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Last updated: 21st September, 2020

expats, international living, report

Communities in lockdown case study: Kristen, living in France

Kristen is originally from Texas, USA, but now lives in France with her husband, a Frenchman whom she met while teaching in Poland. Having temporarily left France to collect her long-term visa from the USA, Kristen had been back home in Europe for just two days before the borders were shut down because of the pandemic.

“When I moved to Poland a few years ago, the distance between my family and [me] wasn’t the problem as much as the fact that we didn’t make a habit of using technology to stay connected,” Kristen says.

“I was working at a school where English was spoken, had a roommate to spend time with and plenty of friends, so I admit I was notoriously terrible at communicating with people further afield.”

Like many people living abroad, and indeed many people who live within close proximity to their families, Kristen’s focus was on the here-and-now of everyday life. Though not disconnected entirely from loved ones, family catch-ups were few and far between.

“Over the last few months, I’ve found myself reaching out more than ever to my mom and dad, my brothers, and even my cousins.” She goes on to say. “I even had a Facetime [call] with my grandma. That was a first!”

“Maybe it was that we all felt that things were different. We all were unable to reach out and touch those physically closest to us. The French couldn’t give their cheek-to-cheek kisses of hello and my grandma couldn’t even hug her grandchildren when they visited. She cried at the end of our call because she was worried she wouldn’t ever be able to hug me again. We all felt the void space, the gaping, and vacant feeling leaving us wanting.”

A real challenge of lockdown for many of us has been the sudden feeling of separation from people we care about. There is a real shared sense of having taken those human connections for granted, up until they were taken away.

Whichever part of the world you are from, it’s likely that a desire to form tighter bonds and to put more regular contact in place was initially born out of worry and concern, as people from all sides of the globe found themselves wondering when they would see their loved ones again. What began as a negative soon turned into a positive, with old friends and distant family making more time to stay in touch.

“People I hadn’t connected with in forever were reaching out. I was sending messages to friends whom I had lost touch with and was worried about. Though these modern ways to connect through technology have long been available, we were always too busy to take the time for it.” Kristen goes on to say. “I finally had a ‘face date’ with my cousin in Japan, and scheduled a virtual happy hour with my friend in London. I was having early morning catch-ups via Facebook chat with long-lost best friends from high school, organising board game competitions with college friends, and trading book recommendations with friends back home.”

Kristen’s experience is heart-warming, and while it hasn’t been without its challenges, she reports a stronger connection with loved ones now than before the trials and tribulations of the year began.

“Being in a foreign country surrounded by a language different from my own means that the six feet of space between me and all the others feels twice as wide. Yet, I’ve found myself closer than ever to people who really mean a lot to me.” Kristen says. “I’ve realized that despite the distance, it doesn’t matter where I am – those who mean the most will be there, and we will get through whatever we face together.”

To find out more about how people all over the world have been coming together in recent months, and how PagoFX have been helping to support individuals and good causes around the globe, take a look at our Communities in Lockdown Report.

Kristen Klepac currently works at Green Flag Digital in the Metz area of France.