If you are an expat living in Singapore, it’s hard to have a conversation where someone doesn’t ask “Have you booked for Christmas? Are you going home?”
With more VTLs opening many have booked flights and started making Christmas plans with family abroad. But for many this is not possible. One long time resident in Singapore, British mum of two Kate Moreau, asks us to take a minute to think before asking friends the emotionally charged question ‘Have You Booked Flights Home for Christmas?”
Sitting waiting in arrivals at Changi Airport Terminal 3, I am forced to recognise the myriad of emotions that engulf me.
This is the first time I have set foot inside a terminal building since July 2019. We, like many expats, have not headed home at all since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being a Long Term Resident with jobs and kids, the opportunity to do so has not arisen without huge risks of not returning and so we decided not to take the chance.
As I sit here, celebrating the arrival of my mum, I recognise the joy that the partial border openings have offered to many. But, I also recognise that the relaxation in travel restrictions can be met with mixed emotions.
For some, it is sadness with the chance to make a final visit to the terminally ill or to finally return home to say goodbye to those who have passed.
For others, it is anxiety as strained relationships are put under more strain with the expectation that tickets should be booked immediately.
For many, it is anticipation of a Christmas shared with family and friends.
Whatever your situation, I urge you to take a breath before asking your expat friends “Have you booked for Christmas? Are you going home?”
Some of us can’t travel due to work commitments. Some of us won’t travel due to family issues (how do you prioritise who gets a piece of you?) or logistics (how do you fit 6 different locations in 2 different countries into just a few weeks?).
Some of us simply can’t manage it financially. Christmas flights are normally more expensive in the best of years, but this year … wow! If you can find a seat, it’s probably more than you can dream of spending. Then times that by 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 for a family.
Some of us simply don’t have anyone to visit.
And some of us don’t have the choice, because borders remain closed with “home”.
And what if you can’t be vaccinated due to underlying conditions?
Those who find themselves watching everyone else making plans can feel a huge void. A sense of injustice. Imagine if your country was still in Category 4? Or that 14 day hotel quarantine was still mandatory upon a return to your home country?
So as we jump for joy for VTL flights and the shift to Cat 2 for most European and North American countries (and now Oz too), spare a thought for those less fortunate. For those who will face another festive period watching family celebrations from afar, hoping that next year will be different.