The Impact of Covid-19 on Expat Life

ExpatRoute is here to help you understand how Covid-19 has impacted the lives of expats across the world, and how the future of life overseas may have been changed forever.

The impact of Covid-19 on expat life has led to unprecedented changes for many of us.

From our daily routines to work, retirement and how we keep in touch with friends and family, the pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives during the last 12 months as the world has grappled with controlling the spread of the virus.

For expats enjoying life abroad, there has been plenty of cause for concern. Many will have been worried about the health of any older relatives or parents living in the UK and returning to see them with borders closing or quarantine measures in place. It’s only now with vaccine programmes rolling out successfully that it may feel safer for more vulnerable loved ones. 

At the same time, expat access to healthcare and well-being has been more challenging while living overseas, particularly when other countries have been using their medical resources to battle new variants of Covid-19. Let’s look a little closer at how expats have been impacted by the pandemic.

Mental and physical well-being

The last year of lockdown restrictions has put pressure on the mental health and well-being of many of us, and expats are no exception.

Previous stats from Aetna International showed how moving overseas can put a strain on your mental health. Expats are 2.5 times more likely to experience mental health challenges than those living in their home country.

But the pandemic has exacerbated this trend, having a huge impact on the expat community. Almost two-thirds agree that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, despite only 38.8% declaring they have a mental health condition. This shows how deeply the effects of Covid-19 have been felt.

At the same time, a third of expats who said they experience mental illness have dealt with greater challenges since the start of the pandemic.

Despite this, many expats have taken steps to improve their health and maintain good practice around prioritising their well-being.

  • 60% admitted to eating more healthily.
  • 27% said they are drinking less alcohol.
  • 43% said they are exercising more.

Expats living in Thailand are thought to have been most impacted with half of those living there reporting mental health challenges resulting from the pandemic.

This is despite the country having comparatively low Covid-19 death rates. According to the Aetna report, this could be due to concerns regarding job security as the Thai economy is very reliant on tourism, an industry severely affected by travel restrictions brought on by Covid-19 lockdowns.

The effects of Covid on expats infographic
The effects of Covid-19 on expat life

Moving

Pre-pandemic, many expats relished the opportunities created by moving to start a new life abroad.

However, the restrictions of the last year have led to some re-evaluating their priorities and what they actually want from their future, particularly as popular expat destinations, such as Italy or Spain, are seeing a third wave of the virus.

For a third of expats, many are missing home, family and friends as a result of the pandemic.

More than half of expats questioned would prefer to be living in their home country rather than their current location.

Almost two-thirds are now rethinking their expat status with 43.9% saying their main reason for doing so is to get better access to health and medical care.

Further findings from insurer, Canada Life says Covid-19 is also putting off would-be expats from moving. A third are having second thoughts about heading overseas due to the pandemic.

Work

Since the arrival of Covid-19, the world of work has been hugely affected. For those who have retained their jobs, working from home has been adopted while many UK workers within the hospitality sector have either been furloughed or lost their jobs.

The expat community has been no less impacted by the changes wrought by the pandemic. Almost half have begun working from home while an additional 15.5% can no longer work. Just over a quarter have continued to head to work as normal.

The Aetna research shows that there are regional differences, too. US expats are the most likely to be continuing to go to work as normal, while those in Singapore or the United Arab Emirates are the least likely to.

Finances

As many expats look to reconsider what really matters in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, many core financial values have changed with almost two-thirds of expats saying their future plans have been altered.

A study conducted by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of Allianz Care, the international health brand of Allianz Partners, found that of the 52% that had changed their priorities, and more than half described health and well-being as being more important to them now than before.

It’s also had a direct impact on insurance policies as many expats look to extend their protection following Covid-19.

Aetna International’s findings showed how a quarter of expats have opted for new health insurance plans to help keep their families safer. More than a third have added family members to current insurance plans as a result of the pandemic.

Covid-19 has also prompted a change in perspectives about property from many expats.

Knight Frank’s latest data has shown how 64% of expats are now considering whether they should buy a property in their home country, a direct result of the pandemic.

The majority are looking to purchase a so-called “50/50 home”. This is a property which could offer them a permanent base, and somewhere they could consider returning to on a permanent basis long-term. Many aren’t viewing this as a long-term investment plan but as a way to provide them with more options in the future as the pandemic plays out.

The motivation for this change in expat behaviour is driven by a range of factors including being closer to friends and family, seeking out new work opportunities, accessing more effective healthcare and education options for their children.

Conclusion

Many of us have seen huge upheaval in our lives over the past year and we’ve all had to adapt to the ‘new normal’. Although lockdown and social distancing restrictions have been in place, we’re still waiting to see what this might ultimately look like.

Like many of us, the expat community has been hugely impacted by Covid-19. Many originally moved abroad for financial gain, a greater quality of life, personal development or to achieve a better balance of work and life.

Now those ambitions can be achieved in the UK, particularly as new ways of remote working have meant we’re no longer tied to certain cities or locations. The appeal for better healthcare at home as well as being closer to friends and family has also left many would-be expats re-evaluating their priorities as vaccine programmes continue at pace. What the world will look like in 12 months’ time still remains to be seen.

With so much change brought on by Covid-19, expats are faced with more uncertainty about their futures than ever before as their priorities shift and change.

ExpatRoute is on hand to help provide you with support and guidance to help you make the most of any opportunities if you choose to change your plans. Contact a financial adviser today for more information.

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