Migrating together more difficult than going alone – study

“In sickness and health” could be a wedding vow, but when it comes to moving to a new country, you would be better doing it alone than moving with a less enthusiastic partner, a study has found.

Victoria University of Wellington’s researcher Aidan Tabor and her advisor, Dr Taciano Milfont, researched the experiences of 95 British immigrants before their move to New Zealand, and found that one in three migrants were either an enthusiastic “driver” of the move or a less willing “trailing” spouse.

Moving to a new country can be emotionally challenging, as the “drivers” experience more stress and trailing spouses had lower wellbeing than people coming on their own or with an equally enthusiastic partner.

Such emotional challenges add to the already complex issues of logistics, finances and career.

Researcher Aidan Tabor

“Normally, spouses provide support to each other during stressful times, but ‘drivers’ felt they got less support from their less enthusiastic partner,” says Tabor.

Tabor moved to New Zealand from the United States three years ago with her family. She is researching into how migrants select a destination country including participants from the UK, South Africa and India.

The study found that enthusiastic migrants are more likely to adapt well and be happy in their new home but it will be harder for those that didn’t want to shift.

Unfortunately, the news only gets worse. “Extended families tended to withdraw support when they heard that their loved ones were moving to New Zealand.

The situation is particularly delicate for couples with children.

“The ones who felt the least support are those who have had to tell grandparents they’re taking the grandchildren to the other side of the world.”

What’s the way out? Tell your families you plan to return to the UK. “In these cases, extended family members were very supportive of the move,” Tabor says.


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