Welcome to this week’s edition of Recommended Reading! I don’t have a particular theme for this week. Instead, here’s a collection of posts I’ve read recently that I feel have something of value to offer expat and TCK communities around the world.
10 Alternatives to ‘Where are you from?’
Multicultural Kid Blogs
I love this!! “Where are you from?” is one of those questions that just roll of our tongues when we meet people. It’s not an easy question, for a lot of expats, and especially for TCKs. Yet it still takes effort to rewire our brains (and mouths!) to ask different questions. Also, I’ve found when I take the initiative to ask different questions, I get asked those sorts of questions in return. And I find them much easier to answer myself! I’ll add my own favourite to this list: “Where were you living before this?” It has a concrete answers, rather than a subjective one, while still offering an invitation to share some of their story.
But What’s So Different about Being an Expat Family, Anyway?
Yet another helpful reflection from Rachel as her TCKs prepare to leave for university in their passport country. Her daughter wonders aloud how her life is different to that of peers in her passport country. What I love most is that while Rachel expresses some of the differences she sees, she also knows she can’t answer this question for her kids. She rests on the values their family holds close, and trusts that her kids will work it out as they live and grow.
“I can’t explain to my twins how their childhood has affected them. They’ll need to discover the answer to that question on their own. I couldn’t begin to articulate one. I have ideas, but sometimes the only way to answer our deep questions is to experience a contrast, to set our question and our experience against something new, opposing, different.”
Expat Homesickness – 3 Ways to Deal with it and Heal from it
This is a great post in which Stephanie reflects openly on her experience of culture shock, homesickness, and resulting depression. (And reminded me a little of my own post on expat homesickness.) She gives some great advice. I was particularly touched by the gentleness of her first point – to be your own parent. By this she means to speak kind and comforting words over yourself. This is so important!
“My mom would never tell me to just “suck it up”! She would give me permission to feel sad and depressed. This is a crucial step because I need to allow myself the feeling before I ever stand a chance of extracting myself from the pain. . .If your mom was mean, be a kind and gentle version of your mom because she is what you need right now.”
See, Say, Spell, Repeat
What do you do when you feel caught between cultures, and your name reflects one of those cultures strongly? Prasanta discusses her journey of identity and what’s in a name.
“I was raised in the U.S., but you aren’t sure of that by looking at me. . . since we think and speak alike, I wondered if it would help to have a name that does sound like you. I thought it would be taking down a barrier — a big one — between us. I couldn’t change my skin color, which was Big Barrier #1. But, I could change this. Maybe it would make a difference. Maybe it would make it easier for you to talk to me. And admittedly, I wanted to make it easier for myself as well.”
Territory and Third Culture Kids – Building our Safe Places
Rachel was advised to keep her cat inside for a month after moving before letting her outside in order to help her with the transition. Rachel expands this concept to wonder how taking the time to fix ourselves in a place might give TCKs (and other global nomads) a sense of security so many seem to lack. Such a fascinating idea!
“It is only because Jack knew her own home so well, that she was able to return to it safely at the end of the day. It was only because she’d spent so much time in it that she was able to feel it as her safe place. . .having home to run to is precisely what made out there safe to explore. . .Safe places are shelters. Shelters are, by nature, boundaried in some way. There is an out there and an in here. We use them to retreat from the elements, and their borders give us rest.”
Expat reunions are a thing of wonder
The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide
A lovely post on the unique beauty (and deep emotion) of expat reunions. When you have the opportunity to spend time with someone who lived that part of your life with you, who knows those places and people, who you don’t have to explain those things to – wow. What a blessing!
“Saying goodbye is hard because you really have no idea when, or if, you will see them again. But when you do – and I do believe the ones that are really important to you will pop up again sooner or later – you instantly connect again over the experiences that only you shared. . .As we move on with our lives, the memories of our expat days fade. But friendships will often out-last those memories and when we get together the years fall away and we are back living together in those distant lands.”
Travel Is No Cure for the Mind
This post is a modern adaptation of Seneca’s letter to Lucilius about travel. The main point is that novelty gives way to routine no matter where we are; the solution is not a new place, but a new mindset. I found it helpful in a few ways. When people ask about your “exciting” or “exotic” life, it can help to explain that actually, you live an ordinary routine just like them, only in a different place. Also, the mindset advice is so key to enjoying life abroad – especially for those who weren’t too keen on making a particular move. Gratitude and curiosity are powerful tools!
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