Traveling today is easily available and affordable. As democratic countries are magnets for migrants from different cultures, classes and societies, India is not an exception. It needs both tourists as well as corporate foreign national experts to bridge the gap between business expectations versus reality. Migrating for cultural, economic reasons can be easily explained when we want to earn more or live in a multicultural and different country. But what about dependent travelers? i.e wives who lived abroad for her husband or partner. Today, I’m going to reveal some bitter truth about the challenges that the trailing spouses face. Let’s get into details.
Well adjusted and marginalized role of an expat wife
The majority of women join their spouse on his contract abroad as dependents, so they are considered to have carefree lives – with their own house maids, personal drivers, luxurious food and world travel. At first sight, it presents the image of successful and fulfilled woman who focuses on her family and charities in high society. Isn’t it? Well, what to say. This soap bubble does not look like a fairy tale though.
This group of women are indeed educated and the most ambitious ones who left not only the closest family and friends in their home country, but also – most of them – a satisfactory job. The situation seems privileged, but the stories are overwhelmed with loneliness, frustration and low self-esteem – due to lack of employment, loss of independence and the imposed role of house wife. So, dear Husband / Partner next time you get an offer for onsite contract, ask precisely what the spouse needs and if she is ready for such huge change.
Why Trailing Spouses Can’t be Happy
Times when women are financially dependent only on their husbands are over long time back to be honest. Most of the trailing spouses don’t want to be dependents even abroad, they don’t want to have to ask for any pocket money for themselves. It’s humiliating. They are longing for their identity, dreams and friends back home – and that can hurt. They fight personal battles to fit to the new reality and with all this – they feel lonely, isolated, bored and guilty. They have mixed emotions about settling in, rebuilding the individuality, relationship changes.
How do I see expatriates in India
This is not surprising: expatriates living in India, especially in the beginning, often find it difficult to adjust to the new culture. Regardless the country they come from, landing in India makes them usually complain about similar things: the heat, the dirt, the smell, how difficult it is to find good wine. Indian culture can be overwhelming indeed. Especially for women-foreigners that attract a lot of attention. It may be positive to some extent but, in most cases, the attention turns into negative. Even though, the image of foreign women in India remains that they have easier life, that they get more privileges, that’s only one part of larger story. The most disregarding insult is that they are “easy” and can go to bed with anyone for fun or for money. Unfortunately, that’s the stereotype a typical Indian still has in mind seeing a white skin girl.
Security and safety issues then should be top priority coming to India for long-term commitment.
How do I see myself
I was lucky enough that converting into Indian housewife from successful career woman evolved parallel with my first pregnancy and when I was anyway about to take rest. Yes, still it was painful to become just a wife but it was my conscious choice to stay here in India. As my culture shock was over, and I was already in India for more than one year, I found myself pretty calm and quite prepared for settling down by my husband’s side.
On the other side, I can fully understand the initial loneliness feeling of newly coming trailing wives isolating themselves and thinking no one else can understand them. It’s also much harder to make friends when you’re older. With local people, with your neighbors, with other expats. It takes time to find a buddy who will commit for a friendship with the final expiration date included.
I personally found myself a complete inbetweener; not belonging culturally, mentally to Indian house wives sitting at home in front of Indian soap operas, but also I was not much ready – simply financially – willing to connect with other expats.
All in all, I accepted little forced simplifying my expat wife role and slight compromising my needs. Trust me, I felt much better when I met my counterparts or other expats. Simple sharing everyday life stories about same “shit” happening to you, really opens up your mind and reduces stress. I really enjoy this kind of company. Women need to talk and share their feelings. At least it’s easier to keep in touch these days. And so, as a recipe, we – expat wives – not only in India, search each other out, requesting to join Facebook groups to say hi to another foreign soul in Indian land. Viva online world! How I wish I knew all this earlier!
Is there anything you made for yourself to overcome cultural shock? Initial mixed feelings between excitement, fear from on-going changes, loneliness or little forced adjustment? What would you recommend to trailing spouses who are yet to come to India?
Thank you very much for reading this article. I am curious what are your ways – ideas to become a happy and fulfilled trailing spouse – please share some comments. And if you liked the article – share it, click “Like it” and subscribe to my newsletter.
(pictures source: picjumbo)