Virtual dinners

Lockdown, day 45.

From my home in Tiana, Spain.


Today is the Dutch king’s birthday. Usually, we flee the overcrowded city on Kingsday but this year that would not have been necessary. This year, no overwhelming party buzz, but peace and quiet. The king is staying in his palace, Kingsday is celebrated from home.

We experience it all remotely from Tiana. A constant flow of videos streams into our house: the king speeching from his home together with his family, the orchestra playing the national anthem, the princesses festively opening a digital flee market.

The online traffic is immense these days. And that’s a good thing. Seniors in nursery homes can see and talk to their children and grandchildren, schools can teach through online programmes, hairdressers give tutorials and museums give virtual tours. Everybody tries to continue his business as usual in a digital shape. Everybody tries to keep social contact one way or another.

Our calendars are filled with video meetings. I think they are a blessing. Nobody has to go outside, nobody has to travel. It’s difficult to chat freely and to speak one on one in the middle is impossible. And the meetings last significantly shorter. I expect that after this crisis the online ways of communicating will be used much more than before, even if they will never fully substitute live meetings.

Almost all our social interaction occurs through video calls now. Today started with a fun chat with our friends and a virtual Kingsday breakfast with the team of Droog. Everybody was at home after taking their breakfast to go from Droog. We also regularly have virtual drinks and recently we even had a full virtual dinner with friends. We all cooked the same recipe and when we were all dining together at our tables with our laptops, I slowly started to forget we were not actually together. The occasionally faltering connection did not abate this feeling and time flew by; to our astonishment we had been dining for over three hours.

In 1991, when I was editor in chief of the magazine Industrieel Ontwerpen, I organised a seminar in De Unie in Rotterdam together with Ed van Hinte, Jack Gerrissen and De Rotterdamse Kuntstichting. The title was “Worlds Apart Together”. Digital guru’s showed us the online future that night. On an enormous screen, they demonstrated how people from different parts of the world where dining together virtually. Did I really have to wait for a pandemic to experience this myself?