Sexism alive and kicking in expat destinations

Published:  14 Apr at 6 PM
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Female expats unprepared for this negative aspect of culture shock are experiencing sexism in a number of countries.

Nowadays, single women are as likely to emigrate either to further their careers or to retire as are men. However clued up they are to cultural differences and diversities in their new country, they’re often unprepared for the politically incorrect male chauvinism they’ve hardly ever experienced at home.

Photographer and writer Sheila Taylor left the UK for a two-year stint in Rio de Janeiro, expecting a fresh, new experience in a fascinating world city. Also expecting like-minded friends and colleagues, she was disconcerted to discover a degree of male chauvinism not seen in the UK for decades, especially as the men she was introduced to were part of Brazil’s cultured, educated upper classes.

During one discussion, a well-known male lawyer criticised her for arguing forcefully with a man. After she became the victim of a violent mugging, a male acquaintance made a joke about punching his wife. Sadly, Sheila’s experiences typify the problems faced by professional women who choose to work overseas.

A recent Nat West study revealed that almost half of workers relocating overseas are women, many of whom have found prejudice against ther gender in the international workplace. One professional woman working for a global financial company’s Tokyo office was devastated by the number of Japanese men she saw reading porno magazines on the subway. She told reporters she’d felt like a feminist working in a strip club for the entire six months of her assignment.

A Chicago expat coach based in Italy for four years found it difficult to deal with the in-your-face infidelity practiced by Italian husbands, with staying within the expat community her only answer. Women being interviewed for positions in Switzerland can expect to be asked for personal details of their private lives, especially if they’re of child-bearing age.

However, the above experiences pale into insignificance when compared with the total lack of female emancipation in Saudi Arabia Expat women must obey the same rules as Arab women as regards respectable clothing and access to transport, are prohibited from working in the same offices as men and are generally treated as inferior, no matter how good they are at their jobs.
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