Expatriates within the pandemic: two sides of a same coin

Is the pandemic always bad for expatriates’ quality of life? A study conducted on expatriates in three European countries reveals that the answer is: “not necessarily”.

The research team implemented a survey asking more than 700 employed expatriates in United Kingdom, France and Germany to rate the pandemic’s impact on their quality of life. Topics included material comfort, health and safety, relationships (with immediate and extended family, friends), parenting, learning and development, self-awareness, work, helping others, socialization, and recreation.

Results of the study revealed some unexpected patterns in the pandemic’s impact on expatriates’ life. The majority (50.8%) were, in general, not affected. However, 21.8% of the respondents, surprisingly, reported that the pandemic actually improved their life quality, especially in terms of learning and development, self-awareness, and relationships with partner; as well as helping them to appreciate their jobs. It was interesting that assignees and married expatriates were more likely to fall into this group. The pandemic perhaps pushed these expatriates to increase their knowledge and use of various remote collaboration and communication tools, as well as providing character-building challenges when dealing with uncertainty and crisis. Moreover, lockdown situations might have shifted expatriates’ focus from the ‘outside’ to ‘inside’ worlds, thus improving their relationships with family members and ‘pushing’ them to be more self-aware, helping them balance their personal and professional lives.

By contrast, it is also noteworthy to mention that the pandemic severely and negatively affected approximately a quarter of the respondents. The most negatively impacted aspects were health and personal safety, material comfort, relationships with family members and friends, socializing, and recreation. Female expatriates in particular, as well as both male and female expatriates living alone (single, separated, or divorced) appeared to be most vulnerable. The research team therefore recommends companies to pay close attention to these groups and provide support for their unsatisfied needs. For instance, companies might offer expatriates who live alone more opportunities to interact with colleagues, even virtually and informally. They also might require regular follow-up and updates on the current status of the pandemic in their host country. Additionally, establishing a women network can be a good resource for female expatriates where they can connect, interact, share, and support each other.

Would you be interested in participating in this study? The survey is still open. If you are an expatriate or a first-generation migrant, we would love to hear from you. You could be single, or have a partner/family. The only requisite is that you are currently employed (and residing) in a country other than your country of upbringing.

Please join the surveys for individual expatriates/migrants here and for couples/families here

Contact research team:

Prof. Dr. Maike Andresen, Full Professor, Chair of Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour, University of Bamberg, Germany/ GLOMO Project Coordinator

Anh Nguyen, M.Sc., Early Stage Researcher, GLOMO Project

T: 0049 951 863 2570, Email: wellbeingexpatriates.bwl-personal@uni-bamberg.de.

This research has received funding from the European Union’s H2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 765355.

Photo © Cherrydeck

Authors: Prof. Dr. Maike Andresen, Anh Nguyen (MSc.), Blanca Suarez-Bilbao (MSc.)

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