Posts Tagged ‘trailing spouse’

A Guide to Reinvention Abroad

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
Take on a new role in a few easy steps

Take on a new role in a few easy steps

by Chantal Panozzo

For many trailing spouses, reinvention abroad is a common theme. If you visit ExpatWomen, for example, you’ll find stories of successful lawyer turned authors, advertising executives turned entrepreneurs, and accountants turned artists. But how exactly, do you reinvent yourself?

Below are some tips:

-Start with what you love. If it weren’t for the money, what would you do? Would you write? Would you walk dogs? Would you go shopping? Brainstorm what you love to do in your free time.

-Figure out how what you love could become a business. If you love to shop, could you give shopping tours of your new city or launch an online shopping guide? If you love to write, could you become a professional blogger? If you love to paint, could you design and sell greeting cards?

-Now pick the most promising idea from your list and start creating a platform that will help your name get known. A platform is just a fancy word for a bunch of things you do that make you an expert in one area. How do you become an expert? Below are a few things to consider to get you started:

-Keep a blog about your area of speciality and build a readership. Network with other bloggers. Volunteer to write guest posts on popular sites in your niche.

-Sign up to receive HARO notices so that you can help a reporter and get your name in the news at the same time.

-Volunteer to give talks or classes about your topic at clubs and organizations.

-Write articles about your area of interest for publications.

-Start a Twitter account, but keep it single-minded and use it only for your chosen topic.

If you follow some of these steps, before you know it, you will be well on your way to a new career.

Have you reinvented yourself abroad? How did you go about it?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Blazing a Trail-How to Survive Trailing Spouse-dom

Monday, April 5th, 2010

My husband likes to use our chalk board to express his appreciation for our experience.

My husband likes to use our chalkboard to express his appreciation of our experience.

Gah, I really hate the term “Trailing Spouse”.  I am not a card carrier for the “I am Woman Hear me Roar” club but this particular term implies so much, while describing so little about who I am and why I chose to become an Expat.  Yes, I chose this lifestyle so there is no use in complaining about it, but in reality there are pretty strong emotions that come with choosing not to work.  In American culture your career is one barometer gauging your success as a person so when that one measurement is taken away it feels sorta weird, almost like you are living in some strange alternate reality or universe.  There are a whole slew of emotions that a Trailing Spouse must reconcile and I have a few tips I would like to share so hopefully you make it through the transition unscathed:

1. Throw Your Guilt into a Frying Pan- Guilt is Mental Ebola which seeps into all of your thoughts and comes out of all of your pores.  Even though my husband and I decided together that I would trail while he worked, I couldn’t help but feel there was an inequity stemming from who contributed what and how.  Imagine your partner is a frying pan, talking to your partner about your guilt is the heat source and your guilt is some really tasty bacon.  I found great comfort in talking to my frying pan which made my guilt sizzle, subsequently allowing us to eat the hell out of it, leaving no trace of the its existence.  When you talk to your working partner, you may find out what I did: You gave up a lot to be here, you do all the other things that contribute to the success of your partnership, your partner appreciates what you have sacrificed and without you, there is no Expat experience.  You add value and even though it can’t be deposited into your UBS account, it is deposited somewhere- in the bank of Expat Success.

2. Get Connected- I found what I missed most about working wasn’t the paycheck, rather the feeling that I was part of something.  Originally I had planned to take a couple months to get acquainted with my new city, get the apartment in order and enjoy my free time.  I quickly learned solitary living wasn’t for me as I found that my very white apartment walls started to feel like a giant straight jacket, I began to speak in tongues and cried hysterically during German narrated nature shows…those animals are so damned cute.  As a result, I started intensive German class a month early. Find a club, a class, volunteer work, something that will enable you to connect with others on a consistent basis and you too will feel like a part of society again.

3. Do That Hobby or Thing you Never had Time for- I realized the other day that somehow I feel busier without a job.  How did I manage this?  I got off my butt and started doing things I have always wanted to do but never had time for.  I love to cook so now I experiment a lot more, I spend tons of time with my doggies, I BLOG, I read other people’s blogs, I meet people for lunch, I just do stuff.  Once you get past the guilt of not earning an income, it frees you up to explore other valuable things life has to offer.

4. Embrace your Inner Expat- I mean, really hug the living poo out of it…every single day.  You and your partner worked hard to get here, but with any opportunity, you can forget how special it is and take it for granted.  Inevitably, your host country doesn’t have that new car smell anymore and life is life again.  It is up to you to remember why you are here and to appreciate what an amazing opportunity it is.  Just look at the picture above for some inspiration.

I was going to list a #5- Get a Job- but I figured this post was about surviving as a Trailing Spouse.  At the end of the day, you are experiencing what people can only dream of, so get used to it and try to love every minute of it.  I assure you that if you try any of the tips mentioned above, you will not only survive but flourish during this experience.

Happy Trails!

When Zurich based Hausfrau Kristi isn’t busy stuffing her face with chocolate, she enjoys writing her own blog From A to Z.

Trailing Spouse Trivia

Thursday, January 28th, 2010


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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