Join now
Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The World of Expat Spouses

The majority of Traveling Spouses is female. While many of them are dissatisfied with their job situation and income, they seem to be quite happy in their relationships.

Key Facts

Traveling Spouses moved abroad to follow their partner or spouse and for 79% of them it was even the main reason for their move. About 9% of all survey respondents are Traveling Spouses, and 84% of them are women. Moreover, most Traveling Spouses are British (13%), US American (13%), or Indian (6%). The destinations in which expat spouses are slightly overrepresented include, among others, Hong Kong, Kenya, Luxembourg, and Singapore, where up to 18% of our respondents are Traveling Spouses.

Expats between the ages of 41 and 50 are overrepresented among Traveling Spouses, with 24% as compared to a general average of 20%. Quite unsurprisingly, 92% of all Traveling Spouses are currently in a relationship. On the other hand, that means that the remaining 8% have ended the relationship that brought them to their country of residence and still decided to stay put. All in all, 34% of Traveling Spouses have dependent children, as compared to 21% of all respondents.

The Traveling Spouse

The Traveling Spouse - infographic
Embed this image on your website:

The Daily Grind - Employment and Job Satisfaction

When it comes to responses about employment status, certain answer options are overrepresented among Traveling Spouses: freelancers, volunteers, homemakers, or those who were looking for work at the time the survey was conducted. A lot fewer of them than the overall average of 47% are regular employees or occupy management positions (24%). This is particularly the case among female Traveling Spouses: only 22% of these expat women are employees or managers, 17% are looking for work, and 3% are volunteers. However, 23% are stay-at-home parents and homemakers, compared to only 6% of the male Traveling Spouses.

Generally, Traveling Spouses also work part-time more frequently, 39% as compared to 14% on average. Here, too, more women (42%) than men (22%) work part-time. This might be the reason why Traveling Spouses have the lowest amount of working hours, with 34.6 hours compared to the general average of 42.0 hours per week.

While Traveling Spouses are more or less happy with their working hours, they are still slightly below the overall average. As opposed to 62% generally, 60% of Traveling Spouses are satisfied with their working hours. The additional free time does not seem to do much to help improve the work-life balance, unfortunately. At the end of the day, 59% are satisfied with this factor - again, somewhat fewer than overall (61%).

When it comes to the overall job satisfaction, Traveling Spouses are indeed the group with the second lowest rating among all expats, underbid only by the Romantics. Among non-working spouses, 72% say that they gave up a previous career when moving abroad. Moreover, 58% would like to find a job but cannot work for different reasons. Issues that stand in the way of finding work include not being able to find a suitable position (16%), balancing work and family (9%), and work visa issues (9%). Still, the remaining 42% are quite happy not working.

Money Matters and Income

Altogether, 36% of Traveling Spouses say that they are financially worse off after their move abroad, compared to 27% of all expats. On the other hand, they are somewhat more satisfied with their disposable household income than the global average. In fact, 52% believe that their household income is more than enough to make a living (overall average: 47%).

Moreover, 36% of Traveling Spouses have an annual household income higher than 100,000 USD, compared to 23% among all survey respondents. The fact that Traveling Spouses are doing quite well implies that their partner or spouse is well-paid or that their family has additional income sources.

Yet, the loss of personal income and the financial dependence on their partner is one of the biggest concerns specific to expat spouses. More than half (51%) are worried about future finances, while 56% suffered a loss in personal income.

Love and Happiness

Traveling Spouses are the second least satisfied expat types, after the Family Expat, and they have the lowest percentage (9%) of respondents who say that they are completely satisfied with their life abroad. The results are slightly different when it comes to expat spouses' satisfaction with their relationship: almost half (49%) of Traveling Spouses are completely satisfied with this aspect of their life and it is the one factor of life abroad that they rate highest. Overall, 84% give it a positive rating, compared to 75% among all expatriates in a relationship.

Whether an expat spouse is happy with their expat life in general and their individual situation in particular also plays a significant role for the success of their partner's expat assignment. The Telegraph listed this aspect among its ten tips for a successful expat assignment.

What's on an Expat Spouse's Mind

Before moving to a foreign country with their partner or spouse, Traveling Spouses have a lot of things on their mind. They thought mostly about the local economy and labor market (35%), cost of living (34%), personal safety and crime (34%), climate and weather (26%), distance to home (24%), the language barrier (24%), and healthcare (20%).

When it comes to general expat problems, expat spouses are mostly affected by missing their families and friends - 63% say that they miss their personal support network, compared to 52% of all survey respondents. Yet, only very few of them agree that their family doesn't seem happy with the decision to move to their country of residence, with 10% as compared to 15% of all respondents.

However, some issues are specific to expat spouses. For instance, 65% of Traveling Spouses agree that they don't like being financially dependent on their partner. Moreover, 60% struggled with giving up their previous career and a little more than half (52%) say that their partner is always working long hours in their job. Another 51% agree that they are often expected to organize all practical aspects of moving and living abroad.

On the other hand, 52% disagree with the statement that they sometimes feel discriminated against due to their gender. When asked if their partner or family expected to be always put first, 37% of Traveling Spouses agreed, while 36% disagreed. The rest was neutral.

Further Reading