Moving to Thailand? Finding Fulfillment as a Trailing Spouse

August 24, 2015

The term “trailing spouse” describes someone who follows their partner to another city or country and it’s very often because of a job opportunity. And in a city like Bangkok, which is a popular hub for international businesses, it is very common for businessmen and businesswomen to move here from overseas and bring their family with them.  Although being a trailing spouse can be difficult at times, there are ways to find happiness as you settle into your new home in Thailand.

The thought of moving to a new country typically evokes feelings of excitement. You may envision eating exotic foods, visiting new places you’d never thought you’d see, or even speaking a new language. You may feel that, as a foreign couple or family, you will stick together as a team and dive into the new culture together. 
However, once the working spouse starts their new job and spends much of their time away from home, those dreams can fall through. As the trailing spouse, you may experience hardships that go beyond the traditional culture shock of being homesick or longing for familiar foods and comforts. 

Feelings of loneliness and lack of self identity

It’s no surprise that you may feel socially isolated. It’s challenging to create a social network when you are stuck at home most days. You also need confidence to integrate with new people and their culture but not everyone feels immediately comfortable to brave a new town on their own, especially in a city where many people speak a language other than your own.
Many trailing spouses also give up their careers because they are not legally able to continue working in Thailand. Without being involved in meaningful work and having an established schedule, you can lose the identity you’ve created through your job as well as the feelings of being self-sufficient and accomplished. If you spend most of your free time at home, you may feel bored and lonely rather than liberated.

Finding fulfillment 

Trailing spouses should be encouraged to find fulfillment in their new role abroad. Here are some helpful suggestions:   
Join activities, clubs, or events and meet other trailing spouses like yourself. These exist specifically to help integrate yourself with others and learn more about a new town and its culture. These can be typically found by a quick online search.
Learn to navigate the city as soon as possible. Whether you opt for using public transportation or teach yourself to drive on the other side of the road, you won’t be stuck inside your home all day alone. This opens up many opportunities and presents a level of freedom that you otherwise would not have. 
Know that, realistically, you will not feel comfortable in your new town for at least several months. Accepting this will take a large weight of your shoulders. 
Pursue interests you’ve never done before but have always had on your bucket list. Learning a local craft or new hobby will help you connect positively with your new town.
Volunteer with a local organization or study at a local university. In Thailand, both require the appropriate volunteering or student visas, respectively. However, most respectable businesses will be able to provide you with the appropriate paperwork for the right visa.
These are just a few ways to reestablish yourself and create a new identity after moving abroad. After all, this is not an opportunity given to everyone. If you have experience in being a trailing spouse, we invite you to share your story in the comment section below. 
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