The coronavirus outbreak has made it a trying time for everyone. I’ve been hearing about all kinds of problems from various groups of individuals, those who can’t work from home, those from countries where the healthcare system isn’t as accessible, from people in crowded places who are worried for the safety of others. The list goes on. And of course, no one likes it that they can’t see other people! Humans are social creatures after all! I’m betting that people won’t be craving for some Netflix time at home for a while now…
So given the current crisis, I understand my privilege as someone who is young, healthy, and has the option to work from home. However, I do have my own, smaller problems right now. And I know other expats are experiencing these problems as well. I hope that through this post, other expats will know that they are not alone, and if any of you know an expat in your country, they’re probably experiencing at least some of these things I’m mentioning here.
Here are 3 things that expats like me may be experiencing right now:
#1 We’re away from our families.
You’re probably thinking, “duhhh! What did you expect?” But here’s the thing. When everything is normal, being away from your family is fine and manageable even when it sucks a little bit. Now imagine if you have grandparents in other country, but you live somewhere else. They might get the virus, they might get really sick, and oh— you can’t even go see them! And if a loved one passes, no proper funeral for them or for your family. As an expat, you could be sitting thousands of miles away playing out these scenarios feeling totally helpless because thinking about it nonstop until you can’t sleep at night isn’t a solution. Being away from your family in case of sickness and death is always a problem for expats, but right now, this problem is hugely magnified.
#2 Unfamiliarity with societal protocol.
If you’re living in your own country— congratulations! You have no idea how helpful that is. I moved to the Netherlands a few months ago. My health insurance is barely in place. On top of that, I’m still trying to figure out which news sources are the best to get the latest information. I’m lucky that I speak Dutch, but many expats don’t. They aren’t getting the most current and full information for where they live.
I’m also missing out on the smaller things. A few days ago at 8pm, everyone on my street came out to their windows and balconies and began cheering and clapping. I had no idea this was happening. I am largely locked out of Dutch society, and this was painfully obvious to me when I saw the Dutch bonding around me while I was reminded that I was in my apartment dealing with the current circumstances alone. Which brings me to my final point…
#3 Greater degree of isolation.
Especially in the Netherlands, expats often say how hard it is to make Dutch friends. So right now, many of us are friends with other expats who are probably too overwhelmed right now. If that. Many expats don’t have a lot of friends period. And because we’ve been away, we might have lost strong connections with our friends from our home countries. Also, there’s time difference, and right now, the situation varies a bit by country. In times like these, you can really feel extremely isolated when you are physically confined to your home. If I didn’t have my work colleagues to talk to, I would be completely 100% alone the entire first half of the day. This is not a pleasant feeling.
So folks, if you know an expat, give them a call and ask them how they’re doing. If you are an expat, hang in there! I feel you and you’re not alone.