary internet connection! I am currently connected to the outside world by a phone line clamped to the side of my building with a C-clamp. This was meant to be a temporary fix following some renovations to my apartment and while my street got optical cable installed. If it snaps and everything is still locked down, how do I get it fixed? Can I even get it fixed? Especially during the windy weather last week, this was easily my biggest worry.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

Like I imagine many writers are, I am almost a total introvert. At first, I found staying at home all the time to actually be somewhat relaxing, if I chose to look at it that way. I enjoyed the peace and quiet along the Ljubljanica, which my apartment fronts on. As this drags on, though, I find the few interactions that I do have with actual humans, which once would have been totally normal, have become more ‘taxing.’ Sounds that I once wouldn’t have noticed outside have started to seem unbearably noisy. Seriously, if everyone is supposed to be on lockdown can someone turn off the hourly Puppet Theatre song? Maybe related to this is the constant ramp-up to social distancing and protective wear orders. After ‘suiting up’ in my ski mask and gloves to go the store today, I felt like a character in some post-apocalyptic, dystopian movie heading out to face mortal peril!

Before I was a writer, I was a migration researcher. I also have had to extensively research things like the siege of Sarajevo for my books. One key take-away from both is that attempting to keep people from moving, or creating a situation where moving is extremely hard and dangerous, will not completely keep people from moving. It will simply make them move differently. I think we are already seeing this borne out by the Coronavirus crisis and predict that the longer this goes on, the more of it there will be, for better or worse.

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Anžur Clement is an American of Slovenian descent. Originally from the Los Angeles area, he’s been living in Europe for over ten years. For the past two of them, he’s have settled in Ljubljana’s city centre where he writes historical fiction, fantasy and alternative history novels. Two of his books are available for free here.

If you'd like to add your story to this series, please get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or find TSN on Facebook

01 Apr 2020, 11:17 AM

STA, 31 March 2020 - Following the successful integration of lynx Goru, another wild cat brought to Slovenia from Romania was released into the wild on Tuesday after a 3-week quarantine. Lynx Katalin spent those weeks in a temporary enclosure to get used to the new environment, said the Forestry Service.

The release was coordinated as part of the Life Lynx international project. The initiative strives to restore the regional lynx population, which is facing extinction due to inbreeding.

Quarantine measures are imposed to ensure that once the animals are released, they stay in the area and mingle with other local lynx.

So far, the project has brought four lynx to Slovenia and Croatia, namely Goru, Doru, Alojzija and Katalin. The target is to introduce 14 animals in total to diversify the population's gene pool in the Dinaric Alps and south-eastern Alps.

All the animals have been given telemetric collars and are thus tracked and monitored in their natural habitat.

The project has already led to the first case of a successful breeding with the local population - the first lynx to be introduced to Slovenia under the project, Goru, mated with Teja, a female from Slovenia's declining population of the wild cats, soon after he was released in May last year.

A female kitten named Mala was determined to be their descendant by genetic tests in January.

Meanwhile, Katalin is the second lynx of at least ten to be released in Slovenia in the next four years.

30 Mar 2020, 19:41 PM

Sam Baldwin – founder of BREG Apparel reports from the snowy Hinterlands of Koroška, Slovenia, where he is spending isolation alone.

Read Part 1 here

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It’s been 11 days since I arrived at Breg, and things are starting to feel strange. The initial euphoria of having made it – after some transportation problems and worries over border closures – has now worn off.

Like many others loaded with lockdown energy, I embarked on a raft of ‘when-I-get-round-to-it’ jobs in the first few days. I made a shelf from an old piece of plum tree felled in the garden, some years ago. I did a big clear out of some cupboards and rearranged all my tools, making them accessible. I plugged a few small air gaps in the walls and eves with some insulation. But now, almost two weeks into isolation, my productivity has slowed. It’s a strange irony that having more time to do things, seems to reduce the amount of things you do.

Days are now melting into each other; the significance of their prefix lost. A [Satur]day is no different from a [Mon]day. A [Wednes]day identical to a [Fri]day. They are all just days. Following a brief spell of warm, spring-like weather, winter has very much reappeared, dumping a decent cover of snow over the entire landscape. And while Breg in its winter attire is certainly a beautiful sight, life up here is cold.

By morning, the temperature inside Breg House has fallen to 10°C, so my first job of the day is to get the wood stove lit. I then brew a coffee and sit close to the fire, deciding what jobs to tackle that day. The snow has put a halt to my outdoor tasks for now so I focus on indoor duties.

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Life has become quite surreal. When I wander the frozen forest as the snow falls, I feel like I’m in a dream. I guess this is the effect of spending so much time alone. I couldn’t bear to let all the beautiful, light, powdery snow go to waste, so I gave in to the urge to do a couple of laps on my snowboard, down a meadow slope next to the house. The ride is less than a minute long, and perhaps five to walk back up, but it felt good to be surfing the snow and breathing crisp air.

The local heroines of my situation are my two lovely Slovene neighbours Štefka and Ančka. They have been bringing a hot homecooked meal to my doorstep each day. I think they worry about the strange Englishman, alone up a mountain and want to ensure I’m kept well fed. The meal arrives in a basket, complete with a salad, some bread and a dessert. Hearty soup, pork chops, struklji - who needs Uber Eats, when you have neighbours this thoughtful?

In the evenings I dip into the Breg House DVD collection. Despite the ribbing I got from friends, all those hours spent trawling charity shops back in the UK, amassing a library of classic movies for 50 pence a disk, is now paying off.

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I phone a friend each evening to ensure some amount of sanity is retained. As lockdown sets in around the world, I start to hear how others are affected. Fear for small business survival; fear of job losses. But some optimism too: perhaps some changes for the better.

I think the coming weeks will be the real test. The initial ‘excitement’ of the situation is fading. It’s only the start of what looks to be a long haul and it’s unnerving not knowing how this will all play out. The houses of the world have never been so thoroughly cleaned and tidied but how will we all feel in another three, four or five weeks of social isolation?

Sam Baldwin is the founder of BREG Apparel – Slovenia Inspired T-shirts. Sam is also the author of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years in rural Japan – available on kindle or paperback. The rest of this series can be found here. If you'd like to tell your lockdown story, or any other story, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

29 Mar 2020, 11:26 AM

STA, 29 March 2020 - Pensioners in Slovenia will only be allowed into stores between 8am and 10am as of Monday as new shopping restrictions have been put in place to protect the most vulnerable groups against coronavirus.

Under a previous decree that took effect on 19 March, shops had to give priority during the 8-10am slot to older persons, the disabled and pregnant women.

Now, this time slow will be reserved exclusively for these vulnerable groups while pensioners will not be allowed into shops after 10am at all.

The government said the best way to additionally protect vulnerable groups was to separate them physically from other consumers.

Other restrictions that shops are subject to remain in place. Most shops except those selling food, pharmacies and petrol stations remain closed until further notice. Those that are open operate from 8am to 6pm Monday through Saturday, a restriction that does not apply to petrol stations and pharmacies.

How old is a pensioner? There’s no official guidance on the age here, but I’d assume “the elderly”, and interpret that as you will (JL Flanner)

28 Mar 2020, 15:44 PM

STA, 28 March 2020 - The Environment Agency (ARSO) has issued a warning for today about high concentrations of harmful PM10 particles for Slovenia after Saharan dust reached Europe on Friday. It has advised people to stay indoors.

An average daily concentration is expected to exceed 100 microgrammes per cubic metre, while the allowed daily concentration is 50 microgrammes.

The situation should gradually improve on Sunday, yet high concentrations are still expected in central and southern Slovenia, ARSO says on its website.

Very high concentrations, even around 400 microgrammes per cubic metre, were measured in Slovenia already on Friday.

"We're not used to such high concentrations," Janja Turšič from ARSO told the STA, adding she could not remember Slovenia ever having recorded such high levels.

You can see more details of this here

26 Mar 2020, 11:05 AM

We already know that most of the cases of covid-19 are in Central Slovenia – 188 as of midnight 24 March – and that most of these (120) are in Ljubljana, but what about the other 211 municipalities in the country?

You can find data on that here, scrolling down to the list (which should be regularly updated) that, as of midnight 24 March, looked like this:

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Keep going down the page and you’ll find the figures by age and sex, as well as the number of tests that have been carried out, with data from 20 March indicating that Slovenia ranks 3rd in the world for the number of tests conducted per capita, behind the UAE and South Korea.

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Related: How Many People Are in Hospital with COVID-19 in Slovenia? How Many in ICU?

All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

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