Fighting with Corona in Paris

Fanfan Zou, born in Nanjing and currently live in Paris, France. She stands on her own unique perspective to illustrate the meaning of COVID-19 for a two kids’ mother, who is also a writer specializes on children’s novels. The crowded Qinhuai river in hometown now becomes ‘has no a single sign of people’; walking on the streets of Paris, it is the first time feeling immediate greetings from parents once step out of the house. This is an ordinary story in this impressive era, but also the love between small figures in the society.
Me and My Past Story

My name is Fanfan Zou, it is my pleasure to be interviewed by Jane and Catherine. I currently living in Paris, France, my hometown is Nanjing, Suzhou. I have been stay in France for 18 years. I am a writer who write for adolescents. Another identity of mine is a mother of two children, my whole family lives here. Beside writing, I also work on education and culture communication. Since I have a small cultural studio, I also like to hold some projects on education, for example I made lessons on aesthetic for children. Sometimes it can be offline, and we will go to the museum; and we offer online classes too, such as live TV shows. Put in simple words, it is a studio offers lessons on general and aesthetic education.

I came to France on 2002, so I don’t have much memory of SARS in 2003. Since I just settled down in France in 2003, due to the pressure from school and life, plus this is my first time leaving my home this far, I was having a hard time. At that time, the internet is not as developed as now, I can receive updated information from China, so I don’t remember much. But this also means SARS didn’t reach as far as COVID-19 does.

First Impression on COVID-19

(just notice of the early situation in China) This happened on January the twentieth, I didn’t react much before that. Since my parents are all in Nanjing, but I didn’t get nervous as I don’t view it as dangerous. But something I do remember well is that there are Christmas holiday and Chinese New Year happened on January, so some parties were hold around Pari’s Chinese town in early January. The atmosphere in the first half of January was still good, and the parties were taking places here and there, we always met in Chinese restaurants. We occasionally mentioned situation in China but no one take it as a big deal.

It is just in time, my husband came back from China of work on January 21th, and the situation was getting serious since then. We had planned for dates before head, but all of them got canceled around the time of Chinese New Year. Because people had knew COVID-19 is not that simple once Wuhan has locked down. Since my husband just came back from China, friends didn’t invite us for parties due to safety, and I was a bit disappointed. One of my friends texted me and asked for my forgiveness. I can understand for sure, and thought that hanging out with them after 14 days quarantine. But once 14 days is reached, the situation altered totally, and no one want to go out anymore. So the New Year was kind of non-special this year. The first case in France was find on the New Year Eve.

After that, things get more serious as all of us have seen.

Diary in Nanjing

I think cities in Jiangsu, including Nanjing, are all like the good students in school (in term of corona prevention), they are not showing off as they did something good, but they did all the things that they should do. My parents are all staying at home since they all retired; if they want to buy groceries, once one of them can go with a passing card.

Looking at the data, all the daily process and medical treatments are keeping up well. For example, the mortality rate is low. I saw some videos online about Nanjing, all the tourists’ sites, where normally crowded, have all changed. Nanjing has a tradition of water lantern show on Lantern Festival at Qinhuai River, if there is no COVID-19 outbreak, crowds will stuck on the roads. It is the first time I found the beauty of quietness in Nanjing.

Life During COVID-19 Outbreak

The impacts on my life mostly shown from preventing going to crowded places, especially cinema. Sometimes the air in gym is bad. Now I am more refer to ride bikes rather than going for public transportation. Some big impacts can be the cancel of travel plans. There are many holidays in France, for example the winter break in February, but people can’t go other places else. Except these, my life goes on normally. From my observation, it is Chinese are more caution than locals, French don’t even wear masks from what I seen. I gradually stop going to the gym since there will definitely some mental pressure since this thing happened in our country.

My kids’ school stops classes too. Traveling to Italy is a popular plan for many people in winter break. But policy of 14 days quarantine returning from certain countries came out too. But the government suddenly changed it to 7 days, since they already notice cases inside France, and ‘don’t care anymore’.

But some parents are sensitive about this and let their kids stay at house for later then return to school, in case their classmate didn’t take full quarantine. There are definitely dangers sending kids to school, since the policy don’t allow children wear masks and there is no standard hygiene supplies, plus only some teachers supervise students to wash their hands. So the parents can only accept the facts and send to school or keep kids at house.

Major Events in Paris

Until current moment, the entertainment venue are not profoundly affect yet, but of course, places like cinema and theater are having difficulties. The agricultural exhibition in France is an important event annually, but it only opened a few days this year. Places such as Louvre has closed for two days but reopen now.

French is interesting. The marathon was canceled but the participants who signed up still ran spontaneously. France has many strikes happened on December but the prime minister has forced the law of retirement revolution law to pass. So the public was keep protesting and ignoring the outbreak of corona. To sum up, all the rights such as protest are inalienable for them.

Warmth and Ignorance

Myself and my kids didn’t feel any discrimination. And I was joking that day, I first time feel all of the people are asking about my parents, they all want to know are they staying healthy or not. And I feel warm inside.

But there are still special cases in life. For example, I saw a notification posted in front of the gym and saying to wash hands frequently, don’t kiss to say hi. And I took a picture of that to post on Weibo, a French saw and asked me if I want to show to other Chinese. I know this kind of conversations are jokes, but some people may feel offensive since it is not others’ business.

But it can’t be denied that there are people with low quality. Corona is only an excuse for them to discriminate Chinese. In Europe or America as well, they always think it is Chinese took their jobs, so they use corona to express their feelings. But personally, I didn’t experience any discrimination. In particular, France is a highly accepted country, most people won’t do this.

A close Insight of Paris

People here don’t wear mask and the pharmacy run out of masks already. New policy has stated the masks can only be sold by doctor’s prescription. First, the doctor won’t write prescription for you since they didn’t think mask is necessary. Second, there is no stock anyways. The masks we use now are delivered from China, we bought many boxes of medical masks. Another approach is to buy at furniture stores, the FFP2 masks use during renovation to prevent dust. But they run out as soon as other Chinese find this way.

The World is Connected, There Is no Isolated Island

I can tell the differences between each country, I am sure France will adjust its methods later on. But within this one month and so, it is impossible to have no worry, I am afraid my kids get infected, or my parents need help in China, but for now I feel more unsafe in France. But my normal life is still continuing, people shouldn’t be too anxious and bought up all the things in stores. It is still dangerous for people to gather in a small store. I hope for the cease of pandemic as the spring is coming in France. My biggest thought is that human should reflect on themselves, we shouldn’t harm nature anymore. The world is all connected, there is no isolated island. We should always have the sense of empathy, disaster can happen anytime. I hope every country can care more about others. Going through the plights together, this is the biggest feeling I have recently.

I just hope for a quick end!

France--- or Europe in general, the epidemic is diminishing eventually, Fanfan Zou and her family is thinking about how to spend the time together. She writes articles and records the moments in life, they are small but pleasure. Hope for the bad days to end but happiness stays.

Interviewed By

Jane Catherine


Fanfan Zou

Interview Date



writer, aesthetic education