For 79% of expat partners, the reason for moving abroad is their partner’s job, according to the Expat Insider Survey (2015, p.104). Apparently only 28% of respondents are unhappy with their relocation support – consisting in reimbursement of relocation costs, help with the visa, housing etc. – and 47% are generally satisfied (p.59).
Expat life can be a very enriching and exciting experience, and many expat partners manage to have a positive life experience abroad. But an expat life can be a real roller coaster ride and according to that survey, the expat partners are the second least satisfied expat types, after the Family Expat, and they have the lowest percentage (9%) of respondents who say that they are completely satisfied with their life abroad.
Missing the personal support network, struggling with the language barrier, having a hard time making new friends, being tired of expat life and wanting to settle down, struggling with being financially dependent on their partner, feeling lonely because of their partner working long hours, feeling that they lack of a purpose in life and experiencing culture shock, are the main struggles of expat partners.
Many international companies invest in in-house trainings for their employees. They are informed about cross-cultural and multi-cultural workplace issues and get trained on how to communicate and manage across cultures. Research and analysis of expatriate relocations has highlighted that cultural differences have a major impact on the employees and their partners and family. Of interest is that expat partners usually don’t receive the same kind of training.
“One of the main reasons for expat failure is poor preparation of the accompanying partner and the lack of support.” [BBC Capital: The Reluctant Expat Spouse]
An expat failure not only cost businesses money and results in demotivated workers in foreign locations, it can also lead to damaged client relationships.
No matter if we are at the beginning of our expat journey or have already lived abroad an extended amount of time, we all experience challenging times and once negativity starts creeping in, motivation and patience are easily lost. Adjusting difficulties results in increased pressure.
A training program for expat partners helps keep an open and curious mindset, fosters a better understanding of the target destination culture, provides coping strategies for expat partners when they feel alone and vulnerable, and should offer support for basic necessities. In matters of parenting a child abroad and finding a new purpose and meaning, such programs can alleviate isolation and disorientation. An empowered and supported accompanying partner not only benefits the expat family, but the employer as well. It creates the treasured “win-win” situation which is always the most desirable.