The majority of expat partners plan to find a job at their expat location. However, more than half of them change their mind.*
Giving up your job for an overseas adventure is a decision many expat partners face, usually before they fully know what lies ahead. A recent Global Connection survey shows that most partners intend to work abroad: not only to maintain career momentum, but also to simply hold on to their identity and the lifestyle they are used to. However, many conclude that their wish to find paid employment isn’t feasible: locally available jobs may not be suitable, or be unappealing in terms of pay, part time opportunities or annual leave.
Expat life itself can also throw up barriers. Expat partners in Germany often talk about the lack of childcare for young children, for example. While in developing countries, many expat partners face daily challenges ranging from power cuts and severe traffic congestion to poorly stocked supermarkets. In other places, strict rules prohibit expat partners from working. One expat partner, for example, found herself without a paid job in South Africa, where obtaining a work visa is notoriously hard. She relied on alternative plans (volunteering and study) to find a fulfilling occupation.
Global Connection consultant Madeleine van Hasselt agrees that securing employment can sometimes be a challenge for expat partners. However, she emphasises that most partners abandon their plans because of personal choices rather than a lack of opportunity. “The likelihood of finding a job is usually greater if you are willing to take the bad with the good. Once expat partners fully grasp the realities of living abroad, they may conclude that having a job will require too many sacrifices. Their priorities change.”
“Therefore, we always encourage expat partners to also look beyond finding a paid employment and develop a plan B, C, D to fall back on,” continues the Vietnam-based consultant. “It can be anything. Perhaps there’s something you’ve always dreamt about doing but never had time for. It’s important to find something that will inspire you to get you out of the house and start integrating in the community. As many expat partners will tell you, alternative plans often lead to surprising opportunities.”