Monday, 16 August 2010

Expatriate life: Gender differences

As discussed, issues such as employment and community integration are common to many expatriates. However, are there any characteristics of the experience which differentially affect each sex?

Source: Getty

The Expat Explorer Survey suggests men are more likely to relocate for longer. Whilst 63% of male respondents indicate that they have lived abroad for more than five years, this duration is matched by only 46% of women.

There are qualitative differences too. Whilst financial organisation is regularly cited as a difficulty for expats, many more females than males confess to finding banking and taxation adjustments complex. An article by Shelter Offshore suggests this is because traditionally it is mothers who take time out from paid employment to help their family adjust to life abroad and this can leave their income variable and mismanaged.

However, other sources suggest that males are increasingly fulfilling the homemaker role when their spouses relocate with work and will similarly experience difficulties, isolation and language barriers whilst away from home.

This is offset against apparent advantages for females in employment overseas. One American professional who has worked in the Middle East and Asia suggests; ‘I feel more respected as a manager in China than I do in the U.S. The Chinese value two qualities in their leaders: competence and warm-heartedness...Adopting [this] behaviour is more common by American female assignees than by males’.

In spite of the benefits, fewer females relocate abroad with their jobs. This trend has been attributed to a perception that they may be exposed to relatively more cultural bias or risk. Many websites advise females on how best to handle some of the more patriarchal states of the world. Some good advice includes a adopting a willingness to embrace local customs, researching the area, liaising with other expatriates and working hard to demonstrate your value within employment.

Arguably, these approaches ensure a great experience for all expats, regardless of gender! We’d be keen to hear if you think either sex fares differently.


  1. I think if men relocate abroad without any support (from their company or their spouse), they would find it much harder, especially if they do not speak the language well. My husband hardly made any friends when he went abroad on his own for a year, while when we went with him, he had a social life planned out for him, all of his admin things taken care of, never felt lonely etc. So the reason that men are more willing to relocate and also relocate for longer is that they probably have an excellent support network behind them. The other solution, of course, for single men, is to find a local girlfriend...

    1. haha, or boyfriend! ;oD

  2. Hi Sanda,

    That's very true! The role that women play during the expatriate journey cannot be underestimated, that is why we have introduced a new four-part series on Expat Explorer looking specifically at Expat Women. You might be interested in Part 1- the truth about expat housewives. Would love to hear your comments too!


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