The Expat Life:Being an expat wife

Article by Karen Arango

Becoming an expat wife comes from an unconditional love, support and trust for her partner. She must be self-confident, brave, clever and proud of everything she has achieved so far in her life before she can make the decision to support her partner in his new job opportunity, without the frustration of having to sacrifice her own career.

Normally, it’s more difficult for her to get over the culture shock than it is others family members. The once independent professional becomes highly dependent on her partner financially, emotionally, and socially. Most of them cannot actually work due to a visa status as companions and not as legal workers.

People, in general, tend to see her partner as someone with a new job opportunity that has a lot of professional growth potential, but diminish her new role and express concern about it. Family and friends are continuously asking: what do you do every day? Why did you make such a sacrifice? What is your plan for the future? The questions never stop, which makes her life even harder.

Since she has more time at home, she becomes fully responsible for all the housework: cooking, keeping the house tidy, paying bills, buying groceries, becoming the tailor, carpenter, gardener, decorator and more. At the beginning, it is an opportunity to have daily activities but soon leads to stress, depression and eventually burnout.
Faced with these changes, expat women often suffer a crisis of self-identity and self-confidence. In the adaptation process, they have to build a new life, a new role and strengthen their self-esteem.


  1. Recognize the opportunities for personal growth
    Patience, adaptability, social skills and intercultural competence, learning a new language and developing a new profession are just some of the skills you can learn to better yourself and keep active.
  2. Enjoy your time
    Remember those times in your home country when you were stressed and very busy and wanting to have spare time for yourself and try new activities. There’s a good chance that you have it now, so try to enjoy it! Use the time to study a new language; attend cooking, dancing and painting classes; visit parks and museums; ride a bike; take a refreshing nap; meditate; or read.
  3. Join an expat wives group
    They will be your new friends, your new family, and your support. Together you can go around and explore the city, develop a sense of humor to cope with frustrating situations and celebrate important dates.
  4. Share the house work between all the family members
    This generates a sense of responsibility, fosters respect for each other and teaches you to work as a team.
  5. Offer your services to the community
    If you are a good cook, baker, writer, baby-sitter, artist, psychologist, economist, or whatever, the community will love to share in your skills and experience.
  6. Create a communication space with your family
    Express your feelings, plans, and needs. Support each other. Express your love and give a lot of hugs and kisses.

Karen is a psychologist graduate from the Javeriana University, Cali Colombia.  She studied her post graduate degree at Barcelona Autonomous University, Spain.  She has eight years of experience teaching classes of human development and atmosphere management in businesses, and giving therapies for families, children and couples in Colombia, Spain, England and China.  She’s lived in Xi’an for two years with her husband.  If you are interested in a consultancy or would like to contact Karen for any other reason you can reach her at or WeChat: karenito1.