For expat spouses, no matter your gender, the story is usually the same. Partner gets a lucrative job offer. Partner says you’d be mad to turn it down. You know that too – but the job is in a different country. Maybe one you know nothing about, or one that’s just never appealed. But the money is so tempting, and the lifestyle would be good for you.
There’s a flurry of excitement, lots of late night talks about what could go wrong (and what can be prevented thanks to our expat health insurance services), and the ultimate, life-changing decision: you’re making a move overseas.
You have to say goodbye to your family, your friends, and more often than not, your career.
Over 50% of people in the Internations survey who identified as ‘Travelling Partners’ are educated to degree level or higher. These are educated people, willing to work but largely unable to enter the corporate world in their new country due to visa restrictions.
You leave behind your job progression and try to forget about that promotion you might have been offered had you stayed. You swap busy offices for an empty, unfamiliar house – which still feels empty long after the shipping company arrives with your possessions.
Whether you have months to plan and fret or it’s a whirlwind relocation, there’s always the sudden jolt when you realise that you’re actually there, living your new life abroad.
Many ‘trailing spouses’ have memories of the early days of their partners’ international assignments that involve rattling around like a coin in an empty purse. While the working partner can focus on their new role, new office and new colleagues, you’re left with the difficult tasks.
Sussing out where to buy groceries. Perhaps dealing with children who are suffering in a new climate. Desperately grinning at new neighbours in the hope of a brief conversation. If you’ve moved abroad for your partner’s job, these may be all too recognisable stressors. You may battle with a surprising sense of resentment towards the working partner. Why should they get to swan off to the office in their new suit while you’re stuck at home trying to figure out the air-con?
While most companies with a globally mobile workforce provide relocation support to their employee, few offer spousal support.
Loneliness is likely to affect those who weren’t the ‘powerhouse’ behind your joint transition to expat life. With fewer distractions and the harsh reality of culture shock, you can feel alienated and further from home than you actually are. Skype and Whatsapp make it easier, but your listening ears aren’t there to comfort you, and your partner probably can’t relate. Add to that the frustration of navigating time differences when you just need an after-dinner chat with a friend, and it might feel like you’ve done the wrong thing.
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