Expat Essentials

Lives locked down: Seven expats in Portugal share personal stories from the pandemic

• ROUWEN, GERMANY

As a father of a young daughter, this situation is of course scary, but it is also a good example of how we can adapt and deal when something of this proportion happens. Things could certainly be worse, and I am grateful to be in Portugal right now. I have been living here for more than six years and what I appreciate is that the majority of the population seem to follow the government’s advice.

Things are being handled quite well; we get support from the state, and regular communication from the authorities. People are constantly updated about the situation, and know where to get help. Of course you can still see certain groups of people, mostly younger people around the ages of 15-to-25 who don’t seem to be taking it seriously, and this could perhaps be because that particular generation has yet to learn about life struggles.

We have so much freedom in today’s world, even when we are “locked up” at home every day. We have the internet and access to various social media tools that allow us to keep in touch with people from around the globe. And yet many act like their freedom is lacking.

In Germany, where I spent more than half of my life, it seems that many are not keen on following the quarantine rules. A lot of people just want to go out, mingle and party, especially the younger generations who are constantly complaining about being locked up at home. But imagine a worse case scenario, imagine if there was a world war going on. Staying home is all we are being asked to do, and it’s the least we can do to stop the spread.

During these times, it is important to reflect and think about others, specifically those who are struggling. There are people with no roof over their heads, no food, no clothes, no internet. We have to learn to appreciate the things we do have, and be grateful for our privilege. As for myself, I try to do as much as I can with my daughter during this time, even if it means staying cooped up inside.

It is important to stay organized, that’s the only way to get through it, especially when I am working full time from home. There are days where things go smoothly, and days that are not so good. But we have to pull ourselves together and hope that everything will be over soon, even if it still takes a few months.

It’s okay to allow ourselves to be happy, to be angry, to be sad. We are human beings and we have feelings and are allowed to feel what we feel. But at the end of the day I still try to practice gratitude, and to appreciate being here in Portugal with my daughter and my partner. We’ll continue on with our lives and try to make the best of it during this period.

MIRA, POLAND

As weird as it may sound, I don’t feel as despondent by the pandemic as I could have been. Why is it so, you may ask? After all, the flights I had purchased several months ago to go back home happened to coincide with the appearance and sudden growth of infected cases, which led Poland to close its borders. As a result, I could not and will not see my parents for who knows how many months to come.

Let’s add to that the oppressive feeling that if I step outside of my studio apartment, I may catch the virus. Not to mention that all my medical appointments had to be cancelled and are unlikely to be rescheduled soon. I am unable to engage in my hobbies, mainly street photography, and even going grocery shopping has become a challenge.

This all leads me to think about the general situation in Portugal, as I believe there are many people in a far worse situation than mine. As a country that depends greatly on tourism, there will be dire consequences and the tourism industry will suffer undoubtedly. The rate of unemployment will certainly grow as hotels, restaurants, and the likes close down. The obligatory isolation will affect everyone who works in the service industry. The isolation can also have adverse psychological effects on many, and it’s worrying.

Yet, I’m trying to be positive in all this. My employer provides services to millions of Internet-users (including coronavirus-related help), and I am grateful to be able to contribute. Working from home, I devote the time I’d normally spend commuting on self-development and learning. Going outside? Only to throw the trash. I manage to buy groceries online to limit the interactions with people.

My family? I have regular video calls with them, just as we have been doing since I moved to Portugal. So how come I don’t feel as disheartened by the situation? It’s because I managed to stay out of the virus’s way, as have my family and friends. We are following the instructions to
stay home as much as possible so as to avoid contamination and to flatten the curve. And when it’s finally over and I am able to see my friends and family again, I will remember to appreciate those moments with them even more.

NABELA, INDONESIA

Living in Portugal during the quarantine was kind of hard for me in the first week. All I did was wake up, have breakfast, watch TV, and sleep. I could not manage my time well at home.

It made me realise that I needed to learn some time-management skills. During Week 2 of the quarantine, I organised my whole week; what I wanted to do with my time; what assignments I needed to finish, even what meals I should prepare every day. My week started to get “busier” because I realized that this is not a holiday, and that I still have many things to do. During these weeks, I kept in constant contact with my family and friends.

Unfortunately, the situation in my home country is not going very well, and is much worse than I expected. I keep track of what’s happening both in Portugal and Indonesia through the news, social media, and also directly from family and friends.

Last week, I lost one professor and two close friends in Indonesia because of the coronavirus. One of them was a young man in his 20s without any health issues. I wish I could do more for the people I love back home, but I can’t travel due to the closing borders of the European Union. I am trying to get some perspective and trying to find the silver lining to the Covid cloud.

I am focusing on using my time efficiently, and I am now working on my long-postponed projects, taking good care of my health, and I even started working out again.

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