Culture shock and also culture stress are a normal part of living abroad. Because I’m in a new environment, I now have to think about things that I did in my home country without thinking. Simple things take more effort.
When a couple or a family move internationally, the trailing spouse, most often the wife, faces some adjustment issues that are different than those of the one who is employed. The one with the job gets to go to work. The one at home is often left to flounder through culture shock, culture stress, and adjustment to a new life on their own.
The results of a study done by the US based Interchange Institute called Many Women, Many Voices has some helpful information and interesting findings based on the past experiences of women following their husbands on International assignments. Perhaps most interesting to me and applicable to my life in India was the impact of gains and losses on an expat’s adjustment process. The obvious was stated thus, “Those who experienced gains in these areas (professional identity, social status, material comfort and time with friends) had better adjustment while those with losses had poorer adjustment.” As I reflect on our family’s move to and life in India, I realize that my adjustment was easier because of many enriching, treasured experiences which weigh heavier on the scale than the frustrating experiences.
The article also points to the fact that women who start well prepared in terms of cultural understanding have an easier adjustment. Shanti Consulting offers training for wives focused on their needs. See our Expatriate Assignments page to learn more. You can also browse our recommended readings for living cross-culturally. Don’t feel trapped. There are things that a trailing spouse can do to move from experiencing losses to experiencing gains.