expat life

What makes perfect partner for an expat?

7 Comments 27 August 2012

You fall in love with someone from another country and decide to move to that person’s country. It will be an adventure! Your love will conquer all! You will visit home and your family and friends will visit you! You’ll get homesick, sure, but it will pass and you will make a wonderful life with your new partner. How very exciting and romantic it all is.

And then this weird stuff happens that neither of you (especially the partner who isn’t an expat) are prepared for.

Every relationship has bumps in the road. Duh. But expats have the potential for a bit more turbulence. There’s that thing about being from another country that causes issues like Culture Shock and Homesickness to shake your relationsip, sometimes to such grand degrees that most people don’t know what hit them. The native partner, sitting all cozy in his or her home country without a clue as to what demons are fighting in your head, is completely baffled by the sudden burst of sadness or the tears or the loneliness or the need to spend this holiday ‘back home’ with family (yet again), instead of on an island somewhere, or in a self-catering in France. Your mysterious moods kind of start to feel personal to them. Like you would rather be back home. And maybe you would because at least there people understand you. There’s cross words. More isolation. Maybe more tearful phone calls back home. A wedge develops…

I know some of you are nodding your heads. It just doesn’t always work, being married to those foreigners. But a lot of people figure it out either through patience, or research or hanging out with other couples in a similar situation. In my case it was a lot (a LOT) of patience. I’m lucky that my English husband ‘gets it’ but only through lots of conversation and as I said, patience. It’s more difficult for new couples and especially difficult for couples where the native partner hasn’t traveled much or ever been an expat himself.

With that in mind, I’ve put together some top tips to help the partners of expats. Over on my monthly column at Expat Focus you’ll find 10 Tips for the perfect expat partner, and if you’re the expat… feel free to share with your partner 😉



Your Comments

7 Comments so far

  1. Jeff says:

    I read the first line and it made me smile huge!

    My wife and I met far from either of our home countries and had our kids in still other countries.

    But, ultimately, our newest home is her old home, Canada. She’s proud of it, and I’m proud to share it with her.

    Your 10 Tips for partners was spot on. The 1 tip that’s been so valuable for us? #7: Communicate. I would rank that in the top 3 for sure (with patience, and patience).

    Best to you Michelle,

  2. So true! My DH grew up all over the world; my parents have stayed in the same town for 40 years! Homesickness was (and still is, to some extent) a mystery to him…he takes it personally – and I’ve had to explain til I’m blue in the face that it’s not him! You’re so right, it takes a lot of patience!

  3. Luckily Kevin and I are both expats in that he’s from the East Coast and I’m from nZ and we met in London and now we’re in California. We’re both flumoxed by loads of CA stuff including the flakiness and the therapy-speak….

  4. Tanya says:

    Good article.

    And your conclusion: “Yes, she’s still homesick for the States and yes, she’d be homesick for Britain if she moved back there!”

    -Ditto. Completely.

  5. EmmaK says:

    My husband is Irish and I am British so we have a mixed marriage 😉 so when we moved to America we were kind of in it together so that made it easier. Our main point of connection seems to be an encylopediac knowledge of British comedy programs 1970-2012 and that’s what’s kept us togehter. To marry a foreigner and move to their country would be much harder but of course some people manage it!
    Pop over to my blog and tell me if you are bringing up kids abroad do you think they are culturally confused ? http://j.mp/TXlcDQ

  6. When my wife and I moved to Canada, we were both from two different places so it made it easier in some ways but, upon moving to my wife’s home country, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but your tips are spot on and have worked for me over the years.

    Here’s something I wrote on our ‘cross-cultural’ relationship previously – http://www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com/2012/04/finding-love-when-you-least-expect-it.html

    It’s great that your hubbie gets it. How would he feel if you insisted on returning to the US? Would he be understanding if your roles reversed?

  7. Great post Michelle. I would also add have respect for my home country. It may be full of turmoil at the moment, but it’s where I grew up. Also a love of long flights and staying in cramped conditions with relatives is a must.

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An American writer in the UK for over 20 years. Lives in Essex. A pretend extrovert.

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