Her Expat Life has been blessed with Zuzana Svepesova's guidance as a transformational psychologist for professional women as she joins our expat tribe and gives us more depth and insight into her world.
1: Congratulations on being a 'Transformational Psychologist for professional women 30+' - Tell us more about this venture and what has been the most impactful work you have done over your career?
Thank you! It has definitely been an adventure. I am incredibly grateful for being able to help women around the world. One thing I enjoy the most is that no two days are the same. It is a never ending journey of learning and growth. I became a psychologist back in my home country of Slovakia and after I graduated from university, I moved to the UK, not knowing how long I was going to stay. It has been 12 years now and still counting. There have been multiple highlights on my journey so far, working for the mental health charity 'Mind ' - undoubtedly one of them. As a founder of the stress management group I was able to bring people together and help them to navigate emotional challenges in a healthier and more empowering way. To me, the most rewarding thing is to see and hear about the changes my clients experience in their daily lives. Seeing a client grow up as she goes from attracting the same type of dates that are not ready for a relationship to easily attracting potential partners that are open and ready to be serious. I believe together we can create more expansion, therefore I love to collaborate with other like minded people, coaches, therapists and other professionals and create powerful content to help women around the world thrive.
2: You have had an incredible and inspiring career! What have been the biggest challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?
There have certainly been a number of challenges on the way. As an expat, I chose to run my practice online so that I can serve clients all over the world. That came with its challenges as technology is ever changing and different platforms require you to have different tools and skills to operate them. I feel pretty confident in finding my way around the internet, however, I had no idea how much I was about to learn about different ways of how I can reach my audience and serve my clients in the best way possible. Technology can be unpredictable and I learned that the hard way when anything tech related just would not cooperate with me and I nearly did not manage to run the event on time. I very quickly learned that having a spare power bank and the back up options, should one option not work is a must for me! Another thing that can be very unpredictable when you are online based and find yourself working in different locations is internet connection. That is when finding the right spot to have a good connection can be quite a quest! All these experiences have been a great learning opportunity for me to prepare in advance so that I know that regardless of what happens, I can always get on the call and provide safe and confidential space for my clients.
3: As a Slovakian, who moved to the UK and is now an expat, can you tell us about what life has been like living the expat lifestyle? (for how long, where, pros & cons)
I love traveling and exploring new places and I find the UK to be a great spot for it. I really enjoy how multicultural it is. I first came to the UK when I was 19, just after I did my Master’s in Slovakia. I had no clear idea about how long I wanted to stay. It has been nearly 12 years now and I am still counting! For me personally, to be an expat is a very unique experience and I have really enjoyed it over the years. Meeting people from different cultures and growing as a person have been just some of the highlights for me. There are some tough moments when your good friends leave and go back to their home country or when you feel homesick but you cannot just drive and see your family within a few minutes. Just recently, I started appreciating how much this journey of becoming an expat has been about courage. Courage to leave what you know behind, often that includes your family, friends, even pets! Also courage to put yourself out there, while still learning the language, willing to be misunderstood (due to language or different cultural habits), dealing with uncertainty for some time until you figure out what the new country and culture is about and what place you have within it. For me personally, living in a multicultural environment taught me a lot about myself. I consider myself open minded, however, living abroad offers a completely new opportunity for open-mindedness. I was born in Slovakia and I now live in the UK, however, I now call myself an international citizen. I feel that I learned something new with each person I have met. Learning about new cultures, different customs allowed me to review my own and create a way of living, thinking and behaving so that I can still preserve my own Eastern European heritage and I blend well enough with the English culture.
4: What are your top tips for single expat women who want to find a man who can fit into their lifestyle?
I’d start with the lifestyle itself. My first top tip would be for the expat women and women in general is to get clear on what lifestyle they want to live and then commit to that. Let’s say you are considering to be a digital nomad but you are not sure whether it makes sense to date anyone in a place where you are right now because you know you want to travel the world. Being clear on what lifestyle you want to lead will help you to communicate that to your dates and let go of those people who are not compatible with you in terms of your values, desires and plans. So as a digital nomad, I’d say do go ahead, date and meet people, but make sure they know what matters to you and likewise, look for the communities, dating profiles of the people who share your passions, values and hobbies. You are more likely to meet someone compatible when you are in your own element, doing what you enjoy! And that comes with getting clear on what it is that you want going forward. Another thing to consider is what kind of a partner and a relationship you want to be with. What are your ‘must haves’, what are your requirements within the partner and the relationship you are seeking. Knowing that will once again help you to spot that in the ‘crowd’ and also let go of those dates that will not be a suitable match to what you are opening up to. Last but not least, if you already know what you are looking for and you are committed to that vision yet, you find yourself attracting the exact opposite or you hear crickets when on the dating apps or you barely meet anyone suitable when you are out and about, it is always very helpful to review your own dating patterns and habits. What do I mean by that? Typically when we experience something in our relationship repeatedly, it is a good chance it is a pattern and where there is a pattern, we are typically part of that pattern. Looking at what our part is in attracting a certain type of men, feeling a certain way over and over again or matching with the same type of men can be a helpful indicator of what needs to change. And if you are not entirely sure what needs to change but you feel that something needs to, I highly recommend speaking to a trusted friend, family member or a trained professional who can offer you guidance and an objective perspective on what is going on and what you can do.
5: What is your advice to women looking to relocate overseas?
I’d say it would be two things: stay curious and be open minded and ready to change if you have to. Living in a new, different culture to your own comes with all sorts of advantages but also challenges. When you come into this process being curious, you are more likely to see what comes your way as an opportunity to learn and grow. Our mind has this self preservation mechanism where it may jump into conclusions and make judgements, especially with the things we are not familiar with, the things that are different from what we know. Living overseas is likely to bring a number of situations like that to you. However, if you remain curious and open minded, you are more likely to embrace the experience and blend in. This applies for both when relocation is your choice or you are moving together with your partner and you are embracing the step into the unknown. However, if you are considering moving abroad and choosing the country you want to move to, I’d say learning about the culture of the country you are considering relocating to can be useful. Do their customs, traditions, values, beliefs go well together with yours or do they collide? What are you looking for when it comes to living in the new country? Is the country you are considering moving to be able to provide that? Connect to people who already live in the country and ask for their experience. Visit it if possible and explore the day to day activities as a local if possible.
6: What advice do you have for female digital nomads in building new relationships, a support system abroad and in the workplace?
Building relationships in a new country takes time and the workplace can be a great place to start. Being proactive and getting involved in meetings, work projects and work-dos, are just a few opportunities one can get to know the new colleagues. Another good place to start are your hobbies and passions. Let’s say you love surfing and you recently relocated to the Canary Islands. Look for the local surfing club when you are more likely to meet like minded people who enjoy the same thing. We are living in the great era where you can find the communities that share the same interests as you online. Browse Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and other platforms you are active on and look for expat groups in your area who are involved in the similar interests to yours and get in touch. For many expats, communication and language skills are something we continue to polish when we move abroad. Language classes are one of the great opportunities to get together with other expats. You get to practice the language, meet people who share expat experience and expand your horizons by learning about the new cultures.
7: Can you tell us more about a time you traveled/lived the digital nomadic lifestyle? Where did you go? What did you learn?
I have lived in the UK for the past 12 years and have traveled to many countries mainly around Europe. I also visited South America and the Middle East (Dubai) where I stayed for a month. I genuinely believe travel broadens the mind and allows you to learn not just about different cultures and other people but it offers a huge opportunity for you to grow as a person.
There are many things I have learned, but if I was to choose my top 3, they would be the following:
1. My family and friends have always been part of my expat journey and I am grateful for their support. My parents have always supported me and my sister to explore the world. They themselves still travel and we now compare where we have been and share the tips with each other which is amazing!
2. You can be anywhere in the world and things can change around you, but who you always have is you. Making sure I met my own needs in the face of adversity was paramount. I would describe being an expat like a relationship. We can sometimes get lost in them. That is why it is important to remind yourself and remember who you are, what you want and need and be open minded to learn how you can co-create something amazing within the new culture. Just like you are learning about yourself and your ‘partner’ the new things every day when in a relationship.
3. And of course, as an expat living in the UK, I learned that Marmite is not my thing :D For those who have ever tried it, the saying goes ‘you either love it or hate it’! On the other hand, I really got used to and became a fan of the queues! One has to respect the queue and jumping is simply not acceptable!
8: What are the benefits and challenges you've faced as a dating coach and psychologist?
The biggest benefit of being a dating coach and a psychologist is being able to help people around the world on a regular basis. Being able to provide safe spaces for them to explore ideas and emotions, identify and eliminate unhelpful patterns and habits and help them create the future they desire. I am grateful every day I get to do this! At the same time, as an online based professional, I benefit from being able to just grab my laptop and work from anywhere in the world (as long as the internet connection is good!). As the self-help industry constantly evolves, I enjoy that aspect of continuous learning and development. I always strive to provide the best service to my clients and that means always being up to date with the tips and tools I can share with them first hand. One thing that can become a challenge when not taken care of is work life balance and wellbeing as a whole. As a business owner, I can sometimes find myself working late into the night on new projects. It is exciting at the same time, it can lead to overwhelm and exhaustion, because it is sometimes hard to stop with all those amazing ideas or deadlines you have in mind. My daily mindset routine, regular exercise and my mentors help me to navigate those moments when things get on top of me a bit.
9: What do you do in your spare time?
The top of my list definitely goes to traveling! If me and my partner Chris are not anywhere abroad exploring a new country, we like to travel to new places around the UK for short overnight stays or day trips. We are both nature lovers and we always have our hiking gear ready to wander into the new spots which the UK is definitely short of! On the other hand, I enjoy my quiet time, reading a book (I love growing my library and I am always on look out for a new book), I swim regularly and as I have green fingers, I enjoy gardening and regular visits to the garden centres.
10: What are your future plans for your career and life?
Apart from creating expansion and helping even more women around the world this year, I am starting multiple collaborations with other coaches and other self-development professionals. We will be creating a series of projects that cover topics related to relationships from childhood, parenting and how we learn shapes our present relationships and life in general to navigating expat life, creating deeper connections when living abroad and much more. As every year, my audience can look forward to the multiple online events, training and masterclass on various topics related to dating and relationships. There is definitely plenty to come!