7 Countries Around the World Creating Community During the Pandemic—InternationalLiving.com

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The global pandemic is uniting communities around the world in some unique and astounding ways, including communities of expats living and retiring abroad. A new report from the editors at International Living explores seven countries where retirees and other expats are dealing with extraordinary circumstances right alongside the locals who are their friends and neighbors.

Child's candle in Italy during pandemic

Child's candle in Italy during pandemic

“Their reports are providing us with a picture of how the pandemic is affecting their lives during their retirement and living adventures overseas. They are stories of hope, cooperation, and grace under pressure.”

“Being part of a foreign community means dealing with everything your local friends and neighbors are dealing with,” says Dan Prescher, a senior editor with International Living.

“We’ve been following the experiences of our editors and correspondents as they deal with the pandemic as part of their adopted communities. Their reports are providing us with a picture of how the pandemic is affecting their lives during their retirement and living adventures overseas. They are stories of hope, cooperation, and grace under pressure.”

The new report explores community responses in seven countries around the world where expats are living, working, and retiring.


"At 8 pm every night, people step out on their balconies or hang out their windows, and we applaud for the valiant healthcare workers who are working grueling hours and risking their own health for our benefit,” says Marsha Scarbrough, IL Spain Correspondent. “We are sincerely grateful for them and deeply saddened by the lives that have been lost."

“On the night before lockdown began, I went to the market to stock up on groceries (where there is plenty of food and toilet paper). I noticed freshly-posted, hand-written signs beside the door of every apartment building saying, 'We are three young women who live on this block. If you need any help with anything like grocery shopping, going to the pharmacy, or walking your dog, we will help you. Here are our phone numbers.'”

“In the past few days, a printed poster has appeared on the streets that says, 'Take care of your neighbor. If you know someone who needs it, help them.'" "It lists the social services of the municipality including for seniors without a social network, people in vulnerable situations, those in economic need, those in need of basic necessities along with the phone numbers to call."


“One of the most meaningful parts of watching Belize and its response to the crisis, has been the way in which it has attacked this huge problem in a small town way,” says Laura Diffendal, IL Belize Correspondent. “There have been nonstop community groups started through WhatsApp, Facebook messaging, and others. There is a quick identification of anyone who is struggling, and a plan put out to help. Small groups are constantly sharing resources, such as the business owners raising money for medical equipment, the community was quick to put up a pop-up hospital, and there are numerous privately run food bank groups.”


“Every night at 8pm the people in cities all over Colombia go out on their balconies or front steps and clap, whistle, cheer and flash their lights to show support for the healthcare workers and solidarity against the spread of the virus,” says Nancy Kiernan, IL Colombia Correspondent.

“In Medellín, once a week a woman who lives in the building behind me, serenades the neighborhood with 2-3 songs via a karaoke machine. She has a lovely voice. I wish I knew who it is. The other night she asked everyone to join her and sing Happy Birthday for all those who are celebrating birthdays but cannot be with family and friends."


“There have been so many instances of kindness and solidarity here, it’s been impossible to keep track of them all,” says Jessica Ramesch, IL Panama Editor.

“I’ve seen gyms offering free online classes, Panamanian films offered for free online viewings, police entertaining neighborhoods on lockdown, independent legislators offering to donate a portion of their salaries to the 'solidarity fund' (Panama Solidario) for those who’ll need extra support…"

“My local insurance company announced very early on that it would cover 'epidemic' expenses even though the fine print in my policy says otherwise. (Given what insurance companies do in the States…I worked in the industry there and can attest personally…I was incredibly surprised and impressed by this.)”


“The Coronavirus has ignited a shared sense of responsibility in the French people and brought out a passionate need to help their fellow citizens,” says Tuula Rampont, IL France Correspondent.

“Long characterized as a reserved, careful population, the French have responded to the pandemic with emotion, candor, and a steadfast resolve to overcome what French President Macron described as ‘the greatest health crisis of the last 100 years.’"

“Community initiatives have included: solidarity campaigns to ensure that the elderly and vulnerable populations are looked after, free food delivery and pick-up services, volunteer mask-making and distributing, and greetings (cards, drawings, messages of inspiration) sent to retirement homes.”


“I feel fortunate to have been living in Vietnam during this pandemic; it's been one of the few safe havens in the world,” says Wendy justice, IL Vietnam Correspondent.

“Vietnam has done a brilliant job of containing the virus. Though a combination of testing, quarantining, public health education, and treatment, they've managed to eliminate all community transmission. We haven't had a new case in the community for more than two weeks. As a result, the mandatory social distancing 'lockdown' was suspended on April 23rd."

“We are now free to eat at restaurants, drink beers at a bia hoi, visit friends, go shopping, take domestic flights, go to the beach, and visit tourist attractions. Only a few businesses have not yet received the go-ahead to reopen, including most bars, cinemas, karaoke parlors, and spas. Social distancing is still strongly encouraged, and I'll commonly have my temperature taken when entering an office building, bank, and some restaurants. Hand sanitizer is provided by businesses and placed next to most elevators, too. Wearing face masks when out in public is mandatory."

“Whenever a Covid-19 patient has recovered, the entire country knows about it. Discharged patients are given bouquets of flowers and much fanfare, though they still must remain under a 14-day quarantine and undergo follow-up testing before their lives return to normal.”


“Italians have a strong sense of community in general, and more so during this crisis,” says Valerie Schneider, IL Italy Correspondent. “There has always been what they call campanilismo, or loyalty towards one's town, and we've seen it manifest in many ways, both within the community and turning outward to other areas."

“Example in our village? On Palm Sunday, some folks collected olive branches and wrapped them in pretty packages, which the mayor and councilors delivered door-to-door; just one small way of making people feel less isolated. They also distributed face masks to every household. Our town priest sends out Whatsapp messages of encouragement. People check in on the elderly and deliver groceries and medicine to them as needed. Something that has become common in the south is the spesa sospesa, a pay-it-forward shopping where folks purchase staple items then place them in a basket at the front of the store for those in need to take freely."

“Our town is very small, and those in difficulty aren't left without help. The grocer will run a tab for them to pay later; I know of people who are paying down grocery tabs for others. Children made rainbow signs to hang on their balconies, then also made candles to light each evening, a flame in the darkness to give hope, silent prayers from the little ones. Everyone checks on each other through texts or calls, or yelling across from balconies. Many women have been sewing masks to send to other parts of Italy; thousands of nurses and doctors volunteered to go to the hardest-hit regions to help out (without pay). There are thousands of ways that Italians have fostered the notion of 'distanti ma uniti'.”

The full report on 7 Countries Around the World Creating Community During the Pandemic can be found, here: Countries Around the World Creating Community During the Pandemic

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About International Living

Since 1979, InternationalLiving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. InternationalLiving.com has contributors traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for travel, retirement, real estate, and investment.

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