As a female expat, you need to be aware that sexism can almost be the ‘national sport’ in some countries. Despite this, generalising countries as “sexist” is never a good idea, every nation is different and has different practices. To prepare you for what you might encounter abroad, here are some practical tips.
Tips for female expats
Do your research
Dealing with sexism is never pleasant, but it helps to be prepared for it before you leave. Researching women’s experiences in various countries, can prepare you for what you might face when you arrive there.
Look at the cultural norms
Look at the cultural norms and see what’s common practice in some countries. It may feel like you are giving in if you start accepting the wolf-whistles flying your way, but if the are part of the local culture, aggressively resisting them might not be the best way to deal with it. In many Muslim countries, women are expected to dress in a certain way and avoid bare legs, uncovered shoulders or low-cut tops and if you resist this, you might find yourself at the receiving end of unpleasant harassment.
Speak to your fellow expats
You don’t have to accept the phrase “that’s just how things are done here”. Speak to your fellow expat women about the sexist experiences that they have dealt with. Local expat women will have a lot of empathy for what you’re experiencing and will help you reaffirm your own value if rampant sexism is dragging you down.
There is nothing more frustrating than facing sexism in the workplace. If you’re being overlooked or ignored because you are a woman, you may feel inclined to speak up or be more aggressive. Unfortunately, in cultures where this type of behaviour is rife, these types of confrontation can be counterproductive. Sometimes it’s best to just keep your cool and look at alternative channels like speaking to your HR director for their advice on how to handle the sexist behaviour.
Understand your legal rights
Some countries may condone sexist behaviour, there are others where women’s legal rights are curtailed and it’s important to be aware of this before travelling or immigrating to these destinations. If you do run into problems in these countries, claiming ignorance of the law is not regarded as an excuse.
Top countries where women’s legal rights are restricted:
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