Moving abroad during the pandemic: what can you expect?
In March of this year, I was in New Zealand. I had landed after three months in Australia, ready to commence my working holiday via. Coronavirus was, at the time, a purely European issue – and despite being from the UK, I naively assumed it would never reach the Southern Hemisphere.
Since we all lived through it, I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Over the next 48 hours I had three freelance contracts withdrawn due to the lack of travel, and five days after arriving in Auckland, I make the decision to fly home to the UK. It was not an easy decision, and it has been even harder to accept that I left the safest Coronavirus country in the world now that I have hindsight.
However, hindsight is exactly that. And at the time, I did what I thought was right with the information I had and the unknown of whether something could happen to my family, or myself, and we’d be unable to reach one another.
So, I came home. Back to the family home I’d grown up in, but hadn’t lived in for the last six years.
Anyone who has had to move back in with their parents after a period of independence, knows exactly how I felt. Now imagine, your whole world has turned upside down, you’re living in a country you didn’t think you’d be in for at least two years, you’re living at home with your parents, your work has declined by 75% and you’re in a national lockdown, unable to leave the house for more than one hour each day.
It was a lot.
I wanted to set the scene for you, because I know and understand why people would read the title of this article, and assume that what I did was selfish. However, I wanted to provide you with perspective to where I was at mentally, and physically, to make the decision of moving abroad during the most unpredictable international period since the second world war.
My mental health was on a steep decline, and I knew that as soon as I had a job and things began to steady out a little, I would move abroad again.
This time came in the middle of September. Europe had had a reasonably successful summer, and whilst there was the odd quarantine or restriction, there were plenty of travel corridors for those who wanted to go abroad.
I decided on Germany. I wanted to get into the EU before Brexit, I had friends in the country and, despite knowing zero German, I was excited at the prospect of exploring somewhere brand new to me.
So, I moved to Nürnberg, a city of half a million in Bavaria.
The first thing I should say is that I didn’t use a moving company. Having traveled for the last 3 years and being an expert at packing light, I simply took a large, hard-shell suitcase that contained everything I could want.
I was dropped at the airport by my parents, who were not allowed into the terminal. Only passengers were allowed to go into the building, so we said our goodbyes at the door.
Flying out of Heathrow, everything was automatic. I didn’t deal with any human beings until security, and before I handed my bag onto belt, I wiped it down thoroughly with an anti-bacterial wipe.
Everyone was wearing a mask in the airport, and things were operating fairly normally. In a couple of the smaller shops, there were restrictions as to how many could go inside, but nothing that we’re not used to nowadays. There were also seats taped off, to ensure people could social distance when sitting down.
I was already a bit of an expert at flying during the pandemic, having had to return home at the end of March from New Zealand – that journey took 48 hours and included 4 countries. So, I was prepared. The difference this time, was how prepared the airline was.
The flight was 3/4 full, and I had two empty seats next to me. Each seat came with cleaning wipes and hand gel to wipe the area around you – passengers were also reassured there had been a deep clean between flights.
The number one issue I encountered, was the fear of something happening upon arrival. For my first month, I had an Airbnb booked, and I was terrified that I would contract Coronavirus and not be able to leave my accommodation for weeks.
The second half is that for this very reason, it could be hard to find accommodation if you are admitting you’re getting straight off the plane. If you are booking accommodation it’s advisable to ensure you’ve let the host know where you’re coming from. With restrictions and quarantining regulations changing every day, you never know if your country could suddenly be put onto a high-risk list.
Before I left England, I emailed my host to ask if, in a worst-case scenario, they’d be happy for me to stay in the accommodation – they agreed.
The number one thing I recommend for anyone looking to move abroad at the moment, is to stay hyper-vigilant of not only the country’s guidelines, but also your city’s. In Germany, restrictions are determined by state and city rather than nationally – unless a crisis is declared.
I had made it my mission to keep on top of international restrictions with Germany, however, I didn’t realise the ‘wearing your mask to the table’ rule, which got me told off almost immediately (although the earlier the better).
Stay aware and on top of any changes, finding a local news source in English has been great for me to keep on top of any new restrictions.
As somebody who is fairly renowned for being last minute and spontaneous with her travels, ‘being prepared’ doesn’t come naturally to me. However, it’s never been more important to prepare yourself for any and every eventuality.
Whilst I’m hugely relieved to be abroad, I do know that this has come at the cost of potentially being in a solo-lockdown over the winter, and the chances of seeing my family at Christmas are decreasing by the day. These are things you should also think about if you’re toying with the decision.
Overall, I’d say that travel – at the time of writing – should be limited to necessity, rather than for vacation. If you’re getting on a plane, you should be doing it for a long-term goal rather than a temporary jolly with your friends, however hard that sacrifice may feel. But the main thing is to be safe and responsible, and fully aware of how many people every single decision could potentially impact.