I wanted to write an article on expatriation for a long time.
An article on the challenges and opportunities of expatriation.
And to be very honest, more specifically on the unrecognised or undervalued role of the expatriate woman, the so-called “trailing spouse”…
But I wasn't sure how to approach this article…
Reading back my notes, I realised that expat women have so much in common with entrepreneurs! And indeed many of them, like me, become entrepreneurs!
So, what strengths do expat wives develop during expatriation that makes them super suited for an entrepreneurial role?
I did some research and here are 5 traits that successful entrepreneurs and expat wives possess:
- Social abilities
And I don't even dwell in this article on other qualities such as open-mindedness, risk tolerance, flexibility, resilience,... which are also common to expats and entrepreneurs! It will probably be in a future article!
The expat wife is a networking pro!
Whether it's online networking or face-to-face networking, the expat wife is compelled to step out of her comfort zone as she is often responsible for creating what will be the social life for herself and her family.
Networking is a must when you are new in town to start understanding the dos and don’t and to create a support network for you and your family.
It doesn't matter if you are extroverted or introverted, you must go out there, work on your social skills, be open-minded, dare to talk to strangers, ask anything and everything to find your place in this new environment (from finding the best grocery store or activities for the kids to solving passport or tax issues).
And to achieve this, the expat wife must accept to feel vulnerable and not be afraid of being rejected.
After exploring all the possible avenues of networking, she will then choose those that will best suit her and her family, which also means diplomatically declining certain options.
Having created her own support network, knowing exactly whom to ask or whom to reach out for any possible questions or challenges, she often becomes the go-to person for new expats and when leaving her current host country for a new one, she becomes a pro at maintaining her global network!
She is a super planner and organiser!
At first, a new expatriate wife will probably think "what a great opportunity, I now have all the time in the world to do everything I always wanted to do when I was working!".
And soon she will realize that like gas, time expands until it fills all available space...
If she doesn't plan her day, time will pass and she will wonder what she is doing with her days, weeks, months,...
Without a boss telling her what to do or how to organise her day, the expatriate woman will become her own boss and create a routine for managing the household while achieving the goals she has set for herself!
She is definitely the great planner and organiser for the whole family; taking care of the children, the school activities, the household chores, the maintenance, the shopping, the vacation planning, the social network,... that's all on her!
But on top of that, she will also have to make room and take time to realise herself and achieve her goals!
Doesn't that sound like a minister's program? Or the planning of an entrepreneur?
Courage and confidence are her mottos.
Being in a new environment, being bombarded with new information, meeting so many new people, taking on a new role, being confronted with other ways of doing things can definitely make us lose our bearings.
In addition, expatriate wives are often faced with the fact of no longer having a job, and therefore losing part of their identity.
All of this can shake their confidence.
It takes a good dose of courage not to lose sight of who you really are and what you really want.
You need a lot of self-confidence to continue to value your talents, skills, values and to move forward, find your place and make the right choices for yourself.
She cannot do it without being creative!
Creating a new balance for herself and the whole family cannot be done without thinking outside the box and calling on her creativity.
Creativity in how she will spend time with children. Being home full time doesn't specifically mean quality time. It often means "Help, too much time with the children, I need air!". To find a balance in this new situation, she must invent a creative way to spend time with her children so that everyone finds joy and fulfilment.
Creativity to make room for her couple. To be abroad means to be far away. We may have more time for our family nucleus and we get closer to our children but at the same time, the children are always there! No immediate family or friends to take them for an afternoon or on weekends and spend time as a couple. So creativity is once again at the rendezvous to reinvent a little respite for the couple.
Creativity to stay connected with the country of origin! It takes planning and creativity (especially if there is a big jet lag) to organise video calls, special moments for children with their grandparents, godmother and godfather, sharing family adventures on a blog, organise birthday parties online,...
Creativity on a daily basis to develop potential options and find solutions to deal with all the new problems the family is facing in a new environment!
Optimism is her second nature!
Everything is new, everything is to be discovered, the cool things as well as the less cool ones. There are many changes, challenges and uncertainties and at the beginning of the expatriation it's a lot to manage at once.
Some days, everything is fine, life is good and expatriation is the dream.
Other days it's bad, we realise that it's not just a vacation but it's our life now and there are things we don't like. We are far from those who know us by heart and sometimes we just want to crawl back to bed and cry.
This is also what it means to be an expat; an emotional roller coaster, with high highs and deep lows; the sensations are greater there!
It is therefore essential to cultivate a positive mindset, no matter what happens.
It also requires an unfailing optimism and sense of humour to overcome challenges and always see them as opportunities to learn and grow!
Isn't that still the spirit of entrepreneurship?