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Expat Trailing Spouses – The Tale of a Trail

Going by the mass hysteria among our family friends and relatives for finding eligible NRI partners for their daughters, when my parents put up the proposal of an NRI boy for me they probably expected to be patted on their back for such a great ‘find’.

 

trailing spouses

 I on the other hand wasn’t amused by the idea of leaving a job I loved, the people I knew and cared for and the familiar environment I had grown up in for the lure of any foreign country   

 Fate though had already made up its mind on packing me off to foreign shores and before I knew it, our families were already filling copious amounts of sweets in each other’s mouth after our very rushed sagai ceremony.

 The day I was putting in my papers at the IT MNC I had worked for the last many years, I was totally relaxed. With computer engineering and an MBA degree in hand and 5 years of professional experience working with International companies, I was confident of finding another job within no time of initiating my job search in the new country.

 It was after several months had passed without even a single response to the thousands of job applications I had sent that reality finally dawned on me. There was something drastically wrong going on here. Were they even opening my application, was there something wrong with my cv, was I not using proper language to communicate my credentials……Sometimes I just wished I could read the thoughts of the person opening my application and find out where was I going wrong.

 And though friends and the random recruitment consultant I spoke to reassured it always took long, nobody had a definite answer to what the hell was missing/wrong in my application.

 I couldn’t understand why a resume that was a hot selling cake back in India laid gathering dust in the mailboxes of recruitment consultants who never bothered calling back on it.

 As months passed, I started losing confidence. I had no satisfying responses to the repeated questions on my employment status from family and relatives back in India. They probably thought I was just too used to the easy life at home and wasn’t trying hard enough. While in reality, I was falling into an abyss of an all-time low self-esteem and was hanging on the verge of depression.

 The only thing that kept me going and in touch with the professional world I had left many continents back was the freelance writing work I did during this period. My blogs also became a source for me to get in touch with many like-minded readers and a lot of similar expat trailing spouses like me who were stuck in the same vicious unemployment situation.

 I got to know about other similar highly qualified, professionally experienced women who had given up their lucrative jobs back home so that their husband’s careers could flourish here. Who played a key role in strengthening, managing and supporting their family and children but ironically were still seen by the society as nothing more than good-for-nothing, mindless, aimless, freeloaders….enjoying on their husbands hard earned money.

 While in reality all these women were going through the same struggle of finding jobs for themselves and fighting an unending battle to hold on to their confidence and identity every day.

 But just because they were not into full time jobs didn’t meant they spent their days hopping from one kitty party to another and from a massage parlour to a spa all day. They were infact energetic, enthusiastic individuals taking up work from home jobs, organizing events, running book clubs, participating in charitable work, volunteering for non-profits, getting vocational degrees and running marathons.

 And you would expect better recognition for women who chose to sacrifice their own career and lifestyle, leave their family and friends and ignored their own professional fulfillment, dedicating themselves to raising children; managing a home and advancing their husbands career instead.

 But still, trailing spouses or accompanying partners as I like to put to it-get no more respect than an extra baggage that was packed and delivered during the international transfer, reducing their worth and identity to nothing more than somebody’s wife.

 What upset me most that while there were many initiatives to strengthen the social assimilation of expat families, there was little or none done to take care of their employment problems.

 There existed no effective social programme, guidance or counselling to support the unique career needs of an accompanying immigrant spouse in a new country and job market.

Add to it the problems of degrees from back home that are not recognized here, certificates that need to be converted, struggling with an unfamiliar accent and sometimes a completely different language, a non-existent understanding of the labor market and the normal cultural nuances and you have a ready recipe of disappointments, de-motivation and helplessness.

 While countries roll out long lists of skills required from offshore and are eager to provide visas and facilities for these skilled work forces, they somehow manage to overlook the vast amount of skills they already have in the form of expat wives.

  The Obama government took an initiative of acknowledging this skill resource bank and introduced major reforms in their immigration laws by making it possible for female expat H-4 visa holders to apply for work authorization if their partner has applied for a green card.

But that’s just the start of an employment battle and the question is more about these women finding the right guidance, support and career counselling to become contributing members of the society and regain their self-worth and identity.

 While the situation in other European countries who do allow expat partners to work as soon as they arrive isn’t any better with soaring unemployment numbers painting a grim picture. A labour market statistics report published in September 2014 report stated the unemployment rate of Asian women in UK at a whopping 12%.

Maybe there needs to be another law that protects a women’s right to her dignity and pursuit of happiness – respecting her for the person she is and not for the person she is married to.

P.S: This article is a small attempt to bring to light the various struggles expat Indian wives go through in foreign lands , that nobody tells them about before hand. So if you are an Expat spouse fighting the same situation and dilemma, share your story with us at chauhanswati12@gmail.com. The difficulties you faced in finding a job and how you overcame them. And we will share it on our social channels.Don’t forget to send in a pic with the write up :).

About the Author:

A computer Engineer by education, digital marketer by profession , Swati is a writer by passion contributing regularly to many popular publication including Huffington post, thought Catalog, Elite daily, Women’s web. She also runs a Facebook group with the name of Jobs for Asian Women that is an attempt to bring job seekers and employers on a common platform so that opportunities can be shared openly and quickly.

(If you have any advise or views to share on this topics, use the comment column below and tell us what you think.) .For more information follow me on twitterGoogle+ or connect with me through my Facebook page.

swatic12

I am Swati Chauhan and i live in the South of Sweden. A computer engineer and a Management graduate by education, I am a writer by passion. I write about personal growth, self motivation,increasing productivity, optimizing life,achieving goals,social skills and increasing the Happiness quotient of your life.

15 Comments

  1. Beautifully elaborated, Swati. However, I think (and could be horribly wrong) that the number of expat spouses who look to make a career in a foreign land are substantially small. For most it still is the enchantment of moving to a 1st world country.

    Inspiring to read that you stuck to your guns and eventually made something of yourself on your own…

    • Hey Vishal,

      You are not entirely wrong…the number isn’t huge (if you compare it to the population of India) but I know thosands of educated Indian girls who have came abroad completely oblivius to the job problems and been facing a hard time. Infact after moving to London, I started a FB group to interact with each other and share information like job postings, interview tips etc. The group itself has more than 4000 members now so you can only imagine the plight.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Best Regards,
      Swati

  2. A well written article Swati but in my view the struggles you describe are not specific to non trailing spouses. They are struggles of any new entrant coming from a ‘non-comparable’ economy to a saturated competitive market. I write this as a ‘non-trailing spouse’ who has had to face exactly the same strife except even without the basics being guaranteed by way of existence.

    Also, a word of advice – your article is mired with a sense of entitlement – which quite simply is misguided.

    It needs to be pointed out here that going to foreign shores was your decision (I am assuming your background meant you weren’t dragged into the mandap beaten!).

    You took that decision because you found the man worth leaving everything for. Please don’t try to make a case of general sacrifice to the world.

    The world owes you nothing. Maybe you will have more success with your job search if you remember this.

  3. I have a simple question, why would anybody leave a job s/he “loves” in no time before even researching the prospects at proposed locations?

    Specially when professionals are damn keen on checking things up if they are switching jobs at their own will in India itself. A lot of research goes in but same does not happen in case of cases like yours.

    Sounds stupid to me atleast? I would like hear if I am wrong.

    • Hello Mrigank,

      You are right,it would be stupid to leave your job or country without researching and I did. Infact got numbers and contacts of HR of the EMEA division of the company I was working for but unfortunately 2009 was also the year of the big economic crash world wide. Add to it the language problems.
      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your views!
      Cheers,
      Swati

  4. Nicely written…planning a career for women is really not easy with all the workforce mobility that is there add to that challenge of handling kids ,managing home …a guidance on how to handle such situation will help prepare better and know what to expect

  5. Inspiring writing, I am certain. My mom left her Job when I was kid. It was not her decision, however turned out to be terribly wrong. I don’t want my wife or children to make the same mistakes. Views of our society need to be changed on an extent.

    • Hello Rocky,

      It is a difficult decision to leave your job or country for that matter. But like you said, we should inspire our famiy and people around us especially females to be more independent.
      Cheers,
      Swati

  6. Hi Swati,
    I got here through random googling. Having moved to Australia and having taken a break to have and care for a baby, I can relate my situation with this post. Liked your writing, hence linking/blogrolling you on my blog. Will be here more often.

    • Hello Wanderer,

      Glad you liked the blog and thanks for adding to your blog roll!
      Hope you had a good time here!

      Cheers,
      Swati

  7. My name is William and I run motivationalcity.com. I’m trying to grow my site by reaching out to other bloggers and there communities . I’ve been reading your site for a year now and I’m a big fan!

  8. Your post made me understand the struggle of my friends are staying at home after moving to another country. Nicely explained.

    • Hello Soawmya,

      Like they say, the grass is always greener on the other side :). Glad you liked the article!

      Thanks for dropping by!

      Cheers,
      Swati

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