Expat Women Face Challenges and Opportunities

Women living abroad in a new country can face a whole different set of changes than their male counterparts.  Whether you’re abroad for work, fun, or retirement, understanding and embracing these potential differences will make living internationally more enjoyable, while allowing better assimilation into the community.

With regards to safety, women in many parts of the world will want to use more caution than what they are accustomed to in their home country.  Naturally, in every city and country there are safer areas than others, but when abroad it’s particularly important for women to be vigilant and adhere to basic safety tips (don’t leave drinks unattended, don’t hitchhike, et cetera), at least until they’re familiar with their new surroundings.  Of course, it never hurts to have a can of mace or pepper spray handy for those ‘just in case’ situations.

Women’s clothing and its perception by locals will be different from place to place.  It’s only normal that every culture has its socially accepted dress code and women living abroad should try to adhere to it so as not to come across as disrespectful to the nation and its people.  When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and dress more conservatively than not.

Women expats often have a differing list of healthcare issues that need to be addressed compared to men.   The most common worries that they face are contraception and reproductive issues.  The ability to have access to birth control and regular checkups should be researched ahead of time, including what will be covered by insurance.

Although it will vary from one field to another and the location, women who are working abroad may find that they’re in a ‘man’s world’.  Unfortunately, chauvinism is not dead, and women in untraditional roles may face some opposition.  However, knowing the local culture and being mentally prepared to deal with this kind of test can make for a truly empowering experience that can break down barriers for other women in a similar industry.

Life overseas for women who are following a spouse for a job can be especially challenging.  Since they are responsible for the family and home (and unable to legally work in many cases), they are often more susceptible to depression, culture shock, and loneliness than their husbands, who have access to people and support through their work.  Under these circumstances, it’s vital to reinvent their support systems and find ways to get involved in the community.

More and more women are conquering international boundaries and living an enthralling life abroad.  With the right attitude, common sense, and research, an international relocation can feel like home in no time.

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