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  • Tanya Arler

What's YOUR expat story?

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

Expat life is most certainly filled with ups and downs. Not only that, with every move we leave things we love behind and are unsure how we'll find our groove in the next place. I think it’s also fair to say that no matter how many times you’ve moved, the first 6 months is turbulent.

I have a TON of tips on how to adapt more easily to your new life and insights in to the most common expat dilemmas (see my book UNPACK), but sometimes, all you need to do is remember why. Why did you become an expat to begin with?

Even if the ‘why’ is no longer relevant, you’ll remember how far you’ve come and where you can still go. You’ll remember that you were curious, so you will reignite your sense of adventure. Or you’ll remember how scared you were and realise that fear and excitement are the same emotion, it’s just a matter of perspective. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember how the whole thing started.

I have a bit of a mixed history as my father was American and my mother is Belgian. Although I was born and schooled in the US, growing up I spent 10-12 weeks each summer in a small town in Flanders with my grandparents and Belgian friends, none of whom spoke English. Strictly speaking I was not an expat child, but I was certainly a Third Culture Kid.

At 19 I moved to Belgium and haven’t lived in the States since. Where have I lived? Belgium 2 more times, Singapore twice, Sweden once, Italy once, and Tokyo once. That’s a lot of moving.

It all started when my then-boyfriend/now-husband and I were bored with our jobs and he said ‘Let’s move to a new country!’ He’s a 3rd generation expat so moving came easier to him. I didn’t realise this was the beginning of a trend, nor did I realise how addictive the adventure of expat life could be.

We moved to Italy in 1997, got married, and that’s where it all began.

But my question to you is this: What's your Why? Why did you become an expat? What did you want or think you would get out of it? What motivated you to say yes in the first place?

In my case, I was bored with my job and although I’m half Belgian, I didn’t feel like I quite fit in there, so I went looking; looking for where I belonged.

I knew I didn’t belong in the US any more, and didn’t think Belgium was my place. Funny thing, after 7 moves I’ve realised that Belgium is my home…. I took the long way around to find what I was looking for.

It will still be many years before we return to Belgium and maybe a country or two, but in the meantime, I cherish my friends in Belgium and visit as much as I can. I accomplished what I set out to do and now, I do my best to be curious, always enjoy the adventure, and forge friendships I otherwise would never have.

I don’t regret a minute of being an expat spouse, even with all the ups and downs. I love the life we’ve had and am super proud that we’ve raised 2 young adults who have had such culturally-rich young lives. What they do with that is up to them, but we’ve given them a foundation to follow their dreams and a metaphorical passport to go out and look for what they want. The world is their oyster.

So what’s your story? I would love to hear! And even if you don’t want to share, take a moment to remember how and why this crazy adventure all got started!


Tanya - a happy expat

PS. If you’re having a hard time adjusting to expat life to begin with, or you’re further down the track and are in a bit of a rut, please feel free to reach out. I am a seasoned expat spouse myself and specialise in Mindset Coaching. I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve I would love to help if I can. Even if you just have a quick question you want insight on, just PM me on Facebook. I am happy to help.


Tanya Arler is the author of the book UNPACK - a guide to life as an expat spouse and founder of A Happy Expat. A HAPPY EXPAT offers expat spouses practical tools, mindset coaching, and advice on how to navigate the staggering change they are going through, all the while remaining the rock their family so desperately needs.

So they too can become...



For straight-forward answers to all of your expat dilemmas, get your copy of UNPACK - a guide to life as an expat spouse. This pick-it-up and put-it-down book was designed for the busy expat spouse on the go... YOU. Get your copy on Amazon HERE.

If you want my blog to come straight to your inbox, sign up here and get your FREE copy of my ebook, A HAPPY EXPAT - a quick guide. This guide outlines my top 3 pillars to expat living, Attitude, Expectation and Identity and gives the top 10 list of realities of life as an expat spouse. Subscribe HERE

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