Coronavirus : Through the eyes of expats in Europe

Published 2020-03-17 15:03

Italians and foreign citizens living in Italy have been on lockdown since the 9th of March. France has also been under lockdown since the 16th of March and the situation in the UK is increasingly worrying. Estelle and Hermione, respectively in Rome and in Milan, give us an insight of life in Italy during this outbreak. British expat Ericka in France and French expat Caroline in London tells us a little about the situation in their host countries.


Hermione, French expat living in Milan

Hermione has been living in Milan for just over two years right now. She works as sales developer for a luxury cruise company in Italy and feels “a little caged by the restrictions”. “I am a very active person and I love the vibrant and dynamic city life and it is a little difficult right now. I also work in tourism too, one of the first industries to be affected by the outbreak.”

She lives alone in Milan, and her family are back home in France or settled in other countries. “My family is mainly in France although I do have a brother in Brussels and a sister in Barcelona. There are eight of us in total! I am constantly in touch with my loved ones abroad- much more than usual. We exchange texts daily. At the beginning, it was mainly updates on the situation but with the announcement of the lockdown in France on Saturday, I am being asked about advice because we’ve been quarantined since the 9th of March.” Although Hermione admits it is very hard not to be with her loved ones during this “nightmare”, they do try to keep their spirits up and are already planning a big get together when all of this is behind us!

Estelle, French expat living in Rome

Estelle lives in Rome and has been in Italy for six years now. She works as an SEO off-site specialist in a digital marketing agency and is very closely following the evolution of the epidemic in Italy as well as back home in France.  “This pandemic is particular because like a lot of people, I have never lived such a thing and it is very hard to put words on how I feel. It is frightening and unsettling, although there have not been as many cases in Rome as there have been in northern Italy. But I am aware that the lockdown is necessary and I follow the instructions scrupulously like all Italians.”

Since the beginning of the lockdown, Estelle has been working from home. “I’m lucky to be able to do so as many others are risking their positions and their salaries during these times.” How does one keep busy during these times? “Apart from working from home, I keep in touch with as many people as possible, my boyfriend who does not live in the same city, my family back in France and my friends by message, calls, Skype etc… I am also very lucky to have a very cool housemate and we try to take care of each other, we talk and eat together. It is hard not to be able to go out when I want to and walk around as much as I usually do but I try to remain calm, positive and wait for the end of the end of these difficult times. As we always say in Italy “Andra tutto bene” (Everything will be fine!).


Masae, a Japanese expat living in Haute-Savoie

Masae has been living in France since last September with her French husband and her two sons. The human resource consultant turned stay-at-home mom had previously lived in London. 

The Japanese expat is particularly worried about the situation back home. “I am worried and it is difficult being far from my loved ones back in Japan in these difficult times. I do think that the Japanese people do have the discipline to respect measures and get by, however”. She is constantly in touch with her family and friends living in France by calls, texts and video chats and is grateful no one she knows has been infected.

How is she getting by in France? Although worried, Masae is relieved that wearing masks is becoming a habit in France. “Back home, the use of masks is common whenever we get sick to avoid contaminating others. And otherwise, the lockdown has now started, we need a laisser-passer to go grocery shopping or to the pharmacy.” She remains hopeful, however, that everything should be over soon now that the necessary measures have been taken to avoid further spread of the disease.

Ericka, a British expat living in Castelnau-le-Lez

Ericka is an English teacher who has lived in France for over 20 years. Although neither herself, nor anyone she knows have been infected so far, Ericka’s worries about her mother who is 78 and back living in England. She also has a sister and a niece, as well as cousins, friends and godsons back home. “I am particularly concerned about those who will or are already having their income affected like my sister who is a host family for foreign students travelling to our home village to learn English. Everyone who had booked has now cancelled. It is worrying!” 

Back in France, she remains hopeful and is relieved that her family and friends back home are looking after each other. In France, she keeps busy with her family and her in-laws.

United Kingdom

Caroline, a French expat living in London

Caroline has been living in London for the past four years. The young freelancer works from home and for now, has been going out as usual. 

“The UK is much more ''relaxed'' than other European countries at the moment, at least outwardly. The subway and the pubs seem to be busy as usual. Except for the lack of toilet paper in the shops, and people with face masks popping up here and there, I haven't noticed much panic. That said, I did go to the theatre (End Game at the Old Vic) on Tuesday, and the woman sitting next to me jumped when I coughed once. People are slightly nervous, but life continues. I did just go to the supermarket this morning, and it was intense. I saw a few people buying 10 bottles of milk at once, cans etc. Because the shop was busy, people were a bit on edge.”

How does Caroline feel about the situation back home? “I trust the French authorities to make the right decisions. Like in the UK, I do fear that the virus is going to put a lot of pressure on the healthcare system. I hope this crisis won't last too long, and that health staff will be rewarded afterward.” She is regularly in touch with her sister who lives in France. “We’re keeping in touch via Whatsapp. It's not ideal to be away from family, but at least we're not contaminating each other.” She is worried, however, about the aftermath of this crisis. “Three of my friends back in France are in technical unemployment, and they don't for how long.”