Expat lives are often portrayed as an exciting and glamorous affair. Beautiful exotic locales, delicious food, interesting people… And more often than not the role of the trailing spouse that followed the expat executive to new lands are largely envied and lyrically waxed upon. Thrilling opportunities to live and experience life in a new land, no working pressure, an ability for someone to do anything they desire, and the prospect of an extended honeymoon of sort.
However, reality is often not as beautiful as it seems.
The excitement of a brand new experience in life can be quickly dampened by the difficulty to accomplish even the simplest things like the frustration of finding one’s way around time. Culture shock and language can be another limitation. Settling into a new city is a lot harder than most people think. While the working spouse has an advantage of going to work daily, having benefits such as structured days, a social life at work (and after work) and the ability to maintain a professional identity, the trailing spouse will have to make do with being completely reliant – financially, socially and emotionally – on the working spouse.
…the trailing spouse will have to make do with being completely reliant – financially, socially and emotionally – on the working spouse.
The amount of time it takes to make new friends and feel comfortable in a new country is often underestimated. According to research, conducted by academics from Brigham Young University, “low social interaction has the equivalent lifespan impact as smoking 15 cigarettes daily or being a raging alcoholic. Cutting yourself off from others is worse, even, than in inactivity. And twice as bad as obesity.” In other words, trailing spouses immediately face hazardous situations upon settling into their new life. Social disconnectedness and isolation have distinct associations with worsening of one’s physical and mental health.
Without the right preparation and mindset before making a big move, the state of stress and discontent from feeling unfulfilled and lacking in direction from the trailing spouse, is detrimental to the success of the overseas placement of the working spouse.
Fortunately, with the right assistance and support, these issues can be managed.
Contact us today.