Covid: SOS, expat in distress


Sale time for French expats. Shipwrecked abroad, lost in the upheaval of a global epidemic, many of them feel homesick. From the absence of a favorite cheese to the regret of no longer having conversations other than through interposed screens, the health crisis has not spared our compatriots deprived of national soil. Far from us and everything, in perdition in an ocean of confinements, those who only dreamed of great departures find themselves under house arrest. With or without children, alone or with your partner, in the city or in the countryside, from Miami to the shores of the Indian Ocean, Point found them. They bear witness to their small and great misfortunes and all confess their nostalgia for the mother country.

“It’s a somewhat fantasized country, which no longer exists,” says Adrien *, 27, at the forefront of Malaysian confinement. This employee of a large French company, reached by the mobile phone application WhatsApp, admires the view from his balcony perched on the seventh floor of an opulent building in Kuala Lumpur. “From here, I can see monkeys, songbirds, it’s bucolic. “Failing to explore, this young Frenchman – confined for more than a week – is forced to admire the Malaysian skyline crenellated with immense towers in the pure style of Asian megalopolises. France ? “Of course we want to come back, but we don’t know if it will be possible to come to Malaysia afterwards. We prefer to stay as a precaution. “

Lost in translation

Arrived almost a year ago with his half, Juliette *, a freelance in communication, the couple have since traveled up and down the some 90 square meters of their vast accommodation. “What we do not lack is the promiscuity of Parisian apartments,” he jokes, half-fig, half-raisin, when it comes time to talk about France. “It’s a bit of a special feeling, we miss a lot of things, but I really want to take a train, any train, to cross the French countryside, to look at the landscapes. »Usual globetrotter syndrome in need of everything or the (very) large community of French expatriates? By the admission of many “expats” – they were officially close to 1.8 million on January 28, 2020 according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the virus has changed something if not essential.

“What is strange with the Covid is that we feel all the more the fact of being French abroad”, recognizes Séverine, a stay-at-home mother living in Singapore, used to going back and forth between Paris. and the City-State. Deprived of Christmas logs and grandparents, the small troop, made up of her husband and her two children, regrets the remoteness of the family soil. “Before, it was a return to France every four months, but in Singapore, as elsewhere, it is difficult to come back afterwards. »The risk of a one-way ticket that dissuades more than one attached to a position, a situation, a living environment. “We’ve been traveling for ten years, we are not one of those nostalgic uprooted people, but we know that if we have a concern of any kind, it will always be France. “

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” I will keep you posted “

Citizens of the world relegated to the rank of permanent residents, a bit chauvinistic? “I confess to having bought wine and sausage in a delicatessen even if the prices were prohibitive”, supports Adrien, little suspect of culinary nationalism after having tasted everything in several countries. Juliette, her aperitif companion, is in despair at having missed the literary start. “A package full of French books was costing me too much, I had to give up. Culture and gastronomy, the two breasts of eternal France in the minds of many foreigners raised in the cult of a romantic Paris. “A true cliché and which is sometimes good”, abounds Adrien plagued by a craving for French series, in the same vein as the Legends office, while the whole of Malaysia is barricaded at the time of yet another confinement.

Do they know that bookstores and stores were once closed in Molière’s homeland, not to mention theaters? “In Singapore, bars and restaurants are open, life goes on, we lead a completely normal existence”, laughs Séverine not unhappy to make some friends jealous addicted to social networks. “We miss them and the family very much. This is probably the hardest part, “makes up for our 30-something souls. The phrase is however known, repeated, declined in all tones: “I’ll keep you posted. »Know what? “Resumption of flights, the reopening of borders, the possibility of traveling,” adds Juliette, hanged on the phone on the same balcony as Adrien, on the other side of the globe. The condition sine qua non family reunions, often accompanied by a fleeting “kiss” intended to conclude an exchange that is a little too long. “My parents absolutely want to come and see us so I have my technique, rather than losing myself in explanations, I kick in touch”, she explains, failing to have more details on the progress of the vaccination before to promise to keep us posted.

Sweet France

Another geography, other customs. Closer to home, in the United Kingdom, Jean does not feel that he misses much of the pages of national history. “I have the impression that the situation is the same everywhere. My life is here. Apart from my parents in the Paris region, I have no particular reasons for wanting to come back, ”notes this resident of Folkestone, in the east of England. “Strangely enough, I felt more like this when it came to Brexit, all of a sudden, I didn’t feel welcome. “. Brexit -1, coronavirus -0, despite the symbolic threshold of 100,000 deaths this week across the Channel.

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“Before, I never had the feeling of being an immigrant. The Covid has brought us back to a situation of inferiority ”, testifies Sarah at the head of a press agency registered in Miami in the State of Florida, in the United States. Double irony, his request for green card had been accepted and the precious sesame about to be delivered to the US Embassy… in France. “It’s Kafkaesque, I don’t have the right to travel even to collect it while I pay my taxes and I employ American workers. It is, in a way, inferior. »An understandable frustration to which is added a shortage other than that of vaccines: the stopping of Chocapic’s house imports or when the Made in France has good. “My children love it, it’s a bit anecdotal, but it’s a little extra that we used to bring back from our trips to France in the United States and which we miss. “

Without pushing nostalgia so far as to listen to Michel Sardou, apostle of a certain France, these modern exiles are waiting for only one thing: to be able to set foot on French soil again. “I’m a little apprehensive,” notes Adrien, whose family has grown in the meantime: “All these people with masks… I’m afraid I won’t recognize my country. When we left, there was no pandemic. We kept the image of a country without a health crisis, without a curfew, without closed bars. “They live what another Michel perfectly described, Polnareff this one, exiled (fiscally) in the United States:” Since I am far from you / I am as far from me. “

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* first names have been changed


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