Expat Spouse

Going on an international assignment is often a relationship challenge. Even if you have already been married for a long time moving abroad can bring out the best and worst in the relationship with your spouse and/or life partner.

Gone are the days of the “expat wife” sitting in the expat country club, playing tennis or painting her fingernails at the pool while an armada of the staff was taking care of the driving, children, household, and cooking. Today, life partners and spouses are of all backgrounds and all colors.

My observation is that more and more male spouses are joining female expats. We also see more same-sex couples going on assignments together. Some couples plan to have a family while on assignment, others have children living in a boarding school in different countries. My advice here is mainly for dual-career couples. If you have children, you might face other challenges but usually, there is more support around finding schooling by companies than helping with spouse adjustment.

Here are five principles you can use to help your spouse adjust to the host country faster.

1) Make sure you understand all legal obligations when applying for a residence and work permit.

Make sure you have understood the legal obligations in case you are not legally married. Is your life partner allowed to reside in the country? How hard or easy is it to receive a work permit? Did you consider adequate health, accident and life insurance coverage? Work permit legislation can be tricky even for married couples. Make sure you understand the implications of your work permit type for your spouse/life partner.

2) Help your spouse with the job search by building your network in the host country fast.

Try to find out how to build up a network in the host location fast. Speak to agencies and headhunters about job opportunities. Understand the role of agencies/headhunters in the process before you contact them. Build on- and offline networks to find a job. Help others too so that you will be considered when it is your spouse’s turn to look for a job.

3) Get intercultural training to understand the cultural differences.

Understand the cultural differences in how to write an application and how a resume typically looks for the host country. What are the usual ways of getting a job? How important are personal introductions? Who should sponsor your spouse? Getting a social life and making friends together will help in the transition into the new culture. Try to make time for events so that your spouse feels that you are on this adventure together.

4) Utilize support offered by your company.

Utilize the resources of the company you work for. Request for help. Some companies offer spouse career coaching or job coaching. f you have a chance get coaching for your spouse. The transition into a new country is stressful. Sitting at home without a real task can trigger depressions or a feeling of loneliness.

5) Discuss a fallback option with your spouse.

In case your spouse cannot find a job in the host location, come up with a fallback option and value work even if it does not generate family income. Examples include volunteer work, social engagement, university degree, freelance work or building up a company. Sometimes I have observed that expatriates are so busy with starting a new job and a new life that they forget to listen and support their partners. This might be more important than anything else. I have seen couples who agree that they take turns in advancing their career. After this assignment your spouse should be able to pick the next role or location first.

I find it critical for a couple to live together (or close to each other) during an international assignment. Commuting creates separation and your life will diverge. Also consider that even though your career step might be important it does not mean your life. So once in a while, you might be better off turning down an international assignment to save the relationship.

If you would like to discuss your or spouse’s situation with me, kindly email angela@globalpeopletransitions.com for an appointment.

It had never occurred to me that a ballpoint pen is actually refillable. I did not even think that it was using ink. To be honest, I was never a big fan of the biro, ball pen, or dot pen. How could you even have so many words to describe the same instrument? In high school, the taste and smell made me nauseous. 

In an attempt to motivate me to “get back to school,” I cleaned up all my desk drawers and found two hand-softening silver ink dispensers rolling over a ball. With these two, my handwriting looks as beautiful as that of Daisy, the kitten. Have you ever seen kittens handwrite? Me neither, but she came to mind, and it’s a beautiful thought. She sports a pink bow tie with white polka dots, greyish fur, and blue eyes like Terence Hill (If you don’t know this actor you are too young for my programs). 

Daisy is going back to school next Monday, and she will be organized and have refilled her pens. Let me tell you how I spent the summer as it might seem to you that I am always on and productive. I really needed a long break this summer, and I wanted to spend time with my family in Germany. At the same time, I had signed up for three courses during the summer. 

Do you know how your mind often just needs new input? This is me after being “productive” for months. I need new input.

That kind of learning only works for me with a structure, so I worked on a particular “summer schedule” for three weeks, where I worked productively for six hours maximum. The rest of the day I enjoyed meals with my mum, went for a walk, sat at lake Constance, licked on dark chocolate, mango, and greek yogurt ice cream (because that’s what you do in Southern Germany), tested the rosé wine selection from the local supermarket and held my grandmother’s hand while she was trying to get back on her feet after an unexpected fall. 

Why am I telling you this?

In “back to school mode,” you might be looking forward to more routine, having the kids out of the house for a few hours and a place to go to that you call “workplace.” I wish I could tell you that you will get back to your routine in no time and that the 761 emails all contain information only but need no action really because honestly, nobody was at work. 

Everyone was sipping rosé in France or eating tomatoes in Mallorca. Because this is what you do when you are a grown-up. You eat tomatoes, dip the mozzarella in olive oil and crema di balsamico, add two leaves of container-grown basil, and for a good time, you eat an extra slide of the garlicky mayonnaise-dripping sauce that you would never touch at home.

This little holiday adventure is over. Stop slacking. It’s back-to-school season. As we don’t know yet how this fall will pan out, I wanted to give you a list of ideas of how you can start your back to school routine:

1 – Hand Write Your Brand

In case you are still looking for a job, and you have missed signing up for our HireMeExpress program, here’s one idea: Why don’t you let me handwrite your biography for you? Most people have a rather generic way of writing about themselves. Most resumes are boring and hard to understand. Let’s work together on developing your personal brand, your purpose, your one-sentence mission statement, and your creative valve.

2 – Design Your Workspace

Put on your favorite playlist and clean your home and your workspace if you work from home. Make your workspace so attractive and full of creative passion that you wish to return to it magically all the time. Clean out your wardrobe and anything that reminds you of “old me.” 

3 – Create Your Magic

If you wish to live a life full of purpose, you want to figure out what matters to you, understand who you need to serve and how to do it, and then create your magic. It’s not that hard once you get started. Follow your intuition despite the fear you might feel. Focus on what matters to you and what is important to get to your goal and acknowledge that you have what it takes within you to be you.

The hard part comes later when you are creating your art, your work, your creative brief, or your ZEN garden in the backyard, and you start doubting yourself… But first, you have to get there! Dear First Name, we can help you find your own path during the RockMeRetreat 2021.  I would personally like to invite you to our RockMeRetreat 2021. The RockMeRetreat is a seven-day leadership retreat held from 18 to 25 November 2021 at Kloster Ilanz, Switzerland. 

Sign up here for our mailing list to show your interest. Tube mail this love letter to anyone in your company or your circle of friends. And if you are not sure if this is for you I’m sure you’ve heard of this modern communication device called a mobile phone. Type +41791922877 or respond to this message to arrange a call with me. We will be happy to take your reservations until 30 September 2021. 

Further Input:

 

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/do-you-want-to-live-a-life-full-of-purpose/

 

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/how-to-get-rid-of-clutter-in-five-steps-spring-cleaning-for-more-productivity/

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmM0kRf8Dbk


I’m wondering about a lot of things these days and recently I shared with you that I love to reflect on deeper topics and often in the morning my mind, heart and body seem to be able to make a connection that I did not PERCEIVE before.

One theme has come that keeps bugging me. When I notice the bugging there is a deeper connection and instead of rushing into it I like to explore the field or as my coach educator Boudewijn Vermeulen would have said “You are starting to dig up the earth.” Before anything grows in your garden you need to dig up the earth, weed out and then start with a seed or an offshoot or seedling. 

The earth I am digging up is big. And some roots will be thrown into the compost this year as they no longer serve me.

I am working on understanding three concepts: “Psychological Safety”, “Failure Culture” and “Growth Mindset” and then I came across a new acronym that signifies the farewell from VUCA. It’s BANI.

And while it might be easy to grasp concepts with your mind, I would like to experience the exact feeling in my body. If you have never seen a difference between something that you understand with your mind but not with your body then this is your great next leadership lesson. For example: I was able to explain “intercultural leadership” or “transaction analysis” in my late 20ies but I only experienced the body sensation in my late 30ies. I knew for a long time that there are people who are relationship-oriented, rather than task-oriented but I only experienced this when I went to India back in 2006. And for some reason those three concepts all sound right to be but I wanted to experience them and learn to model them.

My great friend Inge Nitsche, CEO and Chair of Expatise Academy is using a “memotrainer” and the way it works is that you are continuously asked questions until you get them right. The retention of this kind of training is exponentially higher than other training methods as people are told that their MISTAKES ARE GOOD

The more you get wrong, the faster you fail, the higher your improvement score and learning curve. Yes, this is frustrating but it works. And I believe that I would like to practice that now. Because: As I recently told one of you “We’re not in high school anymore.”

1 – The Daily Fail

I admit that I failed at giving someone psychological safety and it made me consider what I could do to role model the behavior behind it and how I could approach this topic with a growth mindset. I am working on an experiment I would like to share with you: Every day, I am allowing myself to admit one fail by saying or writing it down. Then I correct the mistake or I try to understand where I was wrong or on the wrong path. This is hard, because I’m used to being in an “Expert” role and it is very unusual behavior in a FEAR CULTURE but I will try it anyway, because if I allow myself to make mistakes and to correct mistakes, then others will see that it is okay to show that you are not perfect and that learning only happens in an environment where it is okay to fail even if it is just in small doses.

2 – The Broken Record 

Another experiment is the “Broken Record”. If I identify an issue that needs change, I will address the issue again and again, especially when I feel that I had not been heard in the past. This way, through repetition I will either learn that I was wrong about my assumptions OR if I was right that maybe other people learn in a different way and that I need to give them the time to catch up. 

3 – The Daily Agile

You probably know that this is one of my principles and for a long time one of my priorities because I am also a fan of the Agile Manifesto. So, I usually prioritize my clients over anyone else, but I also prioritize people over processes and tasks. This principle helps to focus on what is important in the moment.

4 – The ZEN Workspace

Without order outside there is no order within. Working from home a lot we now keep our home even cleaner than before and maintain a few ZEN practices to ensure that order is maintained on a daily basis. You can apply ZEN practices to your workspace, your desktop, your data, your filing system and your KANBAN.

5 – The Rollercoaster

When I get up in the morning thinking “this will be a quiet day and I can finally get a bit of admin done” there’s a high probability that the day will end up with laser swords, magic wands, and fighting the dark force. We can handle many things when we are centred and calm, but it’s better to be prepared at any time that the next crisis is just around the corner. Charge your smartphone. Pack a backpack. Wear comfortable clothes. Get fit. Be ready to run.

If you are bugged, irritated or even anxious now: Join us on this journey and sign up to get invited to the upcoming RockMeRetreat from 18 to 25 November 2021

I look forward to talking to you about your participation. 

Angie

“Do or do not. There is no try.” YODA

Further Resources

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDoY_zXf7uQ&ab_channel=StarWars

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobmorgan8/

The Pandemic ain't over yet. As I had gone through COVID-19 when it wasn't a thing yet, I wanted to share again these simple tips for you. Some of them are useful in any kind of stressful situation as well.

1- Drink a lot of Water

Supporting immune health through good nutrition, proper rest and hydration is important for fighting off infections. Dehydration can thicken your blood, which can be a cause for heart disease as well. Thus, it’s important to have plenty of water so our liver and kidneys can remove waste through body fluids.

I drink at least three liters of water and tea. The type of teas that you can incorporate in your routine to strengthen your immune system are:Linden Blossom Tea and Ginger Tea.

2- Boost Your Immunity

Our immune system is a complex model of cells and systems, each with their own role in combating illnesses. The overall condition of your immunity determines how vulnerable you are to catch an infection or fight it off. Our physical, mental and emotional state contributes towards a healthy immune system.

We can manage our stress as well as include supplements to boost our immunity, especially when we aren’t being able to eat a well balanced diet.

These are all homeopathic options and helps your immune system:

3 – Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise of moderate intensity can be beneficial for lungs, immune system and mood. Exercise boosts the production of an antioxidant known as “extracellular superoxide dismutase,” or EcSOD, which in turn, protects against acute lung disease and other diseases.

Here are a few suggestions which I personally recommend:

  • Simple yoga breathing exercise in which you cover one nostril and exhale quickly
  • Feldenkrais breathing session done While Lying Down. “Breathing In All Directions” [deeply relaxing].
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation, according to Jacobson. It  is a method that helps relieve that tension. In progressive muscle relaxation, you tense a group of muscles as you breathe in, and you relax them as you breathe out. You work on your muscle groups in a certain order. When your body is physically relaxed, you cannot feel anxious.
  • Movement meditation (when dizziness stops in SloMo) showing a basic introduction to active meditation.

4- Calm Your Mind

When dealing with health issues, family tragedies, international job transitions, change in our organizations you can and should focus on your own well-being first. We still have to stay careful and practice social distancing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy little moments in life.

Any kind of creative work or mindful action can help you be in the present and be calm and secure. Watch birds, water your plants, listen to classical music or watch animal films. I also painted to reduce the feeling of isolation and increase self awareness.

5- Will to Fight Coronavirus

Don’t let this disease consume you. You can fight it. Watch this video by @chriscuomo. Once I saw it, I decided to be more active even in the hospital. Remember, it’s okay to let fresh air in. Both sunshine and fresh air are essential. You can take it at your window or balcony. Try to let fresh air in at least three times a day. If you can walk outside for 25 minutes, it’s even better.

6- Turn off those notifications

It is easy to get depressed when watching bad news coming in from various parts of the world. When you watch TV, it seems like there’s an endless world crisis and the images you see, work on your subconscious as well.

Give yourself a break from all media! It was easy for me to turn off my notifications and apps, especially when I was in hospital. I was happy to pass my time watching comedy. I loved “The Big Bang Theory”. When I recovered I decided to have a 24 hour – offline time on the weekend where I try to go through life in an analogue way.

7- Constant Video/Voice Calls

Due to corona virus, it’s not easy to be able to do a lot of calls in a day. The virus can particularly strain your voice so make sure that you are only talking with your closed loved ones. Avoid those who are deniers as explaining them will add unnecessary stress, which you should rather avoid. I also found video calls to be exhausting, especially when someone was talking in the background or the person wobbled with the mobile in hand. Tell your friends and family what you need from them in this phase.

8- A Good Night’s Sleep is Vital

Anxiety related to loss of control or uncertainty can mess up with your sleep routine. I would highly recommend you to sleep whenever you feel tired as sleep can help boost your immune system. On the other hand, sleep deprivation weakens the body and makes people more vulnerable to contracting a virus. Create a sleep schedule and put your upper body a little higher. Buy cozy and fresh bed linen and wear comfortable clothing. Aim to limit screen time at night.

9- Write A Diary

Try to structure your daytime schedule by writing a diary. You can keep a check on your mood as well as track daily activities. I would often ask myself the following things:

  • How am I feeling today?
  • What am I thankful for today?
  • Which three topics or tasks do I want to tackle today?
  • What do I wish for?

Join the RockMeRetreat

Are you suffering from digital fatigue or are you currently in a transition and feel a strong need to “clear your head”, “make a plan”, take a time out?

Then the RockMeRetreat 2021 might be for you. Receive all our updates on the RockMeRetreat 2021 by signing up here.

Follow and connect with me (please use code: COVID19AINTOVERYET).

Further Resources

My Pandemic Series

The Rise of Weinberger – Building up Strength during the Pandemic – Part 4

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/the-passion-games-playing-yourself-through-the-pandemic-part-3/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/sleepless-in-switzerland-getting-through-the-pandemic-part-2/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/angie-alone-at-home-managing-yourself-through-the-pandemic-part-1/

Angie Weinberger

“Just reinvent yourself!” 

This phrase is advice Expat Spouses (partners of expats) often hear when they cannot find a job in Switzerland. You are a typical Gen X professional in New York, London, Frankfurt, or Mumbai. You have a career image stamped on yourself. Telling you to reinvent yourself is like saying “Why don’t you just run a marathon after you just recovered from COVID-19.”

At parties, you say “I’m a Senior Consultant / Director / Lawyer / Doctor / Scientist” and with that, you talk about the pleasure of long-distance travel in times of terrorism or you mention that your partner is away too often and that the kids know the nanny better than their parents, or you explain that you never get to the city because you feel that childcare is too expensive and you rather stay at home than trusting your kids to another person.

Your professional reputation has fueled your ego and you did everything to improve it. You attended courses, webinars, conferences, networking events and you read everything you could about the topic on your commute to work. Not to mention that you had a routine of ensuring that your social media profiles reflected your success only and you ensured your name was published at least once a year.

Then out of the blue (or even because you were following a long-term idea), your spouse gets a job offer in Basel, Switzerland or your job is outsourced to Pune, India. After the initial excitement or shock, you start to consider what a career change means for you right now. You might even consult blogs and books on the matter. From one day to the next, you worry about your branding as a professional. And you might even notice that you don’t really know what you want.

It is not so easy to find out what you want so I recommend you work with a career coach to develop a vision of your next role and probably a long-term career vision too. What I personally found even harder though is to let go of my old career image. I had acquired a status in HR and in my new roles, I felt like a beginner again.

In our cultural context here in Switzerland we say “Schuster bleib bei Deinen Leisten!”. We are discouraged from changing our chosen career path.

Break in Your new Career Image

We know well that a shoe we have worn for a while is comfortable. A new shoe often feels too tight or too big for us to fill. If you imagine now you have to get out of your patent leather shoe and into a hiking boot that is comparable to the change you are going through.

You need to break your career boot in. You might know already consciously that the hiking boot is more practical, fits better to your personality, and has more value on icy mountain grounds but you still feel the burden of a heavier shoe.

Seven Steps to Let Go (of Anything)

You need to throw your old patent leather shoe into the mental “Altkleidercontainer” (the recycling bank for old clothes and shoes). 

  1. Write down all the advantages of the new hiking boot: Think of every aspect of your new career and how it will look and feel. Run a meticulous research. Interview experts and speak to friends who work in this area. Collect as many details as you can and either collate them in a diary or add them to a vision board.
  2. Work in your new career part-time: Work in your hiking boot, at least, one to two days a week by volunteering or finding a cause in this profession worth supporting. Get a consulting project before you commit full-time. Build experience and skill in your new career.
  3. Pretend you are the CEO of your own company: Pretend you are already experienced in walking with the hiking boot, attend seminars and networking events wearing a batch with your new role on it and have business cards printed.
  4. Market yourself with your new personal brand: Update all your biographies, social media profiles, and websites and show that you are wearing the boot already. Mention your new role and functional title. Be the career you want to be.
  5. Support yourself with visuals: Leave post-its in your office, in the bathroom and at home with a visual anchor. For example, if you want to become a scientist working in the pharma industry you could jot down a logo of a company that you find attractive or a picture of you with security glasses.
  6. Create your productive workspace for your new career only: Develop a space that signifies “productive work” in your new career for you. It could be an office or an area on your kitchen table. Make sure that this area is reserved for work in your new career only.
  7. Learn more about your ideal client: Write down the story of your ideal client, someone who will depend on the results or fruits of your new labor. Who is that person, what is important to that person and how does this person live?

These are seven ideas on how can let go of your old career image and start with a new business idea or career.

If you are looking for further insights you can book a consultation with our team or join one of our programs.