Covid-19 Making expats feel even further from home

 

pexels-photo-3764565.jpeg
Photo – Andrea Piacquadio

Covid-19 is throwing ‘life as we know it’ into something we have only ever seen in films. It’s pushed us to think long and hard about what we we really need, and shown us just how much we take for granted. (Not necessarily a bad thing?) We all have so many questions as we sit back and watch it unfold across the world, in ways we could have never imagined.

“We are in a war against an invisible killer,” UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock

For expats, living far from their loved ones, this pandemic hits us hard, not only because our every day life is fast becoming unrecognisable, but it’s hit us in the heart.

cotton bro
Photo – Cotton Bro

 

 

Whilst we are experts in conversing via video chat, and writing letters to friends in far off lands, nothing has prepared us for being helpless when seeing our loved ones in lockdown. We are only able to watch on as our older relatives need us now more than ever. Over 65’s in the UK are facing a long stretch of time at home in isolation, and when that includes your family members, and you’re so far away, it’s hard. A month ago, we could have jumped on a flight, and raced to the rescue if a parent or family member was sick, needed us, or worst case scenario passed away. Now we’re feeling shut off and we don’t know how long for.  Many expats are deeply concerned they may never get the chance to see some of their loved ones again. 

 

My sister is a doctor in an NHS hospital. Last year she had lymphoma and faced a long battle against cancer, she has only been well enough to return to work full time in the last month. I’m terrified she will get sick and die and I will be stuck here in Australia. My Dad is also very vulnerable, and she won’t be able to visit in case she passes it on as she will be exposed at work. I am so scared I may never see them again. I’ve always thought that I could get home in 24 hours and now that’s not the case and I hate it – Chloe Reynolds 

“I’m feeling far away”

Flights are being cancelled and border controls are being put in place to stop people spreading the virus. When you rely on flying to get you to your family, this can lead to feelings of claustrophobia and panic. We are too far away to pop a cooked meal on the doorstep of a loved one, or pop by and check on them (through the window), so who’s going to help them?

Lisa Fotios.jpeg
Photo- Lisa Fotios

 

 

At a time when Age UK have stressed the importance of thinking of “practical” ways to help the elderly, such as running errands on relatives’ behalf or picking up supplies such as food and medication, it is tougher than ever to be overseas. You feel helpless. The only thing we can do is make an extra effort to check in on our local community, reach out to the more vulnerable people in our streets, and hope that people are doing the same for our family too.

My parents were due here early May. We haven’t seen them for almost 4 years. Also my 70+ dad has heart condition & mum weak immunity. Yes that distance suddenly got a long way away.  It is what it is, but gosh what I would do to have a hug from my parents right now  – Sarah Trett

With so many frightening scenes around the world, we have mixed emotions about the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s important that we are brave, not just for ourselves but for our loved ones too.

It’s like a nightmare, my Dad passed away yesterday, Mum isn’t coping at all and my only brother is in isolation as my nephew is sick- Paulette Smith

At this stage it’s hard to ascertain how long we will be faced with restrictions or determine when will it be ‘safe’ for any of us to get home, so the most important thing for everyone to do, is keep in touch, keep strong and most importantly keep well.

I have a frail elderly mum who is 83 and living by herself in the UK. Luckily the church community are keeping an eye on her.
I have a brother who is a respiratory physician who will be very much at risk of catching the virus.
A sister in Belfast who helps run the breast cancer services whose services have basically stopped to push resources and manpower to care for those with the virus, leaving those who get sick with cancer and needing surgery having just to wait!
My other sister is a teacher … keeping teaching in her school for those children of key workers. Very anxious times. – Juliet Clayton

Despite all our worries, and our feelings of helplessness during this crisis, we must remember, this pandemic has the ability to segregate us all, but it absolutely has the capability to bring us all closer than we have ever been.

One Shot.jpeg
Photo – One Shot

 

Have courage, and be kind

 Liv xx

 

If you are an expat, we’d love to hear how you are keeping in touch with loved ones back home. What are you doing to assist or make life easier & brighter for friends & relatives who are far away?

The quotes in this article came from the women who are part of the UK Mums in Melbourne Facebook Group.  You can find them on Instagram too!

5 years in the making!

Friendship 5 years into expat life

It’s the final week of the school holidays, and I’m pondering while the kids are busy with their friends. Whilst they have fun and enjoy the diverse friendship groups they have built, I am sitting here wondering how on earth they have easily constructed a group of so many friends, each and every one so different in many ways! Children seem to have a talent for making friends regardless. I love that about them. I love the attitude they have toward making friends, and hearing the shouts of “sure, come and join in.” I can’t help but wish adults were more like that!

IMG_1002

I often chat to the children about how different our lives are to what we left behind in the UK, and it always comes back to ‘friendships’, mine and theirs. We all still pine for our ‘mates from home’ and talk fondly of the friends we miss.

Recently I’ve been aware of the importance of true friendship to them. I can see the kind things they do for their buddies, and I hear the way they talk about them too. I can see how, over time, they have carefully filtered their friendship group and worked really hard to nurture particular friendships, which I’m certain they’ve done without really thinking. How amazing is that!

I love that they have embraced every minute since we arrived down under, and although I never imagined that we’d still be here 5 years on, and I hadn’t considered we’d be building a future in Melbourne, watching us all with our newest friends, makes it seem so worthwhile.

Being 11,000 miles away from family and friends can make or break you!

The past 5 years have made us rely on each other for things that maybe in the UK we would have leant on someone else for. It has made us raise resilient kids who shine through new beginnings and it has taught us we’re pretty good at making new friends after all. For me, it has reinforced how much more important my friends, new and old, have become to me.

IMG_0548

It’s no secret I’ve always been precious about my friends back in the UK. It has been the constant pull for me to up sticks, go back and slot into that old life we had before. The friendship thing has been hard for me, and still is today.

This summer however, I feel like I have turned a corner. I have realised for the first time since arriving in Australia, I can stop searching. I don’t need to keep looking, because I am completely content with the awesome men and women I call my friends here, and I am determined to make an even bigger effort to let them know just how much I appreciate them.

For a long time, friendship here was about making sure I have someone to help me, and if they come with a sense of humour that’s a bonus! I was looking for the friends I could text: “can you grab him from school, I’m running late” or “are your kids free to play today” because let’s face it, I took my two away from their friends and I’m feeling the guilts.

IMG_9367

As an ‘expat’ the hunt for real friends can feel overwhelming.

Friend hunting is like online dating only with a much more critical audience, and ‘mums’ are far less willing to give you a go!!!

“Should I be funny Liv?”

“Should I be serious Liv?

“She’s English, she’ll be a laugh” ***Not always the case BTW

“I have to like her because her kids are in my kids class..”

“She has lots of friends so I should try and join her crew”

“Oh god I don’t even like Taylor Swift but now I am broke, and at her concert because I needed to fit in.”

**Yes, I’ve tried most things when it comes to sussing out potential friends.

I remember laughing with my girlfriends in the UK about getting a T-shirt printed with “I love gin, be my friend” and just wearing it to the park to see if I could ‘pull’ a mama.

IMG_1001

5 years down the road, I’ve got friends who I can really call friends.

Now I have friendships that have grown, and mean so much more than the random play date because our kids like each other, or the “can you grab her for me please” text messages.

I have made sure that I’m not swapping numbers with someone just because I feel pressured into it. I’m not hanging with people just because our kids get on.. although that helps massively. I am happy to have created a group of ‘gal pals’ who are amazing, not just because they offer me support, but because they are interesting, talented, kind, generous, creative, funny, smart, brave…. and will drink wine with me at the drop of a hat!

IMG_9334

The thing is, I was basing everything on first impressions and of course, “what do my kids get out of this?” However, friendships aren’t about first impressions, and my friendships shouldn’t be about what the kids can gain from it, it should be about me too!!

New friendships shouldn’t be one bit like online dating, they are about far more than that. They are built over time, between people who don’t feel any pressure at all to be anything other than themselves.

So, if you are new to a country, the new mum at a school gate, or you’re looking to switch it up a bit, my advice is, give it time.

No great thing is created suddenly, and all great achievements take time. You’ll know when you’ve found your crew! 

Liv xx

Have you found your crew? Tell me how you found the whole “friendship” thing!