• AbsolutelyTalented

Who and what is an Expat Partner?

Dernière mise à jour : 18 oct. 2021

What do we mean by ‘expat partner’?

Expat partner, accompanying partner, trailing spouse.

These are all terms used for a person who moves with their partner to another country for their partner’s work contract.

But who are these people, and what do they do all day?

There is a common misconception that expat partners are generally women who spend their days shopping and drinking coffee (or Champagne!) while their spouses work.

Children, houses and dogs are taken care of by helpers and any intentions to rejoin the labour market have long since been abandoned, never to be found again.

Is this us? We, the women and men who have moved with our partners (and quite often children) across the globe, several times.

Nah, not really. Like most people, our days are filled with admin, household chores, helping with homework, walking the dog and making sure that life runs smoothly for our family – except that it’s in a country where we may not speak the language, or be familiar with the school system, where using public transport is an unwanted adventure or where grocery shopping could take hours just to locate cheese.

Who are we and how did we get here?

There are many reasons why expat partners have chosen the life they have but lack of skills, education or employment in the ‘home land’ are rarely part of the equation.

Most of the women and men I have met who have taken their families across the globe are well-educated, highly skilled individuals who had stable jobs before they decided to move. They didn’t really plan on becoming an accompanying partner; instead, a job opportunity came up for their spouse, they took a decision together, resulting in multiple moves and corporate career climbing.

For many of us, it is a welcome ‘break’ – being able to spend more time with our children, learn new languages, plan adventures in places we normally wouldn’t be able to go to, and generally broaden our horizons.

But as one spouse's career takes off, the accompanying partner can also be left feeling vulnerable, a little aimless and lost.

Can I get a job again?

What, then, happens when the accompanying partner actually wants to get back into the labour market, apply for a job in the country they are in?