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Online Communities to Support Expatriates’ Spouses
A common reason cited for the failure of an international assignment is that the expatriate’s spouse was dissatisfied. The role of an accompanying spouse is difficult. Often, this person is not legally allowed to work in the host country, so it is more difficult for him or her to find new friends and meaningful activities.
Employers can help the accompanying spouse make connections. An employer, especially one with a lot of expatriate employees, might set up its own spouses’ network. In The Netherlands, Eindhoven University of Technology recruits one-third of its employees from other countries but found that many left after a short period because spouses were unhappy there. It began offering spouses a “Get in Touch” program of weekly meetings to exchange information and visit places of interest. Between meetings, the spouses can keep in contact by joining the group’s Facebook community. After the three-month program ended, many of the participants didn’t want to stop participating, so the university added a Stay in Touch program.
Another approach is to provide information about non-company related social networks for expatriate spouses. Spouses may appreciate the chance to build their own circle of friends. One example is the Trailing Spouse Network, a LinkedIn group where people can share ideas, advice, and support. The Trailing Spouse Network also has a page on Facebook.
Increasingly often, the accompanying spouse is a husband. Some men have had an especially hard time making connections, because support services have been geared to women. These spouses might especially welcome information about social networks for men. In Belgium, for instance, a group of men set up a group called STUDS (for Spouses Trailing under Duress Successfully), which offers activities and keeps members connected online with a blog. Even after leaving Belgium, friends who met in STUDS can keep in touch by posting news and questions on the blog’s website.
1. What pros and cons do you see in having an organization set up its own social network for accompanying spouses?
2. What pros and cons do you see in referring an accompanying spouse to an outside social network?