Do you let strangers touch you

Corona and Dating: Love without touch

Nele lives in Berlin, Liam in New York. They fall in love during the first internet lockdown and become a couple - then there is a chance of a meeting.

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You can't plan with love. It comes from nowhere. And changes everything. You could say: love is like this virus that has been turning the world's head for months. The virus that simultaneously brought Nele and Liam together and kept them apart.

This is the story of Nele who falls in love with a stranger without ever having seen or touched or kissed him. His name is Liam, he lives in the USA. Actually, the two are called different. But because they want to be open about their relationship, they'd rather not read their real names here.

For this text, two discussions took place in two Berlin cafés. Over coffee, in everyday surroundings, Nele told a not exactly everyday love story. There are only a few weeks between the first and the second meeting with Nele - but everything has changed for her.

Wednesday morning at the end of September. Nele, 24, is a petite woman with blonde hair, a big smile and a black leather jacket. She comes alone to the café in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Her boyfriend Liam, 22, is in New York, his hometown where Nele has never been. And Liam has never been to Berlin. In fact, the two have never met. Nevertheless, they have been in love for six months.

Your story is unlikely. After all, Nele is part of a generation that is sometimes referred to as "unable to relate" and sometimes as "Generation Tinder". It is also part of a society in which even the love life is permeated by capitalism: you consume love, throw it away lightly and get it again, always looking for something better. So why should you have a relationship in which you can neither touch nor meet, a purely virtual partnership when there are a thousand other possibilities in the big city? Nele wants to tell that at the end of September.

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The first coffee: It all started with the coronavirus. Nele moved to Berlin in March. She is an actress, born in Freiburg, still single at the time. "I wanted to get to know people from the industry in Berlin, maybe be cast and explore the city," she says. The year 2020 is not interested in what Nele, what all of humanity, has planned. On March 22nd, the federal and state governments decided on the first lockdown. Many shoots were canceled. Nele had to stay at home. Alone, without a job, without appointments.

She hardly knew anyone in Berlin. But she soon found company on the Internet. At the beginning of April she arranged to meet a friend at Houseparty - an app on which several people can meet in a video chat like at a real party. They toasted with wine, danced and talked in front of their screens.

Like at a real party, Nele got to know her friend's friends. One of them, dark hair, a distinctive chin, glasses with round lenses, came a little later, for him it was only afternoon, Nele was already drunk. While Liam, lying on his sofa in New York, talked to the others, Nele remained rather quiet and reserved. Little by little everyone said goodbye - only Liam and Nele remained. They spoke to each other for another two hours. In the end, Nele asked: Shall we meet again tomorrow?