While I have plans for some more “themed” recommended reading roundups, the past two weeks there’s been so much going on (both inside my head and out!) I just haven’t had time to focus on it. Instead, here’s a bit of a hodgepodge of some good TCK/expat related posts I’ve read lately!
Culture & Identity
This piece by Chris O’Shaughnessy includes a fun story illustrating both the diffculty of being between cultures, and the advantage of being able to switch! He uses this to lead into reflections on culture and identity, and how fluid identity can be, especially under the influence of multiple cultural lenses.
“Our identity is quite simply who we are… but it’s also who we’re not. In fact, the expat experience often highlights for us more of who we’re not than who we are… at least initially… I often think of identity as a zoom lens. By that I mean, I believe it’s a far more dynamic concept than people realize. If there were an incredibly powerful zoom lens on the moon and it zoomed in specifically on you – you would fill the frame. You are unique, and nobody is exactly like you if we zoom in that closely. Zoom out far enough though, and we could fit the whole planet in the frame. At this level, you are one of more than 7 billion other people, all on one planet. You have a lot in common on this level. I feel identity is a way of us deciding what different levels of zoom we’re going to concentrate on.”
Expat life: expectation vs reality when family come to visit
The Expat Mummy
Oh, the gap between expectation and reality – something we all struggle with in different areas of life! This reminded me of my now husband’s first visit to Australia to see me when we were dating long distance. I wanted to show him the best of beautiful Sydney, to show him my beloved homeland. I wanted it to be a perfect trip for him. But then he got a really nasty cold and it RAINED nonstop which is so un-Sydney and then when started to feel better I got a migraine… Definitely not what either of us had planned, and yet, in its own way, perfect. Lying around on the couch watching TV and reading books together was actually kinda lovely.
“The first hurdle was my own. My own expectations for what I wanted my family to experience their first time in Kenya was probably unrealistic. Grey skies and thunderous black clouds threatened to scupper my dreams of endless sunny days on white sand beaches. The rain never appeared and the skies cleared to perfection but my fretting at the weather was symptomatic of my feelings about the trip. I wanted everything to be perfect for the people I loved and worried too much that it wasn’t. My idea of perfection was unattainable but it didn’t stop me from wanting it…But in its own inimitable, frustrating, wonderful and utterly exhausting way, it was perfect.”
10 things author Karien van Ditzhuijzen would like her readers to know about her
A little insight into the life of one TCK and expat author, including the motivation between the story of her recent novel. I really enjoyed this one! And I think I’d like to read her book, too…
“When I moved to Singapore in 2012 I joined local NGO HOME that supports domestic workers. I wanted to learn more about what motivates women to leave their families behind to go overseas to take care of those of others. I learned so much about the difficulties they face; mental or physical abuse, no time off or getting their mobile phones confiscated. The brave women I met inspired the character of Aunty M, a domestic workers that joins a helpdesk helping many of her peers.”
I Could NEVER Live Abroad
A lovely vignette, about that common comment – when someone hears about your expat life and says wow, good for you, but “I could never do that”.
“Then I realize what’s really behind her words is fear. I think, She isn’t saying she couldn’t literally pack up her stuff and move abroad. She could, of course. What she’s telling me is this: She wouldn’t ever want to be challenged to live life so differently. She’s afraid. I get it. I don’t want to struggle to be understood, or try to find the new dentist’s office when I can’t read the street signs, or worry if my TCKs will ever look back and appreciate these experiences. I understand those fears, because I have them, too. I’ve just learned to operate despite them.”
Hard Like a Peach or Soft Like a Coconut?
Reflections from a woman who began believing her culture did things “right” and slowly learned to understand and even adapt in some ways to the culture she lives in.
“When we moved overseas, I was a young mama strapped with loads of self-righteous opinions. Doesn’t everyone think their culture is the best and does things the right way? I’m sure we can all speak to the fact that actually, other countries and cultures do some things much better than our home culture.”
I Am A Triangle
A fun piece about the cultural quagmire that is SLANG!! I am pretty fluent in Mandarin Chinese but I still get so tripped up on slang! It changes so quickly, and there’s no textbook to teach you. But when it’s your native language in your native land? Still a minefield!
“We are a year and a half in to repatriation and still, I occasionally experience reverse culture shock. Having said that, I also realize that having pre-teenagers is a culture shock all on its own. Despite where you are living, there new words and abbreviations (and behaviors) to decipher… Perhaps learning to speak another language wasn’t so hard after all, I reflect, completely lost and exasperated in my native land…Some days, I would rather be back in German lessons instead of navigating the American-urban-landscape.”
Schools for expat’s children in Gulf nations
The New Nation
A short article, but raising an important issue: providing education for the children of low-income expatriate workers. In this case, it is the possibilty of Bangladeshi schools in Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
The World’s Best Bank Accounts for International Travelers and Nomads
Not my normal sort of recommendation, but I found this write up of international-friendly banks quite helpful! It has recommended options for Europe, UK, US and Australia/New Zealand.