AWA BT May/June 2020

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Ask An Expert Expat

answering your questions about expat life Written by Tanya Arler We are pleased to launch a new column, Ask an Expert Expat, by Tanya Arler. Being an expat spouse comes with a unique set of circumstances, and even more so now with this pandemic and shelter-in-place orders in Singapore and all over the world. As a coach and seasoned expat herself, Tanya can address some of your dilemmas during this challenging time.

Hi, I’m Tanya. Welcome to Ask an Expert Expat. I’m here to offer insight and advice on questions pertaining to the personal challenges you face as an expat spouse. An expat's all-important suitcase To get the ball rolling I thought I would share my story with you. learned is that you never get used to living in limbo, I have a bit of a mixed history, as my father was rebuilding your identity is always a challenge, the American and my mother is Belgian. Although I emotional wringer doesn't get easier, and there's was born and schooled in the US, I spent 10-12 nothing worse than seeing your child struggle. I've also learned that expat friendships are some of the most profound friendships you can have and that expat children are bold and tolerant, offering a much needed voice in this world. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to believe that "expats have it all," but life is life. Moving to a foreign culture doesn’t change that, it just offers a different set of ups and downs.

Tanya with her kids in Tokyo in 2008

Tanya at the top of Mt Fuji

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 since have lived in Italy, Japan, Sweden, Belgium (3 times), and Singapore (twice). What I cherish about expat living is that life is never dull. The friendships forged and memories made are truly beyond my wildest dreams, but the constant need to adapt and change is relentless. What I've

Fifteen years ago I became a coach and started focusing on expat spouses. It's been a joy to work with such brave women, and I found that often the smallest insights or shift in perspective can make all the difference. I hope to shed light on some of your dilemmas to help you navigate life as an expat spouse more easily. I would be honored if you entrusted me with your quandaries and shared situations you struggle with. Your questions remain confidential and will be handled with the respect they require. My goal is to offer support by addressing the real-life issues of expat spouses, so that you can make the most of this fantastic experience. To submit questions, please email

Tanya Arler is the founder of A HAPPY EXPAT, offering expat spouses practical tools and advice on how to navigate the staggering changes they face. For more info, visit

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