Usually when I write about multicultural relationships, I focus on the positive aspects. It is so fantastic, I write, to have a partner from a far flung land, to learn about a new culture up close and personal, and to create a cultural mosaic within your relationship that takes the best bits and pieces from your home country and to mix and match them with the best bits and pieces from your partner’s world. It’s very globalisation of love, isn’t it?
Within this peace and love rose garden, however, are a few thorns. Learning a language, for example, can be ‘enriching’. It can also reduce you (at least me) to tears at times. Living abroad is so exciting and romantic, that is when it is not lonely and alienating. One of the big issues that fits into the ‘thorn’ category of GloLo relationships is the career of the foreign partner. How shall I put this delicately? The career of the foreign partner, you know, the one who thought they would be happy to live on the moon, as long as it was with you, is going to be, well, thorny, at least at the beginning of the relocation. The globalisation of a career requires some consideration. Here are a few of the key issues:
Usually married spouses who live in their partner’s country will get a working visa … eventually. However, it often takes over a year to do so, and this will mean a period of unemployment or underemployment or sneaky, evasive, non-binding, possibly illegal, and probably deportation-risking non-contractual working arrangements. Hence, what it really means is financial dependency on your spouse, unless you have a nice trust fund to cushion you through this period. Recently I met an Australian woman who moved to Luxembourg to be with her soon-to-be husband. She gave up a “decent, but nothing spectacular” job in the health insurance industry and will not be working anytime soon. She summarised the situation succinctly by saying “it ain’t easy”. Let’s move forward to that rapturous day when you receive your working visa.
Professional Designation, Education and Qualifications
Many trained professionals are surprised to learn that their particular skill set is not officially recognised in a foreign country. It may be logical. For example, if you learn accounting rules in your home country, they may be different that accounting rules in the country of your spouse where you now live and wish to work. Sometimes it is not logical. You need a special certificate which does not exist in your home country, or you need proven years of work experience and references in the local language. Additionally, there may not be a market for your skills and talents. Let’s say you teach and coach figure skating (you were the national champion!) and now you live in Africa. Hmm, good luck finding that ice rink. If you are lucky, you can transfer your skills to, let’s say inline skating. Transferring your skill set to a new culture requires a certain professional dexterity, and …
Language is the one aspect of the GloLo career that people often underestimate. Remember that it is one thing to be cocktail party conversant in a language and quite another to engage in stealthy negotiation that is legally binding. Further, speaking the language is different than writing the language. (Note that The Globalisation of Love has not been translated into German, despite my witty wordplay in the tortuously tongue-twisting language of my spouse). So even if you have a working visa and your professional qualifications are recognised and in demand on the local market, the language may still prove to be a barrier to continuing an international career path. All very heavy stuff, I know.
Getting back to the positive side of a GloLo relationship, there are ingenious solutions to the GloLo job situation. Many GloLos take a new turn in their career development that they would not have explored in their home country. There are many books and blogs to help you face the challenge of the GloLo career. Start here with www.careerinyoursuitcase.com which is full with resources and great ideas. “Challenges are opportunities in disguise” write the authors. It’s the opportunity for the globalisation of your career!