Very often an overseas move is driven by an irresistible employment prospect – for one half of a couple, one parent in a family. It’s a fantastic opportunity and everyone gets on board but in the heat of the excitement and the whirlwind of planning, it can be easy to overlook the needs of the accompanying partner. Often the unflatteringly labelled ‘trailing spouse’ has to give up their own career to make this move and, while this would be a joint decision of the couple, can be an unexpectedly distressing experience.
The books mentioned below provide some guidance, support and tips for expat partners. The links included are for Amazon UK – but the books are widely available and can be easily found via any search engine. And as in my previous expat book recommendation post, these are genuine recommendations from members of the Expatability Club Chat on Facebook and I have not received any financial incentive to share these.
‘A light-hearted but authoritative manual for anyone accompanying their partner on an overseas assignment’.
Drawing on the experiences of more than 70 expat partners (including me!), this is a book of stories that are engaging and easy to read but contain a wealth of information that will prove invaluable to anyone who find themselves in this situation. From how it feels to stay at home alone on the first day of ‘work’ in a strange country, to the trials and tribulations of unfamiliar grocery shopping, transport and finding the right school for accompanying children. Clara Wiggins is something of an authority on this subject, having spent her childhood as a ‘trailing daughter’ and then putting the shoe on the other foot and being the one, as an adult, to pursue a global career and take her own family on multiple overseas adventures. Slightly tongue in cheek in the writing style, this is a book to both cheer you up and push you forward. View on Amazon
Whilst an overseas assignment and a lifestyle change is undoubtably an exciting opportunity, it can be difficult too and can put unexpected pressure on a relationship. The partner with the assignment is focused on their new career opportunity; settling in, making new connections and working hard to make a good impression – leaving the trailing spouse behind to build a home and find his or her own direction. This book explores the unique expat issues that can make or break a relationship, offering some valuable tips and guidance on finding a way forward but perhaps most importantly, highlighting that you are never alone and that others have faced the same difficulties and come out of the other side on one piece. A reassuring and heartening read. View on Amazon
What if it’s not exciting? We talk a lot about the great adventure – but what if you don’t feel that way; if it’s inconvenient to move or if you suffer badly with culture shock or depression? In an honest and hard-hitting account of psychological displacement, the author describes her journey from the initial doubt that something wasn’t quite right into the deepest pit of insecurity, depression and the loss of personal identity. Eventually, with the help of her therapist and life coach, she came out the other side, achieved a shift in perspective and made a new home for herself but it didn’t come easily and this is a book for those who are facing the very real struggle of not being able to adapt as easily as ‘expected’. View on Amazon
All too often we think that conquering the initial move is the hard part and that repatriation, when it arrives, will be relatively easy – but this is not always the case. A spouse who has become used to life overseas, who has carved a niche in a foreign world and built a new career, may find it unexpectedly hard when the assignment ends and the working spouse is relocated ‘home’. In fact all the difficult things, like identity loss, culture shock and disconnection can happen all over again and this is often not at all what the family is expecting. Long term expats can become ‘global nomads’; not only used to life on the road but actively embracing it – so when it stops there’s a sense of loss to contend with as well as rediscovering how to live a ‘normal’ life. With warmth and compassion the author explores the issues of coming ‘home’ by recounting her own experiences – more of a tale of understanding than a source of advice but it’s useful to understand that you’re not alone. View on Amazon
Less of a story and more of a guide, this book is packed with advice, tips and experiences that are delivered in a warm, friendly and empathetic way. The authors have more than 15 international assignments between them and have encountered it all from the practical aspects of the transition to culture shock. Whether you read it before you go or use it as a go-to resource for difficulties encountered along the way, the blend of advice and humour will life your spirits and help you to make wise choices in difficult situations. View on Amazon