Sorry to begin with that terrible label ‘trailing spouse’ but I have been one for 16+ years now, I guess it’s time I got over myself. So what do you do when your partner comes home and says, “I’ve been offered a job in Mumbai”. Panic might be your first reaction, but take a deep breath and carry on reading.

    Trailing spouse
    Photo Attribution


    Get the facts


    The company’s HR department should provide you with all the basic information about the assignment. This will be your starting point for understanding what assistance you will receive with the move. Study the documentation carefully and make a list of questions that need further clarification. Sadly, do not expect the HR contact to have all the answers, as this is your initiation into being an expat when you will need to learn to hone your detective skills. Personally I feel that all company relocation personnel should have experienced being an expat themselves at least once, as then they would understand how they could make the process smoother (and not add to the stress).


    Hopefully your partner has been able to address the obvious questions of where exactly you are going, when you will be expected to relocate, and how long you will be at the new location. However, as the trailing spouse, here are just a few of the main areas that will impact you the most that your relocation package should address:

    • What is the housing situation:
      • How will you get to select where you will live?
      • Will you get the assistance of a realtor at the location?
      • What options will you have ie house, condo, apartment?
      • What allowance will you get?
      • What will the housing allowance include – i.e. utilities, rent, driver, housekeeping or will there be additional funds for these?
      • Will you get time to visit Mumbai before the assignment begins to select housing?
      • Will you go into temporary housing for a set period of time?
      • What are the transportation arrangements for your furniture and personal belongings?
      • What happens to your house in your home location – are you given assistance to sell or rent while you are away? How will this impact any allowances you are given?
    • If you are relocating with children:
      • What options surrounding schooling will you be given?
      • Will the company provide assistance in gaining places at the school you select?
      • Will the company pay 100% of the school fees?
      • Will additional items such as transportation and clothing be covered?
    • What health benefits will you be given?
    • Will you be given home visits?
      • How many trips home will the company pay for?
      • Will you be expected to travel economy or business class?
      • Is there a cash alternative to plane tickets?
      • If dependent children are not accompanying you on assignment will they be given a travel allowance to visit you?
    • What will be the arrangements for family pets?
    • Are there any additional ‘hardship’ allowances for this location?

    Trailing spouse


    Start your research


    Even with the best relocation assistance you will still need to do your own detective work to find the answers to items that will impact you and your family the most. Head to the Internet and Google like mad. Word of warning, this can sometimes be counter productive as not all information on the Internet is true (shocking I know). Plus some information is situational. For example, security concerns, especially for women in India, were a major worry for me and reading horrifying headlines did not help. In reality incidences against Westerners in Mumbai are very rare and by taking obvious precautions I have not felt in any undue danger.


    I suggest that you begin by compiling a list of your particular concerns. Here are a few ideas:

    • What food will be available?
    • How will the weather impact us?
    • How will you spend your day?
    • Can you work?
    • How will you meet people and make friends?
    • What happens if someone gets sick, either you or someone at your home location?
    • What should I take, and what should I leave behind?
    • What happens to my finances?
    • What cultural issues should I be concerned about?

    Trailing Spouse


    Find support


    If you can find someone who has done what you are about to do then make a new friend and pick their brains on what you should be doing. Ask if your partners company can put you in touch with other families that have already made the move, and start a dialogue with them. If you are the pioneer family from the company then find an expat group in the new location that you can contact prior to the move. For example, Mumbai has two groups Mumbai Connexions and AWC (American Women’s Club) that can act as a lifeline to expatriates from all over the world. Getting support from other trailing spouses really can make all the difference.

    Trailing spouse
    Photo Attribution


    Stay positive


    Easier said than done with all the stress that is coming you way with the pending move. Realize that you are not going mad when at one moment you are very excited about the adventure you about to embark upon and yet the next minute terrified at the thought of all the changes about to take place, and sad at leaving your existing life behind. Friends and family members can be polarizing, some will hate the idea of your move while others will encourage you to enjoy the experience. You will be offered all kinds of advise from people who have never even set foot in India. Try your best to stay open minded as this will really help you in the long run.


    I hope I have alleviated some of your concerns, and not added to your worry lines! Let me know what your questions are about making this move as I would love to help and become part of your support group.


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