Trailing Spouse Trivia

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by Chantal Panozzo

Probably a lot of you are like me: A former DINK (Double-Income-No-Kids) who wants to continue her career while living abroad. But if you’re an accompanying spouse, this can be a challenge depending on the laws surrounding work permits. Luckily, the international trend is to loosen these laws and some countries have already acted on them.

For example, in France, an accompanying spouse no longer has to apply for a separate work permit if they are spouses of people working at multinationals. According to the International Herald Tribune, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Argentina, Singapore and the United States have also loosened restrictions. Unfortunately, Switzerland is not among them. And while it can be fairly easy to find a job in Switzerland as an EU National, when you’re a non-EU the task gets harder.

But it’s not impossible. As a non-EU, I was successfully able to find work in Switzerland. Every situation is different.

Some interesting facts about trailing spouses, courtesy of Yvonne McNulty, a trailing spouse researcher include:

84% of us have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher (see, we were not meant to be Hausfraus or Hausmanns!)

64% of us left careers to join our partners abroad

55% of us couldn’t continue working because of visa/work-permit restrictions

The important thing to do in any situation is to take control. If you can’t work where you’re living, or you later become laid off like moi, get creative. What else could you do? In a 2008 New York Times article, McNulty said, “What I found in my research is that almost all spouses face an identity crisis, but only about 10 to 15 percent did something about it, by becoming authors, getting an MBA or starting businesses,” she said. Most “felt they were victims, with no control.”

So instead of mourning my loss of my job idenitity, I constantly try to create new opportunities doing the things I love. In between searching for a “real job”, I’m currently writing a memoir, working as a freelancer for a Swiss magazine, and writing for U.S. publications.

If you’re a trailing spouse abroad, how have you approached continuing your career?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger in Zurich, Switzerland. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland, and Writer Abroad. She also blogs for Affordable Calling Cards, a new expat community blog. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living abroad in Switzerland and in many other countries.

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