‘Trailing spouse’ and other outdated terms

As the expat experience evolves over time so does the language we use. Some words and terms are slowly disappearing from our vocabulary. Should others follow?

Trailing spouse

This term always had a negative connotation. It implies the ‘other half’ is more of an appendage that has dutifully, and possibly reluctantly, followed. While ‘offshore’ they’re simply counting down the days until the assignment finally ends. The term is still heard nowadays but seems to be on the way out.

Expat brat

This term conjures up an image of a spoiled individual, who had a privileged and transient upbringing, spending more time with nannies than their socialite parents. No one ever told them off, so they were free to be brats (and many may remain so in adulthood). As the expat populations have grown and diversified, this term has thankfully faded (along with ‘military brat’). Nowadays, the term third-culture kids is more commonly used to describe children that have been raised outside of their parents’ culture / homeland for long periods.

The maid

It’s a word most expats would never have used at home but in many expat communities it’s still in circulation. However, there are some who would be happy to see the term described as ‘dated’ in the dictionary. Why? The word hails back to Victorian times, when the maid was part of an elaborate hierarchy. Hence, many prefer housekeeper.

And… expat

In one widely read opinion piece, a writer for the Guardian claimed the word “exclusively applies to white people”. This, however, is probably not the experience for many expats living in multicultural communities, many of whom might counter that the term simply applies to temporary and voluntary residents of other countries. Some expats themselves remain uncomfortable with the tag due to the negative behaviour of other expats!

Positive affirmation

Which brings us to our last point: positive reinforcement. As previously noted, the term trailing spouse is on the wane. Why? As we have seen through Global Connection’s own diverse and active community, expat partners today start businesses, develop mobile careers, contribute to their communities by volunteering, manage their households, and much, much more. As actions speak louder than words, it is they, the expat partners, and other open-minded global citizens, that not only shape the expat experience today but influence the vocabulary we use to describe them.

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