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The Expat and Covid-19

This year has been difficult to say the least. If you are an expat in China, you had to deal with this pandemic early on. As a spouse, you had to make the decision to stay or to leave the country, to leave your partner, to leave the dad of your children. As an employer, some of you had to let your wife and children go. Some were even forced to do so.

And suddenly every country was affected by Covid-19. Expatriates all over the world got separated. Some of us left our expat country not knowing that this is good-bye. Not knowing that it will probably take some time before we might be able to come back, but by then things will be different. They tell you how important it is to say good-bye. But this was not possible.

Some of us were in the process of becoming expats. They had it all lined up. They picked out houses, schools, a flight and then borders closed. You might be still waiting for a new departure date, but nothing seems to be sure right now. So you wait.

Most of us, especially us moms, were confronted with homeschooling. Maybe you had to teach your child in another language and with personal distancing and them not being allowed to play with other children, you had to be mom, teacher and friend to your child. So many roles.

Others had to let their grown up child go. Some of these teenagers never got the chance to properly celebrate their achievements at school. And saying good-bye to your son or daughter is never easy, but not knowing if they can actually study or live in the country they wanted to move to and not knowing when and if you might be able to visit them, is a whole other story.

Some of us are finally allowed to come back to our expat country. But spending two weeks in quarantine, never knowing what might happen, is an experience nobody can prepare you for.

And then there are the ones who were suddenly out of business for a while or who even lost their jobs, who had to go back or who never were able to go on this expat adventure at all. As an expat spouse you feel like a leaf in the wind, because you have no say at all and feeling powerless is always painful.

These are unprecedented times.

There are two things I like to point out:

First, while living in another country during the pandemic adds a whole other layer to the situation, I wonder if we as expats were actually better prepared for something like this.

Why? Because, as an expat we are used to dealing with unfamiliar situations on a daily basis. We have to adapt to a new culture, to a new lifestyle, to ever changing circumstances. Especially in the beginning, we have to rely only on our family, because they are literally the only ones we know. This is similar to social distancing, because we have no social life during the first weeks in a new country. We also know what it's like to be separated from our friends and family back home. We are used to connect over the internet. This is normal for us. Can we celebrate the fact that living in a foreign country has made us stronger and resilient? High-five!

Second, for some of us expats the restrictions are easing up a little bit, for others they get tighter. There is no end of the pandamic in sight yet, which means we have to continue to adapt, to find a new normal.

Having a professional coach by your side can be valuable, because we all are in unfamiliar territory and we have to make sense of it. The beauty is that no matter how hard a situation gets, to some degree we can decide how we want to deal with it. A coach will help you to navigate through this time, so when you look back in a few years you might realize that you not only made it through, but that you are proud of everything that came out of it.

COACHING because we all have to figure out how to move forward.


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