Is it me, or are all the expats leaving? Coronavirus and the chaos it has caused is the major hardship facing expats right now. And it’s also the main reason for repatriation. Everyone seems to be leaving, which is ironic, as we shouldn’t really be moving.
The moving sale epidemic
For anyone new to this blog, I’m a British expat living in Santiago de Chile. Here there has been a wave of foreigners leaving for good. Every minute I seem to get a Whatsapp ping on my phone – Stacey is having a moving sale, Mike has a flight question or Maggie has query about pet passports. I made up the names, but you get my drift.
I bet you’re getting the same pings on your phone too. I fear this repatriation boom may be a global trend.
The repatriation wave
Sure, expats come and go in waves. Parents move in line with school term dates, some choose relocate in the warmer summer months, others are tied to the financial or embassy calendar and some of us have no choice at all. This time, though, it feels different.
Across the globe expat friends are being recalled back to their company headquarters due to the economic fallout of COVID-19. Among expats here, the repatriation of employees is as popular as the supermarket’s 40% wine sale.
Some friends are planning their own move home, scared of the social consequences of the pandemic. Many here in Chile fear a return to the violence of the most recent uprising. Others just want to be home right now, to be closer to elderly or sick relatives.
No ticket out
Some are scrambling to get out. Jobless Venezuelans in Chile have set up a makeshift camp by their embassy, desperate to return to their birth country. I’ve read harrowing reports of Peruvian & Bolivian migrant families doing their utmost to get back to their home country.
Around the world, jobless, frustrated and lonely people are seeking to reunite with their families. So far, it’s only the most fortunate who can make that journey home.
Of course not all the foreigners are leaving. Recently I chatted to a friend with a Chilean spouse and she felt she had to stay. But she was getting all the passports in order, just in case. She’s got a plan B backup taking shape. Like me, they love Chile. Chile is their home, and they hope to stay.
My home is abroad
I’m not going home, either. As soon as it’s feasible, I’ll be moving with my family to Quito, Ecuador. Right now, at least, I don’t feel like returning to the UK for all sorts of reasons. I feel happy abroad. And hey, this blog depends on it!
The pandemic may well result in the biggest shift in demographics yet, but as human beings our success ultimately lies in working together in a globalised society. In my case at least, I don’t plan to return ‘home’ for some time yet. My home is abroad.