Your spouse is successful. Obviously, you know that or you would have never said, "I do." But when your spouse is offered a career opportunity to relocate to a new country, you may be wishing you could say, "I don't." The transition you face is certainly life altering, since you will have to give up your job, the routine you are used to, and add a few thousand miles between you and your family and friends. These changes can be difficult to cope with, and the last place you may think to look for advice is on your kid's bookshelf.
During his life, Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated 44 books, all with his signature rhyming technique. His last book, Oh the Places You'll Go was published in 1990 with a message behind it that transcends all ages, and is quite relevant to anyone who is moving to a new country. The story talks about the loneliness and sense of bewilderment associated with living in new places - similar sentiments are often expressed by expat spouses. Dr. Seuss assures the readers they will triumph over these feelings. Here are a few words of advice for expat spouses, as well as a few words of encouragement from Dr. Seuss:
"You'll get so confused that you'll start in to race
Down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place."
Pressure from your family and friends can make it feel like you should be immediately happy and content in your new country, living the glamorous life as an expat spouse, but the truth is everyone experiences culture shock. For some, it may only take a few weeks to become familiarized with their surroundings and start unpacking, but for most, it can take several months. Take as much time as you need settling in. Unpack things and begin exploring your new location as you start to feel more comfortable, one day at a time.
"You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to stay in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?" (Dr. Seuss)
Start to learn more about your area and its culture by setting goals for yourself and take pride in achieving small feats. You probably never thought twice about going to the post office to purchase stamps in your home country, but in a new place, this is an accomplishment worth celebrating. Give yourself a small task each day, and work towards completing it. Next Monday, you will figure out how to drive to your children's school. On Wednesday, you will learn five new conversational phrases in the country's language, and use them when you go visit the market on Saturday.
"You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest." (Dr. Seuss)
If you left a job in your home country, you probably are not used to the amount of free time that comes with unemployment in your new country. Depending on local visa restrictions, it can be difficult to get a job. Volunteering is great way to share your skills and time, as well as make new friends, and occasionally, volunteers are hired for full-time employment. Many countries also offer programs for native English speakers to teach their language to local citizens. Transitionsabroad.com has a wealth of information on job and volunteer opportunities, and it's also searchable by country.
"Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored, there are games to be won." (Dr. Seuss)
Even though you may feel alone, thousands of spouses worldwide are going through the same emotions and new experiences as you. Thankfully, there are many organizations and social clubs founded by expats for expats to help you cope with the change and make new friends in your area. One of the most popular organizations is the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas, which has over 70 local chapters in 35 countries. Clubs also exists for almost any type of expat spouse, whether you are a wife, husband, or a life partner. Finding an expat club near you can be as simple as doing some internet research.
Although they would be his last published words, Dr. Seuss's final rhyme sends a word of encouragement to those with a new place to go:
"You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So get on your way!" (Dr. Seuss)