A New Life in the Sun: Expats discuss why they left the UK
At the beginning of 2020, the world seemed like an increasingly small place thanks to an ever-expanding network of connectivity, with transport links becoming more frequent and more affordable. For many expats, living abroad came with the comfort of knowing home was just a plane journey away.
Yet, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everything changed. While Britons tried to keep up with ever-changing restrictions here at home, for those living overseas, the distance from home suddenly became much more apparent.
Alexandra Allason is a British expat who moved to Austria’s capital city Vienna three years ago to live with her partner, yet says the pandemic has made her overseas adventure feel “difficult” and “isolated.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk, she said she feels “left in the dark” by the Government and reports an increasing feeling of “anxiety” over the uncertainty of when she can safely return home to see her loved ones and tackle a rapidly growing pile of mail at her London flat.
According to Ms Allason, she has never been contacted by the UK Government for support or advice, despite still holding British citizenship.
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“We were pretty in the dark all through last year, with Brexit, with everything,” she said.
“We’ve been in the dark the whole time. Even at home, you guys are in the dark, though.
“I definitely haven’t been contacted by the Government, not as far as I know.”
Though Ms Allason was used to heading home on a regular basis to visit friends and family and check on the property she owns in London, these days a visit home is plagued with uncertainty.
This uncertainty, she says, makes being away from home much “harder”.
“I’m pregnant and I am engaged and I haven’t been able to see one of my closest friends. I haven’t seen any family. It is strange,” she said.
“I have friends here obviously but it is not my core group.
“My best friend’s waters just broke today and I haven’t seen her. I haven’t seen her pregnant – this is just crazy.”
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She continued: “The whole speaking over the phone is just not the same. You do miss home a lot more. You feel a bit isolated for sure.
“I love to come back. There are so many things, so many friends are having babies and going through changes and I haven’t been able to like be part of that.”
Along with missing loved ones, there are also more practical tasks which the travel ban has made increasingly difficult.
“I have still got my flat there. I need to check it out,” she pointed out.
“I have got a stack of mail. I have got so much mail and my tax return there – I haven’t been able to get my stuff because I had it forwarded on to another address but that address my mum hasn’t been able to get there for the year.
“It is actually making me a bit anxious thinking about it all. I don’t know how many things I have missed.
“I just know that pile of mail is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I don’t even want to think about it.”
Though the ongoing lockdowns spreading across Europe are a key destroyer of the previously connected world we lived in, Brexit has also brought with it a number of key changes for British travellers.
Most notably for expats, the loss of the freedom of movement UK residents once had within the EU.
Now the UK has left the EU, Britons hoping to move to an EU country must have a valid visa.
Though, as an EU resident of three years, Ms Allason has a right to stay in Austria, Brexit has added yet another layer uncertainty.
“I don’t know what impact that will have,” she said.
“I literally have just tried to block it out because I think there isn’t really a concrete plan.”
She continued: “I would love for my kids to go to school in England but it is so expensive and also it’s like will it happen?
“I don’t know; you just can’t plan anything anymore. We were such planners before right and.. now we have all learned to back away and live a little bit vicariously.”
Though there is no clear path ahead for a way out of the pandemic, or for travel to return to its former glory, Ms Allason already has her mind a special reunion.
“I don’t like communicating with my friends and family by phone,” she said.
“There is something different about being able to sit down and have a pint and talk. To actually physically hug.”
She added: “Are we ever going to be able to do that? It is so weird.”
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