Guest post by Gregor Wills - Internations
As the world becomes more globalized, expats are becoming more numerous. Recent figures show that one in thirty-two people on Earth is an expat! More expats means more expat partners, who are a unique type of traveler themselves. In fact, 86% of expats take their partner abroad. Read on for the challenges and benefits of following your partner overseas.
Challenges of Being an Expat Partner
Nothing tests a relationship more than relocating to a foreign country, whether temporarily or permanently; it is a make or break exercise with numerous challenges, but also countless benefits. Expat partners often find themselves challenged in ways never before imagined and they become stronger people for it.
1. Having Too Much Time on Your Hands
According to a 2008 survey of expatriate spouses, even though 90% of expat partners had a job before moving abroad, only about 35% of expat partners work while abroad. This means many have a lot of spare time on their hands, which can either be the greatest disadvantage or greatest advantage of being an expat partner.
2. Being with the Kids
Most of those with children find that focusing on the kids just isn’t enough to meet their own adult intellectual, social, and emotional needs, for which they should not feel guilty. Every person needs to learn, grow, and develop, both with others and by themselves.
3. Being Alone
Expat partners further need to combat homesickness, culture shock, and isolation, as well as social and emotional dependence on their spouse, due to a lack of previous support networks. Like any challenge, though, if you take the right approach to being an expat partner, it can become one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Starting Life as an Expat Partner
Your first step, in your new home, is to make sure you have access to transport. If the public transportation infrastructure is good and safe, master it; if you can drive, get access to a car; if you’re in a country where it’s more appropriate to have a driver, hire one. Transportation is your key to freedom in your new foreign home.
Benefits of Being an Expat Partner
The following are five benefits of being expat partner, specifically, five things you can do as an expat partner that you either couldn’t or wouldn’t do in your home country. You can’t recreate your old life, nor should you attempt to. You now have the opportunity to try things you’ve never done before!
1. Learning a Foreign Language
This is possibly the greatest benefit to being an expat partner. If you’re in a country where the language is different to your mother-tongue, learn it! The list of reasons why learning a foreign language is beneficial is endless.
For you personally, it’s an amazingly rewarding experience, especially when you have the opportunity to practice your new skill every day.
Cognitively, it’s great for your mind: Neurological studies have shown that speaking more than one language helps delay degenerative mental conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Linguistically, it opens up a new world to you, like perceiving your environment through another’s eyes, as well as your own.
Socially, language classes are a great place to make friends, who may be in the same situation as you.
For your professional development, learning a foreign language is invaluable. It is one of the most demanded professional skills by employers; it opens up more career options to you; and it increases the salary you can expect to receive.
If your partner’s company offers language courses and cultural seminars for expat partners, take advantage of the opportunity. If not, find a good language school and sign up!
2. Studying at University and Acquiring Professional Qualifications
If you’re not working, take advantage of the spare time by studying or acquiring further professional qualifications in your field. Doing a master’s degree or getting a trade qualification increases your employability and makes up for the time lost on your career progression by not working. If you can’t study locally, due to the language or any other barrier, do so online; there are many large, reputable online universities, likely with programs to suit you.
You’re in a foreign country, likely surrounded by other foreign countries, go traveling and explore these new environments! Whether it’s a day-trip, a weekend away, or a long holiday, you may never be presented with such an ideal chance to discover the world around you. Step outside your bubble and become a global citizen.
4. Getting to Know the City You Live in
Think about the place you grew up or lived in for the most amount of time. How well did you get to know that city or town? Did you see the sights? Take part in events? Explore as if you were a tourist? Learn the history? Probably not.
You really are a tourist now, so everything you do, see, and experience is usually unique. Soak up the culture in your new foreign home; taste the food; see the sights; and learn a little something about the history of the place. Doing so is not only interesting, it helps you to feel more comfortable in your new surroundings, as well as confident as you learn to get around easily.
5. Enjoying Your Favorite Hobbies
How often did you get to enjoy your hobbies back home? For most people, the answer is: rarely, if at all. Taking up hobbies is a great way of meeting people. Joining clubs, playing sports, doing volunteer work, or simply relaxing with a good book all contribute to your happiness and healthiness. As an expat, your insights on the experience might help others if you write a blog, or maybe even a book. This is your chance to indulge in your favorite hobbies that you never had time for back home.
Being an expat partner has the potential to be one of the most amazing and adventurous things you do in your life while sharing the experience with a loved one. As they say, “there’s no time like the present,” so get out there and embark upon the journey.
Are you ready to make the most of your expat experience? Are you ready to let go of negativity and release your fears? Are you ready to build your confidence, uncover your talents, and rediscover your authentic self? Are you ready to live the life of your dreams?
Join our ‘Live your Happiest Life Abroad’ Group Coaching Program.
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