A recent article highlighted the conundrum that despite Swiss expats being some of the highest paid expats in the world, many expat assignments fail because families and particularly spouses don’t feel at home in Switzerland. This raises the very real issue of how the happiness of, what is often termed the “trailing spouse” can make or break an expat assignment. Here are some ways to ensure your move abroad is a happy one for you both.
Consider what you are going to do
If you’re the ‘trailing spouse’ and moving abroad because your spouse has been awarded an expat position, it’s critical you consider what you will be doing in your new country. Often ‘trailing spouses’ don’t have a job of their own to go to – and occasionally because of working restrictions are unable to work in their new country. On a more lucrative note, you may not need to work because your partner’s expat package is sufficient to cover all your expenses – but this can quickly lead to loneliness in a new country, especially if you can’t speak the local language.
It is critical you take time to consider what you will be filling your days with and take proactive steps – like joining local expat support groups – to head off any problems before they occur.
Don’t be passive in the process
As a spouse following a partner abroad, it can be easy to become passive in the process – but it’s important to take responsibility for your own life. Get as involved in the relocation process as you can. If your partner’s company has a spousal program, join it and make the most of the network and advice on offer. Consider contacting recruitment companies in your new country before you leave and find out if your qualifications are accepted in your new country. If you need to up-skill in certain areas, look at local courses on offer and consider whether it will be worth you advancing your career in your new country.
Negotiate for yourself
Many companies have a global relocation team that takes care of your move abroad. Consider negotiating with them if you need extra skills or language courses to integrate into the local society. Most forward-thinking organisations are very aware of how crucial a spouse’s happiness is to the success of an expat assignment and will be receptive to your suggestions.
Get out there as soon as you arrive
Once the relocation is over and your partner heads off to work, don’t be tempted to spend a few extra hours in bed. Rather face your new world head on and find out as much as possible about your new neighbourhood. The more you know, the more confident and comfortable you will feel in your new surroundings. If you plan to work, network with everyone you meet and be flexible about the type of job you want. A good way to meet people is to use your experience and volunteer at a local organisation that can use your skills.
Realise this is a team effort
A study by a global relocation company showed that as many as 65% of expat assignments fail because of unhappy and dissatisfied spouses. It’s important to approach moves like this as a team. If only one of you is going to be working, discuss how your finances will work. It’s important that both of you feel empowered by the move, if it is to be a success.
If you’re thinking of moving abroad and would like to ensure your move is a success, contact FinGlobal for more information about how to financially make the move and unlock your wealth in your new home.