- Created on Monday, 18 April 2011 23:05
Living internationally can be exciting, challenging and lonely - especially if you are the accompanying spouse.
Please note I refer to the partner of the individual drawing the paycheck as “accompanying spouse”. I am neither calling you a dangling spouse nor a trailing spouse as I have heard you referred to before. You are a partner, a husband or a wife. You are an essential part of the employee that the company hired to work in an international setting. You are not some useless appendage.
Notice that I also did not refer to you as the “non-working” one. That is because I know that the accompanying spouse does indeed work. You may not draw a check, but work? For sure! Living in another culture, I mean really living, takes work. If your partner is at work all day, who takes care of the day to day business of life? You do! Banking, grocery shopping, paying bills, getting repairs taken care of, keeping the house in order and following up on school issues if there are children with you. This all takes time and energy. The list could go on forever, and those are just the regular day to day things. Sure, these things need to be done regardless of the culture you are in, but when you layer in the fact that you are now doing this in an international setting, the stress rises exponentially.
Have you ever thought of it this way? You have become the one in your family who is designated to become the culture expert. You learn the language for all the tasks you do. You learn some of the written language to navigate your way around the city and to figure out how to shop and even to cook! You become an interpreter of non-verbals of the culture far faster than your spouse who is trapped in the office all day. This again requires work, effort and implies a great deal of stress. But it also means you get the fabulous job of discovering all the great museums, the best restaurants, the cultural celebrations and certainly the best places to go on a weekend!
So do us both a favor and try not to just survive the experience. Live a little! Find a friend who is in the same position and explore, explore, explore! Make your international opportunity the experience of a lifetime. Your entire family will be richer because of it. Now that’s an important job!