This week I have a rather eclectic mix of posts for you, with different windows on the experiences of expat and TCKs. Lots of emotions, raw experiences, and how to frame the things we go through.
Two Types of Cultural Adjustment
This short post explains that when we adjust to a new culture, we have to adjust both to the things that are strange to us, and also adjusting the things in ourselves that are strange to others! I also appreicate this explanation of adjustment as an ongoing process:
“I’ve always found this definition to be helpful because of its focus on cultural adjustment being a process, not an event. As long as you are residing in a different culture, you will be adjusting, whether that length of time is two weeks or twenty years. There will never be a point at which you say (in totality), “there, I’ve adjusted.” As long as you are there you will be encountering things that are different and that require you to adjust either the way you behave or the way you think.”
The thriving multicultural society of the UAE
A story about TCK best friends from different cultures. This is one of the fun parts of international life – meeting and learning from people of different backgrounds. For many TCKs this is a formative childhood experience that helps shape their understanding of the world. While the post overall has some peppy multicultural society success talk that I take with a large pinch of salt, the stories of these young TCK best friends is worth the read!
“The four pairs of cross-cultural BFFs (best friends forever) we spoke to echo this…their friendship’s most teachable moments were when they realised that different ethnic and racial backgrounds, parenting methods they were raised with, lifestyles and even religions didn’t alter the unalloyed truth that they shared core values of honesty, respect, familial bonds and charity…Their shared values balance out their complex equation and maintains the friendly chemistry that first sparked between them as eight-year-olds.”
Stupid Expat Days and How to Love Them
The Culture Blend
I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a Jerry Jones post I didn’t love. Somehow I managed not to share this one earlier – and I don’t want you to miss out! He talks about “Stupid Expat Days”- days that, as he says “expats have to live but normal people never do“. The sorts of crazy errands that just wouldn’t happen in your passport country, the hoops you have to jump because you aren’t a local – all those fun things. But as he talks through a recent particular Stupid Expat Day, Jerry begins to reframe the experience.
“Normal people don’t GET to do this stuff. It was a holiday not a waste of time. Special expat father and expat son bonding, just me and him…Loving Stupid Expat Days is not simply putting a happy stamp on the hard stuff and it runs far deeper than just “looking on the bright side”. It was a long, long, long day but we found the best bits and we chose to hang out there. I love passport days and my hope is that because I choose celebration, even in the context of the irritation my kids will too.”
Becoming Madame: Realities of an expat life
In this lovely post an expat talks about the specific experience of landing in a new country “with a completely blank slate before you”. This is different to the family or individual who takes a work assignment for a few years, because there is a sense of attached purpose, and a sponsor organiation behind the move. The blank slate is more like my own story, and she gives really great advice to those considering, or starting out, with this sort of experience. Sense of purpose, starting in a new language, needing humility, discovering more of yourself. It’s hard to choose a single quote to share here! But I think this is really important:
“If you’re like me, you’ll know no one, not a single soul, when you walk off the plane. Periods of extreme loneliness are inevitable. The key is to get yourself out of your apartment and just keep going: get up each day, and get outside no matter how intimidating it is to walk into a world of confusing mumble-jumble all around you. Take baby steps, but just keep taking them.”
American Weirdness: Observations From an Expat
This post hooked me in the first paragraph. How many expats have experienced that dazed shock, staring at the selections in a supermarket aisle after a long flight from Far Away? I had a panic attack one time. After that I learned to take a friend with me the first time I tried to go shopping after arriving!
“Sometimes it begins with the toothpaste. Whenever I go back to the United States from Europe, where I’ve lived for more than half my adult life, I’ll often find myself in a jet-lagged fog at a huge American drugstore staring at the toothpaste aisle. Why? I ask myself, or anyone who’s around. Why are there so many kinds of toothpaste?”
The Truth About Moving: Expat Anxiety…Insomnia and Ikea
Making Here Home
A touching post full of the raw feelings and experiences of starting again in a new place. The author is genuine and cheerful as she describes the inevitable problems and anxieties and lost things. And she concludes beautifully – with a reflection on what expat life gives, more than is lost.
“I just think it’s true that the first few days always feel awkward and stuff goes wrong. Like you arrive in Germany on a Sunday and all the shops are shut and you can’t buy any food. Or you get to your new house and accidentally set off the alarm and have to explain to the security company that you do live here, you just don’t know any of the alarm codes yet…it’s no wonder our minds go on overdrive – there are so many things to do, to remember, to sort out, to avoid. It’s hard. And on top of that, there’s the pressure that we feel like we should be enjoying it…It takes a lot of courage to step outside your comfort zone and make your home in a new country.”
Kosovo-Albanian pop artist Ilira talks debut single ‘Whisper My Name’ and the awkwardness of growing up as a ‘third culture kid’
This is an interview with a musician about her debut single. I noticed it because the artist is a TCK, and she mentions this in the interview. She describes music as a refuge she turned to to help her be herself in the midst of feeling misunderstood. I believe so very strongly in the power of the arts to help TCKs manage the stresses of international life, and process identity issues. Lovely to see this TCK sharing her experiences!
“As a third culture kid, I’ve often felt misplaced with people mocking me for my dreams and aspirations. Music has been my safe haven ever since. It created a space for me where I was able to break free and grow.”
The hardest question for a third culture kid: Where is home?
Finally – something different. A podcast! Okay, I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I recently started listening to PRI podcast The World In Words – and imagine my delight when I stumbled on an episode in which they talk to a TCK about her experiences! There’s an interview with Ruth van Reken, and mention of their call turning into a personal therapy session of sorts – which totally sounds like the ever lovely Ruth. She’s amazing!