I’ve moved country ten times. For work, for fun and for love.
I’m not alone. More and more people are moving abroad for work, and more are joining their partners overseas. One study suggests the number of expatriates will rise to 87.5 million by 2021, while other research shows that a fifth move abroad with or in order to join their partner.
Of these, nearly all are women; male accompanying spouses are rare.
Yet it shouldn’t be this way. Research shows that women are happy to go on assignments abroad, and their male partners are happy to take on the role of the accompanying spouse.
Nevertheless women struggle to persuade their employers that they’re a good fit for a move abroad, and men struggle to convince society that they don’t need to be the main breadwinner. Expat stay at home dads find it especially tough to convince locals (even in supposedly modern minded western societies) that they’re just as competent looking after the kids.
All too often the only way women are being selected to go overseas is if they have nothing tying them to their home country: not being a homeowner, having no family, and being single. For couples who do make it, the male plus ones have to work hard to convince locals that they’re doing the right thing. In today’s globalised society, it’s not just a shame, it’s a waste.
I feel like I face a lot of judgment – Grant Fuller, expat dad in Chile
Accompanying spouses of both sexes often find themselves without a visa to work, stripped of a valid driver’s license and unable to fulfil menial administrative duties without their employed partners. For those used to independence it can be frustrating, tiring and humiliating.
Perhaps it’s even harder for men. Support networks for male expat partners are rare. Spouses Trailing Under Duress Successfully (STUDS) started in Brussels and now has a London chapter. They meet regularly for golf, walks, concerts, tours, sport events, bike rides and dinners. But Google ‘clubs for expat women’ and you’ll find a lot more going on.
Research suggests that despite the challenges, male expat spouses tend to adjust well to life abroad. They’re generally successful in seeking out employment and social networks.
The expat men are happy; now it’s time to convince the world.