Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Expat Couples

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Photo by Mike Baird
The BBC has an interesting article entitled Tales of woe from the roaming professionals.

From what I can see, it's spot on about the issues many expat face, but it focuses on couples. Obviously, if you're moving by yourself, as I did at first, your problems are not the same. For expat couples, moving to an exotic country can make or break the relationship.

The first thing you need to do is check the labor laws of your target country. The first couple in the BBC article had a "trailing spouse" (as they're known in expat circles) who could not get work in the US because her husband had the visa. However, some countries do allow the spouse or recognized partner to take work. That's probably the single most important thing you can get sorted. If working remotely is not an option and volunteer work is not satisfying, your partner could be very justifiably unhappy.

The first thing you need to do when you arrive at your target country is to figure out how make friends as a couple. I've seen plenty of expat couples struggle and lack of "joint" friends is certainly an issue. You don't want just one of you going out and having a good time.

And make sure you always find time for each other. Study the language together. Your hobbies in your home country? Find local versions and enjoy them together. And always, always make sure that you're not letting your personal struggle of being in a new country blind you to the personal struggles your partner has. Becoming an expat is often very difficult, but with a partner, you've greatly increased your chances of failure if you're not very careful.

If your relationship is not strong, becoming expats has a good chance to destroy it. Is living in a new country more important than your partner?
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