Finding Happiness as an Expat WifeiStockphoto
Losing their career and becoming a homemaker puts a strain on many women.
How to Get a Job as an Expat Wife
It was far easier for Rosanne (43), who, as an expat wife, followed her husband Marco (50) from Valletta to Copenhagen. Since English is one of Malta’s official languages, it was no problem for Rosanne to prove sufficient foreign language skills for her CV.
Moreover, as both countries are member states of the EU, she didn’t have to fight the local bureaucracy for a work permit, either. It was “just” a matter of finding a job.
“It did take me a while,” she admits. “When I didn’t have to act like the perfect expat wife and do the household chores, I was on the lookout for a suitable position. I tried nearly everything: newspapers, local employment agency and even uploading my CV to recruitment databases. In the end, it was attending a job fair that did the trick.”
Far from being “only” an expat wife, Rosanne finally found a rewarding middle-management job with an international tour operator. “Tourism is big business in Malta, and I have worked in the field since getting my bachelor’s,” Rosanne says. “It certainly didn’t hurt that I’m fluent in Maltese, English, and Italian, and that I’ve started picking up some Danish, too.”
The Identity Crisis of the Expat Wife
Other female expats who may not be able to do paid work and are thus reduced to being an expat wife often experience a huge loss of identity. It may still be easier for women than it is for men to avoid defining themselves by their career and the resulting prestige. However, a lot of their self-esteem is also connected to professional skills and financial independence.
It was a shock for Margarita (36) from the United States when her husband was sent to Bangkok as a foreign correspondent for an international news magazine. “I quickly discovered that an O visa for Thailand classified me as a dependent, who wasn’t even allowed to work. Unfortunately, Thailand has really tight restrictions on foreign employees. So that’s what I was now – a dependent. I was concerned about my career and even more about what I was supposed to do all day long.”
Margarita’s husband saw her new role as an expat wife in a far more positive light than she did. “He kept going on and on how grateful I should be for having all this free time and the chance to explore another culture” she recalls. “I mainly felt lonely when he was at the office, in one editorial meeting after the other. And whenever I met his colleagues from work, I noticed that I’d suddenly become ‘Rick’s wife’. Not Margarita, the copywriter, or Margarita, the martial arts fan. Just Margarita, Rick’s wife.”
The realization that, as an expat wife, she was disappearing behind her husband as well as the frustrations of daily life caught up with her.
One day, I’d spent five hours wandering through Bangkok, trying to shop for groceries and cleaning stuff. When Rick came home, full of news about the amazing feedback his latest political commentary had received, I completely lost it. I think I screamed my head off for hours – the neighbors must have gotten quite an earful!
Margarita and Rick were able to overcome their frustration and their resulting marital troubles. Although looking for work in Thailand turned out to be almost impossible, the Internet helped Margarita overcome her expat wife crisis.
A New Career
Thanks to the work opportunities provided online, Margarita developed a whole new career “portfolio”. First, she started as a part-time “virtual assistant” providing services to US companies. Due to time difference, she couldn’t “telecommute”, but she took over parts of their administrative tasks and correspondence.
However, as her new job failed to provide her with any creative tasks, Margarita became a tutor for a long-distance course in creative writing. In addition, she composed several free-lance articles for travel mags and tourism websites as well.
“I had to do a lot of networking to become a free-lancer,” Margarita remembers, “but it was worth it. As soon as I had some tasks to intellectually challenge me, I was a much happier expat wife.”