Life as an Expat During Coronavirus: Becky, Sydney
Becky, hailing from Wales, is a 27-year-old Public Relations Executive currently residing in Sydney, Australia. Having left life in London two years ago, Becky had no plans of returning to the UK and looked to settle Down Under for the foreseeable future. However, has COVID-19 changed this at all?
Expatriate Group were lucky enough to speak to Becky in early September and she was happy to share her story of living as an expat in Sydney during a global pandemic.
When did you first hear about COVID-19 and how did it make you feel?
I first heard about COVID-19 around January or February time. I had heard it wasn’t really something to worry about outside of China and it was unlikely to spread too far. I was booking flights back to the UK in mid-February for a funeral (unrelated to COVID) and was cautious not to travel through Hong Kong or Singapore – there were signs at the airport to declare whether you had travelled through mainland China. I felt comfortable enough flying but was extra cautious with washing my hands and sanitising when appropriate. Once I got back to Australia after a week in the UK, it became clear it was spreading very quickly and was no longer contained to China.
What coronavirus restrictions were put in place in Australia?
Australia has a level 4 travel ban in place currently. This means only Australian citizens are allowed to enter the country. No citizens/permanent residents aren’t allowed to leave (unless under very specific circumstances and has to be approved by the government). My visa is a Temporary Skill Shortage Visa, so I’m allowed to leave, but not allowed back in. For example, if the funeral I attended were to take place now I could leave due to my visa type, but I would not be able to re-enter Australia until the travel ban was lifted.
Did you face any personal struggles or challenges throughout any restriction, lockdown, or quarantine period?
Aside from the anxiety everyone has felt generally, it’s very difficult knowing that my family wouldn’t be allowed to enter Australia if there was an emergency. Or if I had to go home for an emergency, I would have to give up my flat, job, and boyfriend in order to do so. Fingers crossed my family and I are safe and well, but it doesn’t feel as easy as jumping on a flight home if needed.
I’ve also had to cancel a trip to Portugal for my Dad’s 60th and I have no idea when I’ll see my family again. I moved to Australia for a better lifestyle with at least one annual trip to see my parents planned; I didn’t sign up to not see them for years (potentially). It feels that restrictions have no consideration for expats who have family living overseas.
How did you manage to keep in touch with family and friends during this time?
I have always kept in touch with my family via WhatsApp and phone calls, but I have definitely spent more time on FaceTime to family and friends recently. We also started doing Zoom quizzes with the wider family member which we had never done before.
Has experiencing a pandemic as an expat in Australia made you consider returning to the UK?
Yes, the uncertainty of not knowing when you can see your family again is very difficult. However, my lifestyle is better in Australia generally so trying to stick it out. I will see how it goes, but if facing years of an international travel ban I’ll probably go home to the UK.
Has the pandemic taught you anything or have your views and outlooks changed as a result?
COVID-19 has made me appreciate global travel and how, before, it was easy to get to where you needed to be in very little notice. Obviously, the world is in a different place right now.
How is Australia being affected by coronavirus now?
Aside from the travel restrictions, including visiting other Australian states, life is relatively normal aside from social distancing, restrictions in public places and within the home etc. I feel like we have a comparatively routine existence with cases of COVID-19 in Sydney remaining low.
However, I wish politicians would stop talking about opening and closing borders from a ‘holiday’ point of view. ‘No summer holiday this year sorry guys’, when actually many people just want to see their families.