SERIES: Following Spouses On International Assignments Article 4 of 5

The Geneva lunch is progressing,  while the tiramisu bowl is scraped clean to artful perfection the conversation continues. So many experiences are shared around the table: some are uplifting others are saddening…

We meet this week four more spouse types, these, unfortunately are having a harder time dealing with change, sometimes because they face with extreme conditions, other times because they simply lack the mindset to deal with a new set of circumstances.


The colonial spouses have a life of wealth but feel enclosed in golden cages: They live in close knit community, often in countries where foreigners are segregated. They often become “desperate housewives” in sandy “Wisteria lanes”, these expatriates live in a microcosm within the boundaries of their compounds and are insulated from their hosting country. Their world has shrank and material comfort rarely makes up for their loss of freedom.


They suppress their unhappiness and just get on with it… with an inexpressive smile that betrays their sadness.  These are spouses who may not be thrilled at the idea to live far from their close circle of family and friends, but their sense of duty and obligation toward their families is such that they just accept their condition and get on with it with love and selflessness. While they keep themselves busy and keep on smiling, some may, at times, find themselves wondering if this is what they truly bargained for and what else is there in life that they are currently giving up. The answer will heavily depend on their culture of origin and the place they feel they have in the family.


They cannot wait to head home or recreate their home country within the boundaries of their dwelling. These are the spouse who have not adapted, who have failed to bond in the community of expatriates or in the community of locals. They are frequently in same nationality marriages and they hold a strong sense of national identity as a family; they often refer to their country of origin, they keep their customs, they don’t seek integration, they get back at every possible opportunity.


They live in total isolation – They are completely disconnected with what happens around them. They show no interest or no ability to bond with the hosting culture or other expatriates.

Spouse who are unable to deal with change grieve the loss of identity, of connections and the severing of bonds that the move has caused. Every conversation starts with “back at home…”

They spend most of the time calling the friends they left behind, speaking their native language. These are the one who are truly at risk if they fail to realise what they are facing and they are left to cope unsupported. They may pack their bags and leave, or if faced with no such option, they may fall into depression or fall prey of addictions and turn what could have been a great opportunity in a personal tragedy.

To be continued…

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