Who’s ‘business’ is the well-being of the accompanying expat partner?

expat diariesA happy expat simply achieves more… I fully believe this, and it’s my motto from off my website, based on my own experiences …

It was back in Paris, years ago. We had just moved home for the 4th time and it had become a kind of routine: packing, unpacking, finding out where to buy the daily groceries, trying to settle in, and meeting new people. And, of course, in the long run, find me a job as well! We were fully aware that it takes time and patience to settle in a foreign country (again).

We were living in a beautiful, typically Parisian apartment, with a view from the living room directly onto the Eiffel Tower. A ‘très chique’, pleasant neighborhood – money was no object, and yet … I was still unhappy, and I missed my old job. In the beginning I didn’t dare complain or admit that I was unhappy, afraid that friends and family back home would call me ‘spoilt’. All anybody else ever saw was the ‘outside’ – the apparent wealth – but inside there was darkness and loneliness, because…….

  • Every day I studied French.
  • Every day I read the local newspaper to find out what was going on and to learn about the job market in Paris. To start with, I was looking for a part-time job, one in which I could use my German, Dutch & English language skills.
  • Every day, most of the day, I was alone. Not yet able to communicate on a proficient level and also not really knowing anyone to talk to.
  • Every day in the morning I was optimistic and motivated, but it is very hard to hang in there!
  • Every day I looked forward to my husband’s home-coming (if he was not travelling that day) – I was like a dog: jumping up and wagging my tail. It was the highlight of the day.
  • Every day I looked forward to finally being able to talk to someone and share my experiences in this new city.

But this particular someone was exhausted. He had had to meet and talk to people the entire day (in a foreign language too!). He had to manage the business and was really just looking forward to a quiet evening with good food, reading the news paper and watching TV. Anything but talk!

This is just an example to illustrate to companies, relocating their employees and their family from abroad – effectively making them ‘expats’. Relocation abroad takes a whole lot of understanding and patience from the expat family (and so not just the actual employee). Relocation is a challenge and can be both a negative and positive experience.

With all my optimism, pro-activeness, openness, and courage, it was still a challenge. Even with my love of foreign countries, foreign people and foreign cultures and full awareness that one has to build a new life for yourself and this by yourself – it could have been a lot easier if there had been some support and guidance from my partner’s firm for me, the accompanying partner.

Actually what I wanted to say is this: The relocation support for expat families should not stop the moment the expat family has moved in to their new home. Offering ‘spouse support’ as part of the relocation package is a sign of ,good employer practice, taking on full responsibility, as an employer of expats.


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‘I can’t believe THAT!’ said Alice

‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’

Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’

I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’.

Chapter 5 – Wool & Water, Alice in Wonderland

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