Is it time to reconsider the expat dream?

Published:  17 Apr at 6 PM
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Expats who’re living through the consequences of the worst threat to humans and the world economy for many decades may now have time to evaluate their choice of destination and even their careers as a whole.

Without a doubt, the 21st century’s two decades to date have witnessed a rush by would-be expatriates across the world to uproot from their home countries and settle in largely unknown destinations. Some were in it for the money, others for the adventure and older Westerners saw the move as a chance to explore the exotic whilst getting far more bangs for their retirement pension bucks.

For many, their strategies were successful, especially if they were highly skilled and highly regarded for their knowledge and experience. Huge salaries were paid by emerging economies eager for Western expertise, especially in the Gulf and other states where oil and gas supplies were there for the taking. Finance was another sector ripe for development, although some expat IFAs took that to mean developing their own bank accounts to the detriment of expat retirees’ pensions.

In four short months, one miniscule virus originating in a remote Chinese province and spreading like wildfire throughout almost all world countries has become the nemesis for both expats’ and locals’ hopes and dreams. Across the nations, governments were taken unawares by the rapid spread of the infection and were, in the main, poorly prepared as regards what to do and when and how to do it. Rather than concentrating on fighting the virus, political reputations became the focus of the leaders of the Western world, whilst citizens and their carers died in their tens of thousands due to a lack of equipment at ground level and expertise and common sense at a high level of government.

For expats who’ve reinvented themselves via their move to an unknown land, there’s very little stability left in their lives. Hard-won jobs are being lost, xenophobia is rearing its ugly head and economies are being threatened in a manner not seen since WWII. Total world losses to the pandemic are being estimated as far worse than during the 2008 financial crash, and many countries are threatening the removal of work visas and other expat-aimed permissions to stay.

The vast number of repatriation flights to date not only benefited visitors trapped in a holiday destination, but also expats who’ve realised their chosen home from home is no longer safe as their welcome has evaporated, thus giving them no choice but to pay extortionate prices for an evacuation. Where the world and its expatriate occupants go from now is anyone’s guess, with pessimism the order of the day.

One thing’s for sure, the expat lifestyle in general isn’t likely to carry on as before, as much of it has now been exposed as an ‘over the rainbow’ dream of everything from untold riches to a way for the underprivileged to take on overseas manual jobs in order to feed their families back home. Many educated expatriates now believe the reality of living, working or even retiring overseas is just a dream, with waking up and accepting life as it is the only option.
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