Expat's Manual

Expat relationships can be very challenging. When couples move abroad, a great deal of attention is focussed upon the practicalities of moving overseas and settling in. However, it is crucial that you take into consideration your personal relationship and work hard to counter any negative impacts that moving abroad can have. It is important that you work together through the entire process otherwise you could start to drift apart and arguments will no doubt occur. If you are completely honest with each other about all of your feelings throughout, you are far less likely to find yourself in the middle of a relationship crisis. Remember that it is natural to be scared and apprehensive about moving your life to a new country, but getting through it together will make everything much easier.

The following will help both you and your spouse to stay strong throughout the whole move:

  • The best expat relationships involve strong and open communication between both partners. If you are moving for a job, make sure your partner is fully aware of all contractual obligations as well as the package you will be receiving, job role and expected duration of contract. Involve them in selecting benefits (where applicable) and in defining your strategy when negotiating your contract. See our free section on expat contract negotiation for further details.
  • Use every resource on offer for your move. Accept all help and advice as this will make everything so much easier for both of you. Your moving company will be able to help with the packing and may also be able to provide practical assistance to help you settle in to your new life. Friends and family will also be on standby to help with anything that may need it.
  • Expat relationships depend upon mutual help and support. If your partner is giving up a career to move with you, look into the possibility of them finding suitable work in your host country. Actively help your partner to research potential job opportunities and help them to establish methods of acquiring the relevant work permit or working visa. If working will not be possible, encourage them to consider other alternatives, such as studying or starting their own business. Put as many plans in place as you can before you arrive so that you are both immediately occupied with things to do. This will help you both to settle in and will help to avoid homesickness.
  • If your partner plans on staying at home, research the expat community and see what is available for stay-at-home partners. In most cities around the world, there is usually an excellent social network for the trailing spouse (though this is normally aimed at wives). Each Expat Info Desk international relocation guide contains comprehensive information about groups, forums and clubs that expat wives, husbands and partners can join in order to meet people and create social networks.
  • Always talk through all of your problems and encourage the rest of your family to do the same.
  • Remember that your partner is also your friend. Support each other and try and make light of even the most stressful situations. Never forget your sense of humour.
  • When you are both feeling particularly stressed, do something you both love. By enjoying yourself, you will forget the daily stresses that you have been through.
  • Learn a new skill and use this time to focus on something other than stress. There are many opportunities when you live abroad. Make the most of these opportunities and do things that you never would have had the chance to do in your home country.
  • Network with expatriate clubs and other expatriates. They will become your new friends and can offer you both support when you need it. See our city guides for a comprehensive list of expat clubs that meet in your chosen destination.

Ultimately, in order for expat relationships to stay strong, you both need to listen to each other and talk your problems through. Support each other during the hardest times and make sure you take time out to enjoy each other's company and have fun.

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Our Expat's Manual is updated regularly so comments about the article may have already been addressed.

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