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22nd September, 2020

communities, report

Communities in lockdown: an international report

All over the world, friends, families and communities have been physically separated throughout 2020. But while trips and celebrations are still being put on hold, modern technology has enabled many of us to still stay in touch and maintain a sense of community.

In June 2020, PagoFX carried out an international survey* of five key countries, many of which have overseas communities here in the UK and maintain close links back home. More than 7,000 respondents from the UK, USA, Spain, Poland and Germany took part, helping us explore the impact the global coronavirus pandemic has had on human relationships and communities of all sizes. How are people supporting each other in these countries, and do they feel world events have brought them closer together?

The data shows that along with rekindling friendships and improving family bonds, an unexpected side-effect of the year so far has been an increased sense, for many, that they are part of a bigger picture, a more ‘global community’ brought together by the shared experience of the pandemic and global lockdowns.

Key findings

● People all over the world have spoken to their friends, family and wider community more often as a result of this year’s events.

● One in five UK adults has given in-person support to friends and family during the pandemic, for example, by delivering food or other supplies.

● Over half of people surveyed in the UK reported they felt part of a community within their neighbourhood, the highest in our survey.

● Spain is the country with the greatest sense of community spirit, sitting top of our global community rankings.

● Respondents in the USA found it harder to form communities at the start of lockdown

● People in Poland had the strongest sense of overall global community, with 26% agreeing they felt part of this big picture compared to an average of 16%.

Thousands of people in the UK, USA, Spain, Poland and Germany have used their time during the lockdowns to keep community spirit alive. Whether it’s through making more of an effort to communicate with loved ones, helping out a neighbour or offering financial support to those in need, discover their heart-warming stories below.

Access the full survey dataset here.

Our international community survey*

We wanted to understand if the pandemic has affected the ways friends, families and communities communicate, and whether they consider themselves part of a local, national or international community, or all of the above.

We also asked about changes that have happened in people’s lives since the pandemic began, such as how they are communicating with others, and the types of support they have offered or received. Are people donating to local charities, internationally or abroad, or maybe volunteering?

Many individuals around the globe report that they are communicating with loved ones and interacting with their communities more than ever. For some, however, the lockdowns have brought a sense of isolation and loneliness.

The community rankings*

Out of a total of 185 possible points, we ranked the five participating countries to reveal which have the greatest community spirit and which have suffered from isolation. For each response, the country with the highest rate of positive response received five points, while that with the lowest received one. For ‘no change’ responses, all countries scored zero.

While the four European countries showed a strong sense of connection with people near and far, respondents in the USA found forming communities during lockdown more difficult.

While the UK sits neatly in the middle of the rankings, a side-by-side data comparison highlighted the distinct difference between the countries.

Where survey participants in Spain spoke of reconnecting with loved ones, making more effort to see people who mattered to them and offering support to neighbours, respondents in the USA reported less interaction.Though the UK didn’t come out on top, results from this part of the world were noticeably more positive, and even outranked Germany and the USA.

On average, only 7% of participants surveyed in the four European countries said that they don’t feel part of any community at all. This rises to almost 10% of UK adults, with respondents in the USA finding it harder to form communities during lockdown at almost 30%.

The communities we feel a part of

We asked respondents about their own definitions of ‘community’ and the range of possible communities they feel part of, including:

● close friends and family
● their neighbours and other local faces
● their country
● the wider ‘international and global community’

The results showed clear differences between regions and age groups.

The UK and USA shared some feelings when it came to an immediate sense of connection. Though Brits were far more likely to feel part of a ‘friends and family’ group, both the UK and US felt disconnected from national and international communities.

● 56% of respondents from the UK said that they feel connected with friends and family, but only 28% of US respondents felt the same. Almost 10% of US adults stated that they’ve lost touch with some loved ones completely since the pandemic began.

● We can see that just under 12% of UK adults feel a sense of being part of a global community, compared to just over 26% in Poland, roughly 20% in Germany and 18% in Spain.

● Younger people in the USA were twice as likely to feel part of a global community compared to older generations: 21% of 25-34-year-olds made this claim compared to just 10% of 55-64-year-olds.

● A similar story is true for those in the UK. Almost 20% of 18-24-year-olds in the UK said that they feel like a part of the global community, compared to just 9% of 55-64-year-olds.

People in Poland, Germany and Spain reported higher rates of community spirit with their country and with the rest of the world; meanwhile, the UK scores highest for feeling connected with those in their local areas, while Germany scores the lowest. Just 28% of people in Germany felt connected to the community where they live, the lowest of all locations surveyed.

As part of a series of lockdown interviews, we quizzed Eloise, living alone in London, about the ways in which events in 2020 have brought her closer to neighbours and others in her local community. Explore her lockdown story here.

We also spoke to Faith, a UK expat living in Germany, to find out about her experiences of life in lockdown abroad, living overseas from her loved ones. You can read about Faith’s changing interactions with her family and community here.

Polish respondents had the greatest sense of national community compared to any other location: 41% said they felt part of a country-wide community compared to a an average of 29% across communities in the four European countries , and just 20% and 16% of respondents in the UK and US felt the same. On top of this, people in Poland also had the strongest sense of global community of any country surveyed, with 26% agreeing they felt part of this big picture compared to an average of 16%.

How our relationships are changing

We wanted to find answers from around the world to understand how the global pandemic has affected peoples’ lives and relationships. This ranged from how often we are communicating with family and friends, how people are interacting with other communities and if people feel closer than before, or more distant, with communities they once felt part of.

For many of us, the lockdown has provided time to slow down and connect with both loved ones and new faces, in a bid to combat loneliness and feel a sense of unity with those around us. Spain is a great example of this: around 40% of Spanish adults agreed that they now feel more connected to their communities than before the pandemic began, the highest percentage of all countries surveyed. 29% of UK adults also said this, while 16% of US adults felt the same way.

We spoke to Kate, an expat from the USA who now lives in Scotland, to see what she had to say about lockdown living. Thankfully, her experiences have been predominantly positive – read her story here to find out more about how she’s been staying in touch with family and friends around the world.

Very few people said that they had lost touch completely with family, friends and their community since the lockdown began – approximately 6% of people worldwide have lost touch entirely with friends and family, and just over 7% have lost contact with other types of community.

Just over 40% of respondents say they are now in much more regular contact with loved ones than they were before the pandemic began.

For Kristen, another US expat, contact with family back at home has drastically increased since lockdown began. Now living in France, she shared her experiences with us here, from socialising online to overcoming the challenge of life abroad in unprecedented times.

As you can see in the charts above, in the UK, 39% of respondents stated that they are now in more regular contact with loved ones, and 32% saying they communicate more regularly with people in their community. Spain tops the charts for positive outcomes, with 50% and 35% respectively saying the same.

The survey also revealed differences when it comes to reconnecting with loved ones, seeking out new friendships, making time for the things that matter, and feeling more in common with the people around us.

● 12% of respondents in the UK reconnected with distant family members and 18% reconnected with old friends. This compares to Spain where respondents were most likely to have rekindled old relationships, with 22% having reconnected with distant family members and 26% reconnected with old friends.

● Younger generations in the UK were the most eager of all respondents when it comes to making new friends during the lockdown, with 19% of young people in the UK doing so since the pandemic began, compared to the 9% overall average.

The pandemic has not only changed the level of communication we have with others but for some, it has been a shared experience that encourages us to look at how we spend our time and how we view the people we meet. Older generations revealed that they now feel have more in common with the people around them, with 24% of those aged 65+ stating that this is the case compared to 16% of people around the world on average, and just 8% of 25-34-year-olds.

Across Europe, one in five adults state they have decided to make more time to see the people they care about when they can, and roughly the same number say they have decided to make more effort in a lot of areas in their lives ‘because life is short’. Poland exceeds the average for the latter response, with 30% of respondents saying that they felt this way – only 6% of US adults said the same, while the UK results were in line with the average.

We spoke to Mary, an American from Iowa, to find out what she had to say about big life changes in lockdown. Despite a heightened sense of isolation, the story she has shared with us highlights positives that have come alongside the difficulties of being physically cut off during the lockdown period.

From volunteering to financial aid: how we’re helping each other out

Whether it’s assisting a neighbour with their weekly shop, offering to run an errand for someone unable to leave their home or donating to a local charity, there have been countless ways in which people have come together to help others during the pandemic.

While we already know that some individuals have sent money to friends and family overseas to support them through these difficult times, we wanted to find out more about how communities of all shapes and sizes have come together.

Poland comes top in many areas, with residents here more likely than respondents in any other country to have offered support to neighbours, strangers, friends and family, both online and in person. The UK sits comfortably in third place.

Individuals across all four European countries surveyed have shown evidence of banding together to help others during this difficult time. For example, respondents in the UK were the most enthusiastic about donating to international charities, particularly 25-34-year-olds. 25% of this age group in the UK have donated to an international charity recently compared to 3% of US adults belonging to the same demographic.

Though most individuals in the countries we surveyed have offered some kind of support to others, globally 31% of people said they haven’t given or received any kind of support, with 59% of US adults saying the same. That said, individuals in the US were eager to donate to local charities with 22% having recently done so, second only to Poland, with the UK coming in at 18%.

To find out more about how individuals and charities in Poland have come together in difficult times, read our case study on the Santander Bank Polska Foundation here.


As individuals across the globe continue to help each other, either through financial donations or by offering in-person or online support, the stories above remind us of the importance of human relationships and our desire to feel connected to others.

Whether it’s by sending money to loved ones abroad to help them through difficult times, or donating to social causes supporting wider communities near and far, it’s clear the events of 2020 have, for the majority of people, brought communities closer.

From keeping in touch and sharing news, to sending care packages and rainy-day funds, read our guide to supporting friends and family abroad for information on ways you can help those you care about who live overseas.

Click here to download the full report.

About PagoFX

If you’re looking to send money to friends and family abroad, or to donate to charities in other countries, PagoFX is a secure, low-cost international money transfer service, backed by Santander. With PagoFX you can send money within minutes with any UK debit card, which means offering support has never been easier.

PagoFX’s transparent low costs and real-time mid-market exchange rates (similar to those found in public sources like Google) mean you can feel confident sending money abroad, with a service backed by a leading global bank. You can download PagoFX from the App Store or Google Play today, or get started today at

*To compile this report, we surveyed over 7,000 adults from the UK, USA, Spain, Poland and Germany in June 2020. Survey data was gathered via independent research company 3Gem.