Support, support, support
Just as the 3 rules of real estate are location, location, and location, the 3 rules for enjoying expat life are support, support and more support. This may seem difficult when you have left behind family, close friends and an entire support network. That feeling may intensify if your spouse has a stressful job, is working long hours or pays more attention to his phone than to you when he is at home.
So what can you do?
Your first order of business, once settled in is to establish a support system. Try these suggestions:
- Attend expat organization meetings
- Meet other spouses in the same situation as you are and get together, for shopping, coffee, exploring or just chatting
- Talk with others with similar experiences. They are a rich source of support and information, especially when you’ve just arrived.
Get involved; find your passion:
Use this time to learn something that you’re always wanted to learn but have never found the time. Get involved with something you feel passionate about. Remember a time when you were engrossed in something and you thought just minutes had passed, then you were doing something you felt passionate about. Find a way to do this activity with others, as this is a great way to bond and make new friends.
Find support systems outside your home:
Avoid the perils of looking to your partner to fill all of your emotional needs. Typically, “trailing spouses” are women, but increasingly they are men as well. When a spouse is relocated to a foreign posting, usually he or she is in an upper management or similar position with a great deal of responsibility. Frequently the working partner is on one hand learning how to negotiate with local staff that may or may not share a similar work ethic while trying to explain the situation to the home office who typically has unrealistic expectations. Being in this situation is extremely stressful and a person who is undergoing stress is rarely in a position to be supportive. In fact, our spouses may be looking to us for support. So at the very time we need our partner’s support the most, they may not be able to give it to us. It therefore becomes imperative to establish a support network outside your home.
Help yourself first; you are not alone
We have all heard the flight attendant’s speech a million times about putting on our own oxygen mask before assisting a child or another passenger. If we’re in a sinking life boat, we cannot support anyone else. But if we’re buoyed by support, there is no end to how we can help others, not to mention ourselves. Above all, please remember that you are not alone. Take a risk, reach out, and when all else fails, use online therapy and contact me.