The Expat Woman Shift; a New Phenomenon

Portrait of pensive young woman thinking about work, education and dreams on light background with creative drawings


In my psychotherapy and coaching practices with expat women, I have noticed  the expat woman shift, a new phenomenon. It represents a major departure for expat women who are no longer content to be “trailing spouses,” an overused and I think, outdated phrase.

What is this shift?

This is a shift away from your spouse or partner to a focus more on you. What do you want to do with your time abroad and what would you like to contribute or accomplish in your host country

It’s a big picture view. You may or may not have any idea about the answers; it’s the shift in emphasis that’s important. In the past, if you were accompanying you partner abroad, it pretty much went without saying that your life was put on hold. You were there to support your spouse and kids and that was about it.

But these times they are a-changing.   The internet has opened up a whole new world to expat women.   You can now take courses on almost any topic imaginable, earn an online degree, or establish an online business. Just as you can Skype, Facetime or use other portals with friends and family at home, you can also reach a wide range of people all over the world by putting up videos, teaching a class, or getting your word out in a variety of new ways.

Now partnered expat women of all ages and in different life stages have options that were unthinkable even 10 years ago.

What if I don’t want to do something new? Is this yet another pressure being put upon expat women? 

There is absolutely no pressure here, as I see it. If you are feeling fulfilled by the wide range of possibilities that expat life offers, that’s great.   If you’re abroad with young children, there may not be time or energy to even think about anything else, much less get started on a new project.

But if this isn’t the case and particularly if you’ve been abroad for a while, there are other options.

What if I feel like I’d like to try something new but have no idea about what that might be? 

This is actually a very exciting place to be. The Zen masters call this beginner’s mind, in that there are no expectations, and you can be open to everything.

Begin by thinking about what ignites your passion. What are some of the things you value most in life? What truly matters to you?

You might think of things that you have been passionate about in the past. See if you can remember a time when you were so fully engaged in something that it seemed like just a few minutes had passed, but it was really hours. That was something you felt passionate about.

Let your mind roam and pay attention to the feelings that come up. That’s all you have to do in the initial phase.

And if you have an idea of something you’d like to try, but no idea about how to get started, tune in next week and I’ll try to speak to that directly.















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