At this point, we are all at least ankle-deep in our self quarantined, pandemic lifestyle. I, like most everyone, have experienced difficulties and disappointments.
For one, travel that we have been planning and looking forward to has been disrupted. First, a mom’s trip to see some very good friends that I have not seen in nearly 9 months came to a halt less than 24 hours before leaving, and then, our upcoming family spring vacation, which I have actually been looking forward to for many years as it was to a country that I have wanted to visit for some time, was decidedly canceled as that country’s borders are closed. At the moment, we also have some long-awaited trips to 3 other countries that are all in danger of being canceled. These are disappointing times.
Another issue that we are all experiencing is the fear of what the economic picture will look like when the pandemic dust has settled. Not one of us is immune to this. How will we be able to support our existing lifestyles, will we be able to pay bills, what jobs and businesses will still exist and how will their lack of existence affect all of us, will we be able to sell and acquire properties and assets, will we be able to send our kids to school or retire? These questions weigh heavily on all of us.
Another difficulty that many are experiencing, including myself, is this strange scarcity of resources. There are no times available for grocery delivery meaning that you have to trek to a store and risk virus spread. And yet, when you go to the store, you can’t find the things that you need. It is one more frustration in an already frustrating time.
There is social isolation. The lack of communication and connection with friends at a time when you need connection and support the most is indeed trying. It is hard for adults and children alike.
Finally, there is the fear of being sick and needing medical care. You worry about yourself, your family and your friends. And there is no definitive, trustworthy source from which you can find reassurance or answers as information varies greatly and changes daily.
Just like all of you, I have faced these difficulties. But, there are a few added difficulties for Expats that many of you may not realize. First off, some times that travel that is getting canceled is not just a desired and planned trip that you are disappointed about, but a lifeline to those you care about and rarely get to see. It may also be a source of getting products and supplies that you can’t find in the country that you are currently living in. Finally, for us, it’s also a chance to do some medical visits that are outside of the medical services that we utilize in the country we live in. And now, we have no way of knowing when we might be able to make that trip.
Second, while you may find it difficult to quarantine away from family, for an Expat, we now no longer have a choice. If your family member gets sick and needs care or hospitalization, you can most likely visit them (even if it has to be in a protected environment); we cannot. If our family becomes ill, we have to watch that play out from a large distance and we can be of no assistance as we are no longer allowed to travel. We have to worry about not being there and how we will arrange for the care of a loved one.
Thirdly, there can be added fear and frustration when you do not wholly understand the language of the country that you live in. Emergency press briefings and warnings are issued in a foreign language, signage informing patrons of safety procedures are in a foreign language, neighborhood chats for assistance and isolation relief are in a foreign language and you have to rely on translator services which are not always accurate or up to the task. This leads to further feelings of isolation and fear.
Finally, you are isolated from country camaraderie. What is that? You know the sentiments that express the belief that all the citizens of a country can overcome a problem together because you are living it together and together you are strong? That’s country camaraderie. As an Expat, you are not a part of the camaraderie of the country you live in, because you are an outsider there and won’t stay for long. You are also not a part of the camaraderie of your native country because you aren’t there. I can’t tell you how many posts I saw in the past week claiming “we are the greatest country and we will get through this together” or “our great nation has endured things before and we will survive this because we can do this together.” As an Expat who isn’t present, that kind of support just doesn’t include you. In fact, it feels like it excludes you; like you don’t deserve support because you are not currently a part of that nation. It’s a little frustrating and sad to see because, in reality, this is a world problem, not a nation or community-specific problem and for Expats, that point is especially clear.
So, here we are-each with our own set of challenges and each with a similar set of challenges. I, by no means, am trying to say that it is worse for Expats in this situation. I’m simply trying to share my perspective and maybe share with everyone some things that you otherwise wouldn’t think of as we all face this reality together. Safety and health to everyone!