The trailing spouse : a qualitative study looking into the expectations and reality of expatriate life in Shanghai, China : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
This exploratory study looks at the experiences of eleven female trailing spouses living as expatriates in Shanghai, China. Semi structured interviews were conducted and questions centred around expectations of life as a trailing spouse in Shanghai as compared with their real life experiences. Grounded theory was used to analyse the data and identified five major themes to the study; Identity, Control, Relationships, Culture and Coping Mechanisms. Analysis found that many accompanying spouses were dissatisfied with the support given by the company during the relocation process. It was felt that companies could significantly improve on their procedures and processes by investing more time and money into their staff before sending them overseas. Analysis also showed that some female trailing spouses experience a loss in identity, self-esteem and self-confidence during the initial stages of relocating. Without suitable support and information these feelings can linger and be the cause of premature repatriation for the family. Learning the local language, having a purpose during the stay and getting involved with social groups aided in minimising this identity crisis and seems to play an invaluable role in successful adjustment in a foreign environment. This study contributes to highlighting the complexity of living abroad and the importance organisations should place on considering the spouse and family members when relocating employees.