The Expat Life Is Struggling to Survive Covid-19
Health fears and travel restrictions cause more globe-hopping workers to head home.
Katrina Nicholas, Emily Cadman
The Bloomberg Businessweek article, “The Expat Life Is Struggling to Survive Covid-19," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Peter L. O'Brien on the rise of Australian expats from around the world returning home since the pandemic outbreak. The article is excerpted below.
Stuck in an apartment with a toddler and a newborn wasn't Australian Nikki Martin's dream of the exotic expat life. Like many in Singapore in late January, she was watching anxiously as daily coronavirus case numbers climbed. After seven years working in the city-state, and in the United Arab Emirates before that, there was a small window to leave, and she took it. “I packed a few suitcases, and that was it," says the 37-year-old marketing executive. “Within 36 hours we were on a plane."
Martin is one of a growing number of expats across Asia and beyond pulling up stakes and returning home. All too quickly, the coronavirus has taken the sheen off many elements of expat life. Gone are the weekend trips to Bali and carefree getaways to Phuket. Grandparents and parents suddenly seem very far away, and the fear of being confined in a country where the local language may be foreign and governments more prepared to help their own citizens than globe-hopping contract workers is real.
Safety is coming through in a lot of conversations that Peter O'Brien, Asia-Pacific managing director at Russell Reynolds Associates, is having. The Sydney-based headhunter says inquiries have been rising over the past month from Australians considering returning from Hong Kong, the U.K., and the U.S. “There's more anxiousness and more nervousness in the voices of those reaching out to us than I've experienced before," he says. “The whole issue is around safety. Where people see stability is where they want to be based."
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