I am an expat living in Germany. I attend some social groups with other English speaking expats. Last month a woman referred to me as a “trailing spouse”. It sounded like an insult for a moment or definitely something I should be concerned about.
The definition on Wikipedia of a trailing spouse is ; The term trailing spouse is used to describe a person who follows his or her life partner to another city because of a work assignment. The term is often associated with people involved in an expatriate assignment but is also used by academia on domestic assignments. Ok well, that doesn’t seem so bad, so I followed someone to another country. That seems harmless. Is it harmless you wonder?
Issues that can affect the couple moving can be numerable. The top one on my list was that my German was limited and I was suddenly dependent on my husband for communication. That get’s old for the native speaker who needs to work and can’t take time off to escort you everywhere. Likewise, it can be difficult on the once independent spouse who now waits at home for someone to take him/her to appointments.
What about socialization for the trailing spouse? Are they now without friends or family who speak the same language? Are they without a drivers license in the new country?
Plan ahead before your move. If you have already moved overseas then take action! There are lots of ideas in my book, Moving Overseas. Here are a couple of my favorite.
- Be supportive of the emotional roller coaster that your trailing spouse may be on.
- Figure out a way to find social supports in your new home.
- Utilize re-location or cultural training’s that are offered with your firm.
- Join social media support groups
- Find a coach in your area who is experienced with inter-cultural relationships