What Next? The struggle of defining yourself as an Expat Wife

What Next? The struggle of defining yourself as an Expat Wife

Moving abroad is a big step. Moving abroad for the love of your life being an expat wife for a certain amount of time is a completely different thing to do.

In this way, you are not only just moving abroad dealing with all the different cultural habits and traditions, adapting to a new language, creating a new home, meeting new friends and finding your way around in a new city. You also have to figure out what you gonna do with your time and how to redefine yourself in alignment with this new role. What are you gonna do with your new life? What kind of options are out there? Not an easy question is it?

LET’S MOVE ABROAD

In my case I was really happy with my job back in Germany and I was planning a career – meaning I was enjoying my job and I was always looking for the next potential challenge.

When my husband came home and proposed the possibility to move abroad I was immediately hooked. We have been thinking about whether or not to live in another country for quiet some time. We both have studied and worked abroad before and although we were enjoying Germany a lot, we were kind of curious: What could happen next?

I studied in the UK and worked in Taiwan and Spain and really enjoyed experiencing different work cultures. As I was studying together with 17 different nationalities, group work at university was the perfect preparation for my future jobs. Fun Fact: In my experience, most stereotypes of cultural work ethics are actually true – also the German stereotype.

So I have a quiete international background. However, this time would be different and it was clear from the very beginning: My husband got assigned to an interesting and challenging job and I would follow, quit my job hoping to get something new and exciting too without having a local network to build on.

Being an US assignment makes it a bit trickier to get a Visa and work permit compared to being relocated within Europe. This is not only pretty nerve-racking but also time consuming. Of course there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s just say: The tunnel is a bit longer and having a new political leader in charge when applying for Visa is not the most comforting thing to do 🙂

Due to the bureaucratic process it was obvious that there is a certain amount of time where I would not be allowed to work under legal conditions. I chose to make the most out of this “free time” by traveling the world. In my opinion filling this period with something positive and rewarding is a vital thing to do and I can’t recommend it enough.

THE JOB HUNTING CHALLENGE

Unfortunately, after having compiled all the necessary papers it is not as easy to find a job as one might think.

I guess persistence and patience are important companions at this stage. Neither of them are easy to uphold when facing one setback after another but it is important to stay positive.

In my case it meant having been promised a job a couple of times only to find out at the finishing line that it wouldn’t work out. It also means sending out applications to jobs below one’s experience and becoming frustrated when not getting a single phone interview.

Whereas I had successfully applied for my previous jobs back home this experience was different. The US is not my home turf and necessary qualifications for the same job may differ. The Americans are the best when it comes to self-marketing and competition is strong. As in many other countries you need a local network to get to know the exciting jobs and to have a realistic chance to be considered in the application process.

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Picture: Photo by John Baker

PLAN B?

So, when you find yourself applying for jobs you don’t really fancy to do or are more defined as internships it is easy to get frustrated.

In times like that it is vital to stay open-minded and positive. I have put together my 7 proven tricks to overcome the expat wife’s blues which you can download by signing up to my Share the Love newsletter. 

Being an Expat Wife feels like someone put you out of your normal life and placed you somewhere else saying: I don’t care what you have done so far in your life. I don’t care what you have planned for your future. Here is my welcome package to your Expat Wife’s life, it’s a golden key, and now go on and do something with your life.

I recommend you to view your current situation as a chance to create something new. It is the perfect opportunity to think outside the box and reinvent yourself. Think about all the things you always wanted to do but could not do because of work or being trapped in everyday life.

When thinking about what I always wanted to do,  I remembered I was always missing something creative. I love to take pictures and create something out of nothing. I was often wondering whether I should have studied something creative or maybe more creating than Management.

Therefore, I have decided to take on this opportunity as a chance to create something. Recently, I learned InDesign from scratch and now I am diving into Photoshop. I can’t wait to bring my photos to the next level and to capture more moments of this crazy life right now.

I am also volunteering at a dog shelter to get to know nice people and to do something good at the same time. What better thing could there be than taking care of cute innocent dogs who are searching for a home?

All that is helping me to indulge in this new culture and to open my mind. Creating this blog was just a logical thing to do as I wanted to create something where I can put together all the things I learned and all the experiences I am making.

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Thank you!!!

WHERE TO START?

However, don’t underestimate the challenge of finding something new. If you find yourself in a similar position than myself you will realize that the diversity of opportunities can be overwhelming. What will be the right thing to do? On what shall I focus?

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I have put together some questions which I am currently turning my head around and maybe these are also helpful for you. Here some thought experiments:

AIMING FOR A SIMILAR JOB

If you decide to build upon your former career you might take into consideration some alternate thinking:

  • Would this be a good time to change the industry?

  • Would this be an opportunity to change profession?

  • Am I ok with the local work conditions (work hours and days off) or would contract work be a better option? Big point for me here in the US!

  • Would there be a further training I can do now to have better work when returning home?

SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING NEW

Think back in time and try to remember what you always wished to do when you were trapped in your old world

  • What skills do you always wanted to learn?

  • Was there a social project you have been interested but always “too busy” to act on it? Is there an interest for bringing in your talents for a Non-Profit Organization or a local charity? If so, what topic interests you? Is it nature? People? Children? Local or abroad? Animals?

  • What kind of personal developments would you like to see?

THE DECISION TREE METHOD

I remember a coaching back in my old work world when I was planning to take on a new role. The coach was preparing me for the upcoming obstacles. Especially one session was mind-changing: The coach asked me to think through all the different eventualities.

Decision Tree, Expat Wife, Defining your life
Picture: Photo by Marcus Cramer

For example: How would be your life if you take on role A? What would be your daily life? How would you feel in this or this or that situation? What would be the consequence? Imagine you are facing an obstacle in your new role. How would you feel then? What would you do? And then go on doing that with Role B. Again, ask yourself the same questions.

By imagining the future in such detail it is easier to understand in what kind of role you feel more comfortable and what would suit you best.

Doing that I realized how my honest perspective towards these roles are. By imagine the future in such detail it was easier for me to decide in what direction to head. I guess this thought experiment could be of great help again.

The method is called “Decision Tree” and there are some great articles out there summarizing the technique. Very interesting though: Most of the US pages I found, use the Decision Tree method for business decisions rather than private questions.

However, I don’t see why we can’t take something which is obviously working in work life and transfer it to our own life. What more important can there be than deciding on our future? I recommend checking out Mindgames.com if you want to explore more about the Decision Tree Method.

WHat are your thoughts?

So you can see the role of an Expat Wife comes with a lot of personal questions about your own future. You start to revaluate your values and priorities. Needless to say that this is not an easy or straightforward process. However when you conquered the first steps there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay curious: It might shine in a different color than you would have thought in the very beginning.

So I am curious, have you had experiments with coaching and such thought experiments?

How do you decide if everything is possible and it just feels overwhelming? Are you also an Expat Wife? What are your experiences with this new role?

Let me know in the comments below!

Have you signed up for the Share the Love Newsletter yet? If not hurry and you will get the download link to my 7 proven tricks to conquer the Expat Wife’s Blues.

Also have you seen my latest post on how to remind yourself about your motives going abroad on moody days? Check out my template here. It’s a simple but nice one pager on which you can put down your thoughts. It’s a useful reminder I promise.

Thanks for sharing the love and stopping by

Kate from Share the Love, expat, expat wife, expat life

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