Arrivals: Expats Reflect on Being Far From Home During Lockdown

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.

For many of us living far from where we’re from, the choice to move overseas was predicated upon certain assumptions—primary among them, the possibility of getting home if we needed to. Be it economic privilege, technological privilege, or perhaps a naive, blind faith in the continued global order, we believed home was never out of reach, regardless of how far away we would find ourselves.

The pandemic upended every expectation we had invested in the standard operation of society. Some of this was, arguably, for the best. Emissions fell by 6.4%. Shortages (made ham-handedly literal earlier this year by the image of the Ever Given splayed diagonally across the Suez Canal) forced people to think critically about supply chains, which led to some considering more sustainable alternatives to their usual purchases. The idea that governments that had seemed self-perpetuating and sclerotic suddenly pivoted on a dime into lockdowns and assistance packages gave people a sense that change is, in fact, possible, for the first time in decades. We began to dream of what a post-COVID world might look like, with 15-minute cities and the end of the commute.

But for expats, with the only surety about the future being that it wouldn’t include a visit home, the pandemic presented an unwelcome reckoning with the physical realities of distance. For our first episode of Arrivals, a podcast exploring the experience of living abroad, I went to social media to ask expats based in Ireland and England how the pandemic has shifted their daily lives and wider perspectives over the last fifteen months.

Listen here, and join the conversation in the comments below.

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