Vivian Chiona, a bicultural, multilingual expat with family all over the world. She is originally from Greece but has been living in the Netherlands since 2007. Vivian is a registered psychologist and the founder and director of Expat Nest, which provides professional online counselling for expats and internationals.
Vivian has a team of qualified counsellors that understands the dynamics of a mobile life and offers emotional support in several languages. They can provide counselling in English, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Arabic. Because Expat Nest is just a click away, they are also able to offer consistent support to both expats and those for whom a nomadic life is the norm.
How did you come up with the concept for your business?
I was 27 at the time, holidaying in Crete and feeling truly reconnected with myself when the moment of inspiration arrived. I wanted a business with heart and without borders. A year later, in 2013, Expat Nest was a reality.
I’d noticed the significant need for counselling services devoted to internationals. Though life presents challenges for everyone, global nomads often have to deal with additional dilemmas unique to a transition-rich lifestyle.
By using online technology to enable counselling without borders, my team and I have been able to support expats, no matter where they are today or where they’ll be tomorrow, and irrespective of their origin or nationality.
What was your mission at the outset?
My vision has always been to bring joy and inspiration to expats around the world. I want to support our clients to feel happy, confident and relaxed in their international experience.
Every step I’ve taken since those early days has been driven by the questions: How can my team and I support people, no matter where they are? How can we truly provide a home away from home to expatriates? I still marvel at where this journey has taken me, and feel blessed by how many people we’ve been able to support with our innovative approach to counselling.
Do you choose your current location or did it choose you?
I came to the Netherlands to study. And as life does, it revealed a whole new path, as one opportunity unfolded after the other, on both a professional and personal level. My original plan was to stay only for another year. 12 years later and counting…
I enjoy how organised and efficient the Netherlands is, and I feel connected to nature here. It’s also a safe country, and easy to live in. I love its international character – it has one of the biggest expat communities in the world.
Now I have two nests – one in the Netherlands and the other in Greece. I also enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle for a couple of months a year. In the past, I’ve spent long periods of time in both the US and Australia, seeing family and friends, and connecting with like-minded individuals and organizations.
Do you think being an expat contributes to your success at all?
Being an expat, I really do understand both the blessings and challenges of the mobile life. This means that Expat Nest can offer authentic and highly empathetic online counselling for expats.
Expat life calls on and develops skills like adaptability, creativity and finding ways to reinvent yourself as context change. Skills that are crucial to the success of any business.
Above all, I (as well as my team of expat specialised counsellors) speak the universal language shared by those who lead an international life. We understand the hidden losses and saddest goodbyes, as well as the deepest joys, of a nomadic lifestyle.
If you had one piece of advice for an expat entrepreneur just starting out what would it be?
It’s hard to choose one as there are so many things that lead to success!
If I had to choose one, it would be this: start with doing what you love, taking your profession a step further by doing something novel and do it well so as to help as many others as possible.