Research project with & for expat partners – results

Remember how we were looking for expat partners for our research project last year? In short: we wanted to figure out why +1s give up their job search. This insight would allow us to support them better in the future. And finally, after hours of hard work with our Researcher, Uta Shimada, we are ready to share the results! Spoiler: it gets very real!

General info about our 18 expat partners / partners. They:

  • live temporarily or permanently in Warsaw due to their partners’ relocation
  • used to have stable jobs before their arrival in Warsaw
  • come from diverse industries: from event planning, yoga training and graphic design to block chain, banking and IT
  • are between 26 to 63 years old
  • are from (in no particular order) UK, Sweden, India, Turkey, Serbia, Germany, France, Japan, Switzerland, Mexico, Taiwan, Spain, Bulgaria, USA

Some more facts:

  • 89% expressed their wish to work in Warsaw
  • 44% are unemployed
  • 22% speak Polish

Our research methods
After an online questionnaire, Uta conducted an individual interview with each participant. The interviews lasted on average from 1.5 to 2.5 hours per person.
Some of the interview questions:

  • Have you been interested in finding a job or a professional activity in Warsaw?
  • What exactly have you tried in order to find a job / professional activity?
  • After what time were you successful? After what time did you stop looking? Why? Or even: why did you never start?

The results
All of the participants expressed that job-search has been much more difficult in Warsaw, comparing with their previous experiences in other cities. The main obstacles:

  • Unclear process of job-search in Warsaw: any career-related process or system appears to foreigners as chaotic and disorganized
  • No support from the partners’ companies
  • Lack of career-related support (e.g. consultants, headhunters)
  • The job market in Warsaw perceived as available for Polish people only
  • Difficult local language prevents foreigners from successfully assimilating
  • Lower salaries and lower title / position of the potential jobs in Poland comparing to previous employment

However, 9 participants succeeded in finding a job in Warsaw. They admit that they used rather “traditional” ways of job hunting, such as using LinkedIn and other job-search websites. They remained positive despite receivingsilent rejectionsandauto-reply rejectionsto their job applications. On average, they started to receive good news after 3 months. One participant points out:

When my 20th application was ignored, I really needed to take a break – I think it was my 3rd month of looking. So I decided to do something else and meet people, and I went to the international women’s meeting. There, I happened to sit next to somebody who works for [name of company] and she recommended me to my current boss.

All 9 employed participants accepted the fact that their new salaries and positions are lower than those they used to have back in their home countries.

Spirited expat partners and stagnated expat partners

The interviews demonstrated extremely clear differences in the approaches by the expat partners who ended up being employed and the ones who remain unemployed.

The approach the employed interviewees took was mainly to adjust, shift and change themselves to positively respond to the new conditions and circumstances of life in Warsaw. They shifted their minds swiftly and accepted the changes. They appeared to be modest and respectful for the local culture and how things are done locally, although they also experienced negative emotions of confusion, anger and frustration at times.

Other traits they shared were that they have been active and resilient at the same time, trying to socialize outside to meet people, and kept looking and applying for jobs. Some of them took temping jobs or junior jobs to ‘get going in Warsaw’, and once they were back in the job market (although they were not in the ideal positions compared with their positions back in their countries), ‘things started to roll’, and many of the stated that they are ‘rather satisfied’ with their current positions.

On the other hand, the approach many of the unemployed interviewees took was to become increasingly critical about the job market, industries and culture in Poland. They interpreted their unemployed situations as coming from Warsaw being ‘not international’, ‘intimidated by highly skilled people from abroad’, ‘not open to foreigners and foreign expertise’ and even ‘racist’.

Some of them had the belief of being victimized, and their frustration and anger seemed to have led them to the symptoms of depression. Some of them became more and more closed in time, not meeting people outside, which appeared to have further accelerated their negative views about Poland. It was apparent that they have been wishing the environments and conditions to change rather than themselves, stubbornly refusing to adjust or change their own views.

It can be argued, from the above, that the main factor that prevents some of the expats partners from finding a job may be their own views; the unemployed interviewees were not open themselves to adjusting and shifting minds, nor to expert advice from local career consultants.

Needless to say, the employed, ‘spirited’ expat partners live in Warsaw more happily than the unemployed, ‘stagnated’ expat partners; it was apparent in the interviews that their employment situations seem to deeply affect their family dynamics, their mental health and their and their familiesoverall well-being.

(Based on Uta Shimada’s research: “Expat partners in Warsaw and their career-related experiences”)


We would like to thank all the interviewees for taking part in our research. Thanks to your time and your precious experience, we will be able to support others who, just like you, struggle(d) to find a job in a new environment.

Are you a +1 looking for a job? Whether you are located in Warsaw, Lisbon or Brussels, contact us at and we will be more than happy to discuss your situation and help with the job searching process. Subject: +1 The first career consultation is free of charge. No strings attached.

FYI: some of our Career Angels have been or are expat spouses themselves. We understand you :)