Spring has arrived! As flowers start to open and bloom, we hoped this would be a symbol for France to reduce the restrictions and start reopening too. But France had the opposite in mind.
France has officially entered the third lockdown starting this weekend to try and combat COVID. The British variant is rampant, and production delays and skepticism of AstraZeneca stall the vaccination rollout. France struggles to manage the number of cases and called for a lockdown of sixteen regions in France, including Paris and Nice.
The French government is calling it a “limited lockdown,” but it’s still a lockdown. It’s a minimum of four weeks, and it will probably get extended like the first two lockdowns.
Lyon’s region will not have any new restrictions, but the realist in me thinks it’s only a matter of time. However, the French government decided to be charitable with Lyon for now! Instead of a 6:00 pm curfew every night, it now starts at 7:00 pm instead. How generous!
We have spent more than half of our expat experience in a lockdown or curfew. And we are over it. The second lockdown turned curfew that we’ve been doing since October has been mentally exhausting. France was supposed to reopen things on January 20, but here we are two months later with even more restrictions. There is no plan to return to normalcy, no light at the end of the tunnel, and nothing to help us get through these “unprecedented times.”
It’s also been thirteen months since we have seen our families, friends, or been able to visit home.
About a month ago, Jordan started having conversations with his employer about the possibility of returning to the US. Not to end the expat assignment, but instead to take a well-needed break. A lot of other expats at his employer around the world asked the same question. We were all told the same answer, “no.” We couldn’t return home.
There are several valid reasons why, including tax and insurance implications. If we are out of our host country for over a certain period, our insurance company will cancel our plan. And then there is the little problem of being able to return to France. France has taken the border closure to an extreme, even prohibiting its own citizens from re-entering the country. If citizens could not enter the country, what chance was there for American expats with residency status?
We tried every way possible to return home. We asked if Jordan could take an unpaid leave of absence. Or work at one of the US plants to support a project. We asked if he could take regular vacation time. Or work remotely in the US; after all, he is currently working remotely in France. His employer responded each time with, “no.” There was no guarantee that we could return to France, and his employer did not want to risk this.
Defeated, I had accepted that we would not be able to return home. But Jordan found a loophole. France made a slight change in the rules to allow its citizens to re-enter the country. This change also allows current residents with “talent visa” status to return to France, which we have.
Currently, I am writing this post from my parent’s couch in Georgia with their dog snuggled against my side. It’s too risky to visit Jordan’s family right now, but my parents are both vaccinated. We booked our flights on Tuesday, took a PCR test on Thursday, and flew out of Lyon on Saturday morning.
I’ll admit, I cried when the Delta safety video started on our flight from Paris to Atlanta. I had tears in my eyes when the captain said over the loudspeaker, “welcome to Atlanta.” We were home. To say it was an emotional day was an understatement.
We are taking a break as expats for the next two weeks in Georgia. We aren’t asking for much, just a little normalcy. Like being able to walk outside without a mask while exercising. Or eating at a restaurant.
I hope this time will provide a much-needed mental reset before we head back to France’s third lockdown. But for now, we are going to enjoy being “home.”