Recommended reading: March 11th, 2019

Welcome to another week of Recommended Reading! This week’s typically eclectic mix covers TCK research history, boarding school, medical treatment overseas, and several pieces on grief. And don’t miss the last post I’ve highlighted – on the intersection of art and cultural heritage.

Globally Mobile Children: One Tribe or Many? (part 1)
Globally Grounded
I’m starting this week with an absolutely excellent post from Jane at Globally Grounded, looking at the history of experiences and terminology surrounding TCKs and CCKs. A perfect complement to my current series on intersectionality in CCK identities.
“Ruth recognized, regardless of nationality, sponsor or where they lived, TCKs and their families shared a culture of living outside their home, between nations or in between spaces and never being of the host country. She realized this as a culture, based on the shared experience and not geography, nation, ethnic group, race or nationality. “This was really hard for other sociologists to swallow because for a sociologist, a culture is based in a geography or skin color or something like that,” said Ann. Having identified and named this new tribe, Ruth then recruited a lot of people to do PhD research of TCKs. This was the first real body of research on this culture. It helped identify some of the characteristics that we recognize today.”

Third Culture Kids & Knowing a Place “well enough” to belong
Life Story Therapies
Something that’s already coming up in early interviews for my newest project is how to define concepts like home and belonging, and how important they actually are. As I’ve talked with adult TCKs around the world, we have stumbled on a number of words to help illustrate home – and familiarity is one of them. In this post, Rachel expounds on this idea beautifully.
“…perhaps a place becomes significant also by our sheer familiarity with it. While it’s both tempting and natural to align belonging entirely to emotional attachment, might the experience of belonging not simply be about feelings? Belonging to or having a sense of ownership of a place could also be about “knowing it well enough”. For Tanya French, this meant well enough to set a book in it. What does this line of thought do? For me, it opens up the meaning of belonging to place. Those places previously dismissed as less significant to my story suddenly gain in stature. I realise that what they may lack in terms of intensity of affection or cultural memory, they make up for in familiarity and geographical constancy. I know them. Not just the people and memories and experiences they hold. I know the streets, the tricks of light on the buildings, the weather cycles, the transport system! I know them well enough.”

Things I Would Not Say To A Boarding School Mom
Every Single Page
I really appreciate this post. In it a missionary mum discusses in detail what it means for their family that her children attend boarding school – how they came to the decision and how it looks for them practically. Parenting is no easy job! No matter where you are, the decisions you make affect your child’s future – and you have no guarantee that it will all work out. I especially appreciate her honesty in wrestling with how her children will potentially feel in the future. Mostly, I appreciate her openness and honesty with the fact that there are no easy answers.
“Being a boarding school mom is not something I talk a lot about online. Honestly, in part because I haven’t quite wrapped my brain around it yet. In part because in the year 2019, who tells other moms that this is the chosen educational route for your kids? What kind of family chooses this as a schooling option? Especially a family who loves homeschooling, unschooling, world schooling and adventuring together? I get asked a lot of questions about boarding school. I get asked how I’m doing, how are the girls doing, how did we make this decision, what impact has it had on our family. I also get comments and thoughts and opinions, said and unsaid, about boarding school, having our girls away from home and our journey raising third culture kids. For us, this decision did not come easy. It wasn’t something we planned for or happily chose. In fact, it was something I said I would NEVER do.”

Lawnmower Parents
April J. Remfrey (LinkedIn)
And now for a very different parenting post! This discussion of “Lawnmower Parents” and the temptation for a parent to control a child’s activity out of fear of is really interesting. While not necessarily specific to expats, I definitely see a lot of expat parents struggling with fears and anxieties over how international life will affect their children. Here’s the basic concept:
“A helicopter parent is an overprotective parent who discourages independence, hence hovering like a helicopter. A lawnmower parent is one that does whatever they can to clear all challenges from their child’s path, hence the lawnmower which mows down everything. Another way of helping your child rather than mowing down the difficulties for them is to offer two ways of helping: Idea Generator or Intervention Assistance. The question I always ask is this: “Would you like ideas on how to solve the issue or would you like my help intervening with the issue?” Most of the time, students will prefer that suggestions of solutions are given rather than the adult intervening.”

3 Reasons Why We Need to Talk About Grief
Sugi Says
I love this piece. Again, not expat/TCK specific, but so appropriate. Grief is a big part of transience – with every change, there is loss. Every friend who moves away, every home we leave, every person we can’t be closer to. In this short piece, the author builds a case for expressing grief, even though some cultures discourage this.
“I was built around the mentality that I have to be stronger, that I have to push harder. As I have grown older and experienced more losses, I have come to the conclusion that we will experience loss many times in our lives. Whether it’s the end of a friendship, a relationship, or the passing of someone you love, loss just follows us around like an itch we just can’t scratch. We all experience grief and loss in our own unique way”

Woman’s viral thread perfectly breaks down how grieving feels over time
Some eCards
Also on the topic of grief, this viral thread from twitter is doing the rounds. I love it – such an incredible illustration of why grief continues to pop up and again and again over time, long after we think we “should” be over it. After months, even years, of feeling fine – the grief hits, without warning. The illustration goes that grief is a ball, and pain is a button. When the grief is new, the ball is huge, and cannot move around the room of your life without hitting the pain button frequently. But through time and work, the grief lessens. The pain button is still there, and can still be hit by the ball, but as the grief shrinks the likelihood of it running into the pain button lowers.

Ghosts Know No Borders
Medium
And since we’re on the topic of grief, here’s a post I was recently reminded of. Originally posted on I Am A Triangle two years ago, it popped up on Medium two months ago and I thought it was worth mentioning here. In it Jodi Harris describes the way the grief of losing someone follows you around the world. The people you love and care about are part of your everyday life, even when they live – and die – on a different continent.
“Whether intentional or accidental, we escape a lot in this lifestyle. Sometimes it’s not all that bad to be far away. It gets comfortable to not have to deal, to be able to bail or to say — “Oh, it’s just so far. Not this year.” But we also miss so much we never thought we’d have to miss — death, funerals, hospice, chemo. But whether we stay or go, they find us. Ghosts know no borders. By intention or accident, they find us. But that works for us. Expats know how to deal with wandering. We know what it means to carry. To pack it all inside, to take it out again, to look one more time. To remember whenever and wherever you need to, in the corners and crevices of past lives and right now, so that the memory can follow you everywhere — because you’re everywhere. And now the people you’ve lost are everywhere too.”

The Challenges and Opportunities in Managing a Health Condition Abroad Part I
FIGT
A really helpful post about how different medical treatment can be for expatriates – and how those differences translate into extra stress. This is something I wrote a little about in a post on my personal blog, describing some of my experience going to a local hospital for treatment.
“…many expats and travelers, have little, if any, knowledge or information about the local healthcare system until they are faced with a crisis. The process, coverage, and payment protocols differ greatly from country-to-country, but we often make assumptions that our healthcare experiences will be similar to those in our native country (or our last country of residence). Regardless of the outcome, assumption and lack of knowledge add undue stress to an already stressful situation…Or rather, miscommunication, or misunderstandings with healthcare providers due to a language barrier or cultural differences in communication styles and expectations is a real roadblock. Even routine check-ups and screenings can be put off or missed altogether.”

Through Food Art, Asian-Americans Stop ‘Pushing Heritage To The Back Burner’
NPR
Finally, I’m finishing with something a little different. A post about the collision of food, culture, and art. This post shares the art and stories of three differnt Asian American artists who are connecting cultural identity through art that centres food. Great example of the power of art to express feelings and connect people. And some really lovely stories, too!
“Growing up in Central Jersey, Shih thought “you had to be white to be cool, and that being Taiwanese was inherently uncool,” she says. “I pushed my heritage to the back burner. Being [Asian] wasn’t something I was proud of.” … So in July 2018, Shih started sculpting [dumplings] out of porcelain…”I don’t know why, but it was meditative for me,” says Shih. “I fold them just how you make real dumplings. The only difference is that there isn’t anything inside.” … Wilson finds Shih’s ceramic dumplings “supremely comforting.” To her, they represent the Asian-American community — the pride in their cultures and the struggle to belong.”

Are immigrant kids TCKs?

Continuing my series of posts looking at commonalities and intersectionalities among Cross Cultural Kids, today I’m tackling a question I hear a lot: “are immigrant kids TCKs?”

I have been approached a number of times by people who immigrated as children, saying they really identified with a lot of the content in Misunderstood. Some really grabbed onto the vocabulary of being Third Culture Kids, even though they did not technically fit the description. I think this is largely because there is a similar but opposite dymanic happening for the immigrant kid and the TCK.

In both cases, the child is caught between two cultural influences and allegiances: the place in which they live, and the place from which their parents came (before or after having children). Both immigrant kids and TCKs experience the tension of differing expectations – which country is their “real” home? Which country are they really “from”? Questions from others – friends, family members, and strangers – can all add confusion and a sense of pressure.

Both immigrant kids and TCKs have dealt with living between these different countries, cultures, and expectations. There is a great deal of emotional resonance between their experiences. And yet, they are not the same. Children of immigrants, and child immigrants, are absolutely Cross Cultural Kids – they belong to the wider umbrella of cross cultural childhoods. But there is a distinct difference as well, so I would not call immigrant kids TCKs. (Although there is definitely a segment of Cross Cultural Kids who are both TCKs and also immigrant kids.)

But this is an example of why I think it’s so important to shift the conversation to discussing Cross Cultural Kids generally, not just TCKs. The overlaps in the experiences of Immigrant Kids and TCKs are real, the resonance in their emotional landscape is real. It means that resources ostensibly for TCKs may be really useful for some immigrant kids, and resources ostensibly for immigrant families may be really useful for some expatriate families. Widening our view of what it means to grow up cross culturally allows for the inclusion more people, and for connection between more people through shared experiences.

Now, in this example, how can understanding the similarities between the experiences of immigrant kids and traditional TCKs (without ignoring the differences) help both groups?

Both immigrant kids and traditional TCKs share the conflict of expectation to connect to their parents’ cultures, while living in a different culture.

This means many can identify with each other’s similar struggles in this area, such as accusations of “betraying” one culture by attaching to the other (and perhaps vice versa).

Both immigrant kids and traditional TCKs bridge the two cultures (the parents’ culture and the host culture) due to their parents’ decisions on behalf of the family.

This means many can identify with each other’s feelings about being born/brought into a situation of cultural complexity beyond their control.

And, as with all Cross Cultural Kids, both immigrant kids and traditional TCKs share the experience of navigating lives of cultural complexity – with all the innate pros and cons that come with it.

There are limits to the overlaps in their experiences, however. An immigrant kid has legal status in the country where their family now lives. A Third Culture Kid, however, generally lives in a country they know they will leave, and may not have the option to stay. This “unrequited love” is a feeling immigrant kids may well be able to deeply sympathise with, but do not share.

Both may share the experience of being seen as “foreign” in a place they love and are very familiar with – but Third Culture Kids don’t often deal with being seen as “foreign” in a country that legally recognises them. (Unless they have the intersectional cross cultural experiences such as being part of a minority group, etc.)

These differences mean it is also important to recognise the distinctiveness of their different cross cultural experiences. In Misunderstood I collected the experiences of a wide range of TCKs – different parents’ work (missionaries, foreign service, corporate, educators), different schools (international school, local school, boarding school, homeschool) and different experiences of transience (a long time in one country, frequent moves, first move happening in high school). It was important to recognise the distinct differences in these different types of Third Culture experiences. But it was also helpful to express their commonalities.

In the same way, while immigrant kids and traditional TCKs are distinct experiences – they are not the same – the commonalities they share as Cross Cultural Kids are real and worthy of recognition. If an immigrant kid finds TCK resources like Misunderstood helpful – fantastic! That’s great to hear. The more resources available, the better. But I also hope to see more resources developed for Cross Cultural Kids generally that will openly include the wider and more nuanced range of experiences that exist among CCKs.

Click here to read more posts about Third Culture Kids, transition, and expatriate experiences.

Recommended reading: March 4th, 2019

Welcome to another edition of Recommended Reading!

Meeting the Emotional Needs of TCKs
Lauren Wells (LinkedIn)
This post not only contains incredibly helpful advice for parents on how to meet their TCKs’ emotional needs, it also gives the best summary I’ve seen for why this is so important – especially since so many of the parents I talk to are so loving and caring and trying so hard. I could quote the whole post to you – it’s that good! Please read it – starting with this explanation on that all important why:
“The challenge that I often run into when discussing the topic of “unmet needs” with parents of TCKs is that they, most often, are wonderful parents who have done a fantastic job of meeting their children’s emotional and physical needs and therefore, they don’t think that this will be an issue. Unfortunately, I believe that this contributes to why the issue of “unmet needs” is so prevalent among TCKs. During high-stress seasons (such as transitions to and from living overseas), the children’s need for emotional support goes up while their parent’s mental and physical capacity to meet their children’s needs (and even their own!) goes down. This often results in stressed-out parents who have children with unmet emotional needs. Even the most fabulous, attentive parents can run into this challenge if it is not consciously combatted.”

Jakarta Transitions
Third Culture Thoughts
In this piece a young adult TCK muses on coming “home” to a place that both does and doesn’t feel like home. There is familiarity, and nostalgia, but also the knowledge that time has changed both person and place. I also appreciate the way different aspects of transition are parsed – not just place, and language, but changes to both work routine and social life. A great snapshot of a well-examined life in transition.
“While some areas of Jakarta have changed a lot, some haven’t too much. Even little subtle things, like phrases, body language, and mannerisms just feel good to recognise. At the same time, I’m also a different person coming back here, and the way I grew up here wasn’t exactly normal. Growing up as an expat kid means that your exposure to the culture around you is mixed and can vary a lot. When I went to the US later, people would sometimes try to figure me out and assume that 14 years should be enough to determine my sense of identity, but I knew very well that I didn’t really qualify. Today, I know that any sense of identity that isn’t a legal nationality is really just up to you, but I can definitely say that while there are ways that Indonesia feels like home, there are also ways it doesn’t.”

About the Sexual Abuse of Third Culture Kids, Resources and Way Too Many Links
Djibouti Jones
I was so pleased to see this list of resources that Rachel put together. It is so sad that a list like this is needed but, oh – is it needed! As I’ve mentored and interviewed TCKs over the past decade and more, I have heard so many stories of abuse – physical abuse, sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse. Too often TCKs are extra vulnerable, because they’ve been told they must behave in order to protect their parent’s work and the family’s ability to stay in their host country. Or they may be linguistically, culturally, or geographically isolated from support and resources they might have access to otherwise. This is an excellent starting place – a lot of different resources to help different people in different situation. I was also humbled to see Misunderstood given a place on such an important list.
“I’m not saying mental illness and abuse necessarily go together, but that there is a lot of brokenness and grief that isn’t often addressed well in the world of expatriates. TCKs face this in unique ways, sometimes by nature of living in the home of their abuser at boarding school, sometimes leaving a country before resolution has been found, sometimes having no safe place or safe person to tell. There are so many goodbyes, so many losses, so many fears and insecurities. There is so much vulnerability and hunger for belonging.”

The Unspoken Swiss Trust
April J. Remfrey (LinkedIn)
A lovely little article illustrating a particular cultural difference: trust. How much do you trust strangers/fellow citizens to do the right thing? A small question, it might seem, but April illustrates beautifully how differently trust can operate in different cultural settings.
“After much thought, reflection, and dinner conversations, my husband and I have decided that trust is the most noticeable difference between our home country of the United States and Switzerland. One trusts that their neighbor is going to put their garbage in the correct shared receptacle. One trusts the people walking down the street to watch out for small children on the sidewalk.”

When to live inside your comfort zone
Stephanie Johnson Consulting
This post asks questions without offering much of an answer – and I love that! It’s an invitation to sit with the tension of “comfort zones” and whether to stick in them or run away from them. There is so much advice about leaving our comfort zones – and so much to learn by doing so. And yet comfort is not an enemy in and of itself. I often feel a guilt about the comforts I cling to – and I know I’m not the only expat to feel that! But over time I’m learning the balance I require. What about you – where do you find your own balance?
“After a year of dealing with a serious medical issue and a move to a new country, I find myself wanting to claw my way back to a comfort zone in order to re-establish a sense of equilibrium. Yes, I have changed. Yes, I have grown, but I’m ready for some sameness and consistency for a while, thank you very much. I’m not advocating for a life in which you constantly say within your comfort zone. This would be hypocritical of me to say the least. But we have to remember that change and challenge need to happen at the right time and in the right way, whenever possible. A life filled with constantly living outside your comfort zone would be chaotic, anxiety producing and disruptive. We have to make sure we don’t fall for the illusion that, by constantly challenging ourselves, we will reach a state of self-actualized bliss. We can make meaning of our lives now regardless of how exciting or mundane they are.”

What Does It Mean to Be a Canadian Citizen?
The Atlantic
This piece raises a big question: what does citizenship mean? In this post the context is voting rights, and whether those living outside their country of citizenship longterm (and not paying taxes) should maintain the right to vote. What one thinks about the specifics, and the author’s particular views, are less important to me than the fact that these questions are asked and pondered. It’s something I ask a lot of the ATCKs I’m interviewing: what does their citizenship mean to them?
“What does it mean to be a citizen? Is citizenship a kind of subscription service, to be suspended and resumed as our needs change? Are countries competing service providers, their terms and conditions subject to the ebbs and flows of consumer preference? Edmund Burke long ago articulated an ambitious vision of society as a “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Does any of that still resonate? Or is it a bygone idea of a vanished age, dissolved in a globalized world?”

Mixed Up: ‘People try to guess my ethnicity – they always guess wrong’
Metro
I’m finishing this week with another post from Metro’s Mixed Up, a series looking at the highs, lows and unique experiences of being mixed-race.” There is a LOT in this post that reflects stories I’ve heard from TCKs of mixed heritage. A person with mixed heritage is another sort of Cross Cultural Kid, so there are definite overlaps worth exploring.
“For many mixed-race people their ethnic ambiguity can be the source of much scrutiny. It can become quite a burden having to spell out your heritage to people. And there is a difference between curiosity and ignorance. ‘I started to notice that pretty much every day I would have to be explaining to someone what my ethnicity was – or people would try to guess, and they would always guess wrong,’ Lara tells us. ‘The only people who ever really guess right are Asian people. But they normally assume I am Indian, they never ask if I am mixed. I get all sorts of guesses – Venezuelan, Turkish, Greek, Spanish – it annoys me. I know I do look quite ambiguous, but I don’t like the fact that there is no acknowledgement. Even the people who will say – “oh I just thought you were white” – it completely erases my real identity… In the context of race, privilege is a complex concept. It seems to be that the closer your proximity to whiteness, the more privilege you have. But when you’re mixed, where do you fit on that scale? ‘As a mixed-race person you never get your white privilege,’ argues Lara. ‘You’re always seen as “other”, so you might not identify with the non-white side of your family, but you can never be seen as white. You can never get the privileges that come with that.”

Cross cultural intersectionality

As I wrote in a previous post, I’m currently writing a series of articles looking at the intersection of different cross cultural childhood experiences.

One thing I did in Misunderstood was start to highlight the intersectionality of cross cultural childhoods – some of the ways in which different cross cultural experiences can overlap. One can be both a TCK and also an immigrant kid, for example. These experiences are similar, but distinct. To call a person who is both immigrant and TCK just a TCK is to erase (or at least overlook) key pieces of their particular cross cultural experience.

In this post I will be offering a quick look at the three intersections I specifically addressed in Misunderstood. I plan to write more about these, and other intersections, in the future. But this is a start.

TCK + Mixed cultural/ethnic heritage

I talked to a lot of TCKs who had parents from different cultures and/or different ethnicities. Multi-cultural and multi-ethnic families are two different experiences, although related ones. Often if a family is one it is also the other, but not necessarily. One TCK I interviewed had parents from Finland and the US – very different cultures, but both parents were caucasian. I also interviewed TCKs who had parents from different ethnicities but the same passport country. (Often there was a minority culture in play as well.)

The key difference is visibility. A child of mixed ethnic heritage may find they look “different” no matter where they are – that they are obviously, visibly “other” no matter where they are. As I wrote in Misunderstood:

“Biracial TCKs in particular spoke of feeling their outward appearance did not match how they felt inside. While this is a feeling many TCKs express, biracial TCKs carry their difference on the outsdie. One biracial TCK (with an African father and Asian mother) told me she felt she had to ‘prove’ herself to both sides of the family, that she stands out in every family gathering, no matter which side of the family she is with. There is an upside, however. Another biracial TCK told me he has come to like this ‘different’ appearance because it reflects the cross-cultural life has has lived as a TCK.”

Several TCKs I have spoken to said they appreciate their “ethnic ambiguity” – using it as a way to blend in as local in different contexts, or to give a reason for their difference that others will readily accept.

Those whose parents are of the same ethnic background but from different countries do not have the experience of visibility – they do not wear their mixed cultural heritage on their skin. Several told me stories of feeling hurt that their mixed heritage was overlooked, downplayed, or even ignored by others. On the other hand, others appreciate the lack of visibility, and the ability to choose how they want to present.

There are clearly additional complications of identity for this group of intersectional Cross Cultural Kids – but they have one big benefit other TCKs lack. Even when these TCKs did not have citizenship in more than one country, most had a sense of ownership in another country or culture. Their cross-cultural identity is generally more readily accepted by others than a TCK whose cultural and ethnic heritage was centred in their passport country.

TCK + Immigrant

In Misunderstood I coined the term Immigrant Expat to refer to families who experienced both immigration and subsequent expatriation. These families are connected to the parents’ original culture, the naturalised passport country, and the culture(s) they live in as expatriates.

In Misunderstood I looked specifically at Korean-American expats as an example of this type of intersectional cross-cultural experience, but I have talked with Immigrant Expat TCKs from a variety of backgrounds.

“My parents were born and raised in Korea and moved to the States after high school. They took what they thought were the best parenting methods from both their backgrounds (Korean and American), and employed them hand-in-hand., My siblings and I were raised to respect out elders, but to not be afraid to question their decisions where we saw fit. We celebrated both American Thanksgiving and traditional Korean New Year. We visited relatives both in Korea and in the States. And all this happened as we grew up in China.”

I also looked at what I called Returned Immigrant Expats – families who returned to the parents’ original country, but now with foreign citizenship. The group I used as my example for this section were Chinese immigrants who had returned to live in China (from various passport countries) though I also spoke to TCKs who had this particular experience in other countries.

“These families have an interesting dynamic. The parents may feel China is home, but they no longer completely belong as both they and the nation of China have changed. Their children, on the other and, usually feel completely foreign. The difference in their experiences can create conflict.”

In many cases, both types of Immigrant Expat TCKs found they had a stronger connection to the language and culture of their parents’ original country than cousins who were immigrants but not also expatriates. Living in international communities meant Immigrant Expat TCKs felt more at ease expressing a multi-faceted cross-cultural identity, and less pressure (or desire) to assimilate into the majority cultures of their passport countries. Instead, these CCKs often feel quite comfortable identifying with and expressing elements of all the cultures to which they feel connected.

TCK + Cross-Cultural Adoption

As I interviewed TCKs who were cross-culturally adopted for Misunderstood, some common questions and reactions became apparent. I started to look for these intersectional CCKs and ask them about their experiences. I was especially interested in the experiences of young people who lived as expatriates, foreign passport holders, in their birth countries. I included a list of comments made by many of these CCKs, which included wondering about people around them – the people they were genetically and historically connected to – and common experiences of looking local, while next to parents who did NOT look local.

I also wrote about three common reactions these TCKs had to their situation, while also noting that some TCKs experience a mixture of all threee at different times.

The first common response: avoiding or refusing to identify with their birth culture. This may involve refusing to learn or speak the language, lying about their heritage or history, or exhibiting extreme patriotic or nationalistic sentiment about their passport country/culture.

The second common response is the opposite – wholly identifying with their birth culture and distancing themselves from their passport country/culture. Again, this may include language, lying, and strong cultural preferences, this time in favour of the birth culture and against the passport culture.

Finally, the last common response is “to get stuck in questions of identity and belonging“. For these CCKs there is a deep insecurity related to their sense of identity and identification with the various cultures to which they are connected. They may fear being made to choose, or feel anxious about where they belong.

“These reactions are ways in which adopted TCKs process their situation and the conflicting emotions they may experience. As they work through these issues, they can come to integrate the different aspects of their cultural identity – allowing for celebration in place of conflict.”

Something I’m very excited about is that since the publication of Misunderstood more research into the intersection between TCKs and adoption is underway. To learn more, check out this interview with Lynn Kogelmann, mother to a cross-cultually adopted TCK and long time counsellor in international schools.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to cross cultural intersectionality. If you want to know more about these overlaps, pick up a copy of Misunderstood – paper or digital!

Recommended reading: February 25th, 2019

I haven’t been feeling well the last few days so today’s Recommended Reading is a little later that usual, and a little lighter on curated descriptions. I’ve compensated with longer quotes from the excellent pieces I’m linking to. Which serves the double purpose of not requiring me to cut them down! There is some wonderful writing in this selection, from the perspectives of TCKs and CCKs, and helpful practical advice on supporting them well.

Raising Empathetic Third Culture Kids
Connecting the Pieces
Excellent short piece on why it’s important to develop empathy and practical ways parents can help children. Great advice and well worth your time.

Good Grief: Helping TCKs Navigate Their Unresolved Grief
Taking Route
In this piece a TCK beautifully articulates the grief of leaving your international home, and the confusion of not really knowing what it is you’re going through. Lots of great tips for supporting TCKs through these kinds of experiences.
“And then, suddenly, before I was ready, graduation happened and I left. Not only that, but my parents also moved away that same summer. In the Fall, I found myself in a whole new, completely foreign world: college in America…What I didn’t have words for at the time, and I didn’t even fully realize until several years later, was that what I was dealing with during that lonely season of transition was grief. And what I had been doing was not actually dealing with it, maybe because I just didn’t realize that that’s what was going on, or because I didn’t know how to or that I was allowed to. I knew I had moved, obviously, and knew I had left my home and wouldn’t even be going back at Christmas, but I didn’t really comprehend the full spectrum of all that I had lost.”

A Cracked Mug – Memories & Loss
Communicating Across Boundaries
Another beautiful and emotive piece from Marilyn, this time reflecting on how a seemingly insignificant material object can hold so many memories and emotions. We really need to create more space for this, to acknowledge that possessions can be very meaningful, especially when making decisions about what to pack! That goes double when making those decisions on behalf of someone else, like a child. “Little” things can carry a lot of comfort, and security.
“To see that mug crack made me feel all of life’s cracks and broken pieces. I felt all over again the hurt of goodbyes and the long process of new hellos. I felt the intensity of starting anew and the difficulty of keeping up friendships faraway. I felt the sting of misunderstanding and cultural adjustment. I felt the sadness of living between worlds, the diaspora blues of being – “too foreign for home, too foreign for here, never enough for both”*. I felt the emptiness of lost friendships and the scars of ruined relationships. All of this came over me as I surveyed the spilt coffee and the cracked mug. I felt so, so sad.”

TCK Stories – TCKs & The Imposter Syndrome by Emi Higashiyama
Cross Culture Therapy
Great story from a TCK unpacking the complexities of her intergenerationally cross-cultural background, and how this impacts the way she relates to others.
“I went to a K-12 American school (disguised as an international school), and for one reason or another, it seemed like my only choices for university would have been in the US. I didn’t speak Chinese growing up. I’ve spent the majority of every year of my life in Taiwan, but to me it’s not home. I grew up speaking Japanese but never learned to read it. I’ve never lived in Japan, but I’m “from” there, so when I go there I feel like I’m a broken citizen. I’m so freaking fluent in English but nobody believes it’s NOT my second language because I don’t have matching passports or residences. In every culture, I feel at least a little bit like an impostor because I can’t confidently pass the inherent checklist of what it means to be completely of any one culture. I always feel like I have to justify myself or qualify myself in nebulous terms that monocultural people have never even thought about (because they never had to).”

‘Where are you from?’: How I turned my heritage into a game of self-protection
SOAS Blog
Excellent piece unpacking some of the difficulties inherent in revealing a mixed heritage background. Answering questions can be problematic – because the questions themselves are often problematic. So instead of asking questions, perhaps we ought be listening instead – and reading this post is a good place to start.
“Call it what you want; biracial, mixed-ethnicity, mixed-race, ‘ethnic’, the idea that people who are a blend of races, ethnicities or nationalities are somehow more fascinating, or more ‘trendy’ is pretty problematic. Here’s a little break down of what is going through my mind when the entire conversation descends into a discussion about where I come from: First of all, I am neither an imported fruit nor a mystical creature in a zoo, so comments about how rare or ‘exotic’ I am, and how new and exciting that is for everyone, implicitly suggests that I’m too different to belong. I understand that it is an unusual mixture to you, but to me it’s all I have ever known, it is natural and familiar and yet still something I have to condense into soundbites because here I am, explaining it to a stranger for the fifth time this week.”

Reconciling Heritage and Hope Between Chicago and Mexico
New York Times
A lovely article on taking time to recognise and integrate the different pieces of a cross cultural childhood – even when others don’t understand the need to do so.
““We worked our lives to be here and you decide to go back to what we left behind?” he recalled his father asking him. “It was hard for me to explain what I needed was peace. I needed to reflect on what happened in my life.”… His time in Mexico helped him understand his parents’ sacrifices and their worries over his plans to be a photographer. But it also reminded him of what life is like growing up between two places and cultures where one never fully fits in.”

Here’s how to pronounce my name, and why it matters to me
CBC
I’ve shared a few posts in the last year about the identity of name – when we change our names to fit in and why it matters when someone says our name correctly. I’m planning to come back to this topic another time – and it’s also coming up in interviews for my latest project. So here’s a helpful recent piece on the subject:
“Sometimes, people sidestep the problem by avoiding saying my name altogether. I’ve been referred to as “her” in front of a group of coworkers. I use my Western middle name at coffee shops to expedite the ordering process. And more than once, people have asked if they can just call me by a made-up name of their choosing. A name, however, can carry great cultural and personal significance. Names should be said and treated with respect.”

CCKs: Cross Cultural Kids

More and more, in both my speaking and writing work, I talk about Cross Cultural Kids more than (or at least in addition to) Third Culture Kids. A Cross Cultural Kid is anyone who has meaningful interaction with more than one culture before age 18. TCKs are a sub-category of CCK.

In the revised edition of the classic book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds is a discussion of the wider umbrella of cross-cultural experiences, and this helpful diagram:

cckmodel_thirdculturekids_pollock-vanreken-1.jpg

Ruth van Reken’s Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK) Model, from Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds (2017), p44

I use this diagram (with the gracious permission of its creator, Ruth van Reken) in almost every seminar I run. This concept is so important! It also explains a lot.

For example, a number of ATCKs wrote to me after reading Misunderstood (which includes an earlier version of this diagram) to say they finally understood why they were drawn to certain groups of people, as friends or through advocacy work – people such as immigrants, refugees, those of mixed ethnic or cultural heritage, and those of ethnic or religious minority groups living within a mainstream culture. Seeing this diagram and reading the brief discussion of the Cross Cultural Umbrella concept provided a light bulb moment for these ATCKs: what drew them to these people, as individuals or groups, was a sense of shared experience.

One ATCK who wrote to me works in refugee advocacy, and said she had always felt a deep sense of affinity for refugees, both those who became her friends as well as the group as a whole. She had always assumed it was compassion for those in a difficult situation, and found it inexplicable why others did not so readily empathise with their plight. As she read about the Cross Cultural Umbrella she finally understood. While she had never been a refugee, she did have a cross cultural childhood. She had experienced trying to learn a new way of living in a new country and language. She had experienced the conflict of feeling love and affinity for more than one place. There were many refugee experiences she did not share – but there were some she did. Her sense of affinity was deeply personal, drawing on her own childhood experiences.

Another ATCK talked about bonding with what seemed to be quite an eclectic group of friends at university – they were different ethnicities, studied different subjects, and came from different socio-economic backgrounds. After learning about the Cross Cultural Umbrella he recognised that every member of their group was a CCK. Suddenly their sense of affinity and mutual understanding made sense. They could relax with each other in way that was unusual in most environments in which they found themselves.

Several ATCKs have told me they feel more comfortable mixing with minority groups rather than within the mainstream cultures of the countries they live in. (ATCKs from several different passport countries have made this same remark.) The Cross Cultural Umbrella explains this affinity as well – those who grew up in a minority culture are also CCKs.

There are similarities between these different cross-cultural childhood experiences, hence the wider umbrella to group them together. Yet they are also distinct experiences. This means that it’s important to address intersectionality – what happens when a person falls into more than one of these categories. Many of the TCKs I interviewed for Misunderstood were intersectional CCKs, falling into more than one category. Some of the CCKs I am interviewing for my next book might not fit the technical description of a TCK and yet they are absolutely CCKs.

This intersectionality between different types of cross-cultural experiences is something I’m planning to address in a series of posts over the next few months. Hoepfully this short introduction to the Cross Cultural Umbrella has given you a little taste of some of the concepts and stories to come!

Recommended reading: February 18th, 2019

This week’s Recommended Reading is a bit of an odd mix – some practical tips for cross-cultural parenting, some expat friendship, some big emotions, and lots of interesting stories. There really is so much great content being created around the internet, and I love being able to bring some of it to you – and maybe even introduce you to some writers and websites you aren’t already aware of in the process!

Finding the Right Words: Cultivating No-Fear Friendships In Your Expat Life
World Tree Coaching
Another powerful piece by Jodi, addressing the fear that can creep in and prevent us from engaging deeply in expat friendships. She encourages us to find words – values, really – to guide us in continuing to forge and maintain deep friendships. Intentionality really is important – and this is a great tool, a way of thinking that can help.
“I don’t want to oversimplify how very difficult it can feel at times to create new friendships when you’ve moved to a new place. It’s not just about building new relationships either; we carry the baggage of the friendships we’ve left behind with us too. We’re grieving what we’ve lost while also trying to build something new from what may feel like ruins. Even when we don’t want to, we compare the new faces with the old ones wondering if we can really create another bond that will survive the miles. Yet, research on the importance of strong friendships in our overall health is quite clear. Even when we find it difficult to build relationships, the task remains essential to our survival.”

Loving Our Kids Through Transition
Velvet Ashes
I’m constantly impressed by the quality content on Velvet Ashes, and how much of it is broadly applicable to expatriate families, even though its core audience is missionary families. This piece is no exception, and it has great practical advice on how to walk through transitions with kids – especially how to provide some constancy and tradition in a new country.
“I have tried to keep some constancy in our home décor. We’ve had to sell most of our stuff when we’ve moved, but I kept some of our Christmas ornaments, sentimental wall art and pictures. The delight on their face discovering those things, after months being packed up, has been priceless. We’ve prioritized exploring and making memories in our new country – even when it is a lot of work. It helps our kids to connect this place with the feeling of joy, togetherness and even at home.”

Tragedy and Our Souls
Travel Lite
Another piece from the missionary world, this one dealing with the powerful emotions surrounding grief at a distance. I don’t want to say much, but rather let you read for yourselves:
“One result of the leaving lifestyle is that we each end up with many dear relationships flung between continents and it is impossible for us to keep up with all of them. But when tragedy strikes it is as though time shrinks and we can see ourselves with that friend and memories come flooding back… we feel the impact of the grief and yet feel helpless to enter in, to do something in response. We can choose to retreat. Distance ourselves from social media so that we don’t even know when tragedy happens within our far-flung community. We can choose to post a condolence. We can reach out to those we know who were affected by the tragedy. All are valid options. But what do we do with our souls and the impact that these tragedies have on us? Where do we go with the grief? And are there ways that we can enter into the grief and tragedies that come upon our community even when there is this distance made by time and geography?”

How far being a banana got me
TCK Town
This is an amazing piece, full of vulnerable self-exposure, the story of an immigrant kid trying to fit into the majority culture, trying to fit into whatever group would bolster an external sense of self. It is a journey, toward self-acceptance – and learning the difference between fitting in, and belonging.
“I started focusing most of my energy into accumulating white friends, and felt proud to be the only Asian when we did go out together. While I didn’t shun my Asian companions, I didn’t want to identify with them or participate in any of “their” cultural practices… For years to come, as I migrated from one country to another, I would identify with cultural groups I deemed as priority to get approval from. I wanted to be the lads at the pub, the pretty boys getting stares in the club, the snowboarders smoking weed in the mountains, or the fashionistas on Instagram… Through my travels, I realised that I didn’t want to fit in. Rather, I wanted to belong. I wanted to be in a place where I wanted to be and associate with people who wanted me for me, and not because I can be like everyone else. I have been through enough to know that I am enough. To be able to love myself wholeheartedly and embrace my complexities.”

Walking The Spirit
The Black Expat
This post is an example of The Black Expat blog doing what they do best – telling fascinating stories about interesting people. Very much worth reading!
“If you ask Julia Browne how she came up with the idea for Walking The Spirit Tours, a customized tour company which focuses on Black heritage, she would tell you it was completely unplanned. But an encounter with a historian triggered a curiosity that led to the successful travel business she runs today. However to get the story of Walking The Spirit you have to start with her own… I very much felt my Canadian-ness when I was with my American friends. But then I was conscious of my North American self when I was with women from other parts of the diaspora [in France]. Then there’s just being treated differently by the French because you’re American, or Canadian. Canadian didn’t mean much for the French at the time. They just assumed there were no Blacks in Canada, so you’re American.”

My baby has two cultures. Naming him wasn’t easy.
Washington Post
I thought this was an interesting piece – and perhaps one many international familes can relate to! When you and your partner come from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, how do you choose names for your children?
“My wife is from Ohio. I was born in Pakistan and took a detour through Massachusetts. Northern Virginia is home, except when work takes us around the world — as it has for eight of the past 10 years. For our family, “Where are you from?” has a lengthy answer. The entanglements of cultures and languages affected our choice of baby names. Shake my family tree and Muslim-sounding fruit will drop at your feet. Her people are more diverse, if your idea of diversity is the expanse between “Tim” and “Will.” After weeks of looking for a name culturally appropriate for both sides, we began to suspect that none existed.”

Why Swedes Are Chiller Parents Than Americans
The Atlantic
This post is about a book – and way more fascinating than that headline suggests! The article is an interview with one of two authors of a new book about parenting – and economics! The theory being “that economic conditions have a lot of influence on the way parents raise their children”. There’s some interesting ideas and a little data from the research that went into the book. Here’s a taste of the author’s background, just to whet your appetite!
“Fabrizio Zilibotti was born in Italy and met his wife (who’s Spanish) in London. Their daughter was born in Sweden, where she spent some of her childhood before the family moved to the U.K. and then Switzerland. As he spent time in each of these countries, Zilibotti — who now lives in the U.S., teaching economics at Yale — became intrigued by the variety of parenting philosophies he encountered, from Sweden’s laissez-faire style of child-rearing to the U.K.’s more rule-oriented approach. Parents in every country, he reasoned, loved their children more or less equally, so it seemed a little puzzling that they had such divergent ideas about what was best for their kids.”

Far Away And Growing Old
One & Only
And here’s another parent-child relationships – the difficulty of caring for ageing parents from a distance. I particularly appreciate the final sentiment – that many parents appreciate seeing their children enjoying their lives. I’ve heard similar comments from several people just in the past few weeks. Now, not all families operate this way. This advice is coming from an Australian social worker, and Australia is a highly individual culture. But there’s still good advice here, and good thinking points.
“Each situation it unique and depends on specific family circumstances but Ana McGinley, an Australian social worker working with older adults, says the two common key words are communication and planning…But above all, stop feeling guilty about being away. Worrying about ageing parents is unavoidable. But if you are too hard on yourself, if you allow the distance to become a subconscious source of constant stress, it will have a negative effect on your own life. Parents want us to keep our lives moving forward. They don’t want to be a burden. Our decision to move abroad is always reversible – but giving up on life chances offered by expat careers is not. The best thing we can do is to take care of ourselves and share our successes with the parents to keep their spirits up.”

7 tips when you have more than one culture in your life.
Linked In
A short piece, but a good breakdown of some of the ways cultural differences can impact our relationships – and our assumptions about others.
“Don’t underestimate the cultural aspect. One might put disagreements down to personality differences, and that might be partly true, but there is also a cultural aspect that, if not neglected, could contain the key to smoother relationships.”

Interview with artist Nicole Pon Horvath
Me and My Crazy Mind
I’m ending with something different – an interview with an artist, an ATCK and expatriate who finds inspiration in the different countries she has lived in.
“The environment is crucial to the outcome of my works. The nature found in each of the places I have lived is all very different, but similar in the way that it affects me and my art. Each place brings about different inspiration in the colours and materials I choose to work with… I get my inspiration from the colours in the skies I have found in Japan, Nice and Amsterdam. They are a gentle reminder of my youth in Algeria.”

Loving books, and destroying books

A few weeks after Misunderstood was first published, I wrote about “why I hope you destroy my book“. It turned out to be somewhat controversial! What does it mean, practically, to love a book? Do you keep it pristine? Do you cover it in notes? Do you keep it only for yourself? Do you lend it out indiscriminately so more people can experience it?

I decided this post was worth reflecting on because it’s a concept that comes up in conversation fairly often. I was just discussing it with someone on twitter last week. Here is an excerpt from the original post, more than two years ago:

The books I have found most helpful, the books that I have most enjoyed, the books that have meant something special to me – these are the books on my shelves that show significant signs of wear. Now, I have friends who are scrupulously careful with their books. They are plastic covered, with spines uncracked, corners unturned, pages pristine. This is how they show care for their books. But there is something passionate and personal about a book you just have to carry with you – leaving creased pages and scuffed covers. Something about a book that speaks to you so deeply you feel compelled to turn it into a journal, writing your responses, jotting down the way it reflects your heart and your story. . .

So as an author, I would like to say – it would be an honour to have my book destroyed. It would delight me to see handwritten notes and smudged pages and scratched covers. It would be a joy to see physical evidence that my words have impacted someone – sparked thoughts, touched emotions. I really hope I get to see that!

And the best part? I did get to see it!! I’ve heard stories and seen photos of different ways my book has been loved by readers around the world.

One time I was speaking at an event and heard that one of the attendees had my book and read it thoroughly and was really excited to meet me in person – but didn’t bring their book to be signed because they were embarrassed of the rough condition it was in. If that’s ever you, know that I take that as the highest compliment!

A few times people have told me they bought a second copy to loan out to others, either because they were always lending it and never had it at home themselves, or because they wanted a copy that stayed clean and safe. Either way, also a huge compliment!

And perhaps sweetest of all, one person told me they don’t like to write in books, as they consider them sort of sacred. But they really wanted a way to reference the content in my book that was impacting them, so they could refer back to it. So they used coloured tabs to mark places that were meaningful or important. And sent me this photo:

misunderstood-tabs

Another time, a student I’d known in Beijing was talking to a friend and saw that they had my book in a stack they’d borrowed from the library.

I love hearing these stories of my book out in the real world – that it exists in the hands, and on the desks and bookshelves, and in the minds and hearts, of readers around the world. Literally around the world. I know it’s been owned and read in over 30 countries now, including:

Australia, Austria, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Curacao, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, UAE, UK, USA, and Vietnam.

So please – keep reading, keep scribbling and tabbing, keep lending and sharing, and keep telling me your stories! I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

Recommended reading: February 11th, 2019

Another week, and another new Recommended Reading post. Lots of great content to choose from lately – great stories, great advice, and lots to reflect on! I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Nampa Newbie: Making the foreign familiar
Idaho Press
A family story of repatriation, and one mother trying to understand how her TCK children see (and smell!) the world they live in.
“They couldn’t quite define what it was that made that “America” smell, beyond “Christmas tree,” “clean” and “Nana’s house.” My son offered a possible explanation as to why they couldn’t break it down. “Maybe you can only smell it if you’re a TCK,” he suggested…It warmed my heart, actually, for them to speak with fondness about our new home. It’s not been an easy transition from Indonesia to America for us, especially for the kids.”

I Am Who I Am
Our Life Logs
A lovely reflection on the complications of a Third Culture childhood – and working through the hard parts to create an integrated sense of self. Really worth a read!
“Throughout different stages in my life I’ve felt confident, ashamed, or confused about my identity as a third culture kid. Sometimes it felt like a curse, other times a blessing, and often a hybrid of the two. For many people, knowing where they come from and who they are is a simple fact learned from childhood, though I’ve been on a journey to find the answers to those questions all my life…I know that the only time someone will come up to me and say, “I’m an Austrian-Taiwanese who’s a native English speaker” will be when I’m meeting one of my siblings. I feel envious when I hear people talking about going home for the holiday, because I don’t have a concrete place that I can go back to like that.”

Mixed Up: ‘I used to pretend I understood Swahili out of shame and guilt’
Metro
Similarly, another story of a mixed kid working through cultural complexity to a place of integration and peace. This piece is an interview, and another really good read:
“My parents were never threatened by some sense of cultural loss or diluting if they were accepting of others, they always taught us that the best of our culture, and other cultures, was to be celebrated…Having spent much of his childhood in a state of identity crisis, Nadir has finally reached the point where he is comfortable with the complexity of his heritage. He will never be able to tick a tidy, singular ethnicity box on any form – but he has made his peace with that.”

Make Friends in Lexington, KY
Stapleton Relocation Consulting
On the surface this is a very local-intensive post – how to make friends in a particular part of a particular country. But the principles in it are really good, and applicable almost anywhere! It may be really daunting to start making friends locally after a big move, but the three points Adrielle outlines here are great – get involved (volunteer), find shared activities, and find shared values.
“After a big international move, it can seem like a big project to start building social support in your new city. Americans are busy and that can get in the way of making friends here. But plenty of Americans are open to new friendships with people who share their values or interests. So, how do you find them?”

Fostering the Relationships in a TCK’s Life
Taking Route Blog
This is a Christian blog and has content that won’t apply to all families, but there are really good thoughts on how to help TCKs foster relationships with family and friends, even when they’re far away. And while there’s a lot of good content in this piece, I particularly appreciate this sentiment from near the beginning:
“As I think about my children and the life they have as Third Culture Kids, I’m always searching and brainstorming and studying about ways to come alongside them and help them navigate the twists and turns that are par for the course in their life. In so many ways, their childhood is much different than my own. Because of this, I know I’ll always be learning something new when it comes to raising TCKs.”

Stewarding Yourself During Change
Velvet Ashes
Another Christian blog, but again, some really good content that’s widely applicable – especially as it comes to working through transition, and how difficult (and unexpectedly difficult) it can be. The author’s explanations and suggestions include both the physical and emotional which is great.
“In the lows of culture shock, I feel self-pity, overwhelmed, paralyzed, extremely tired, or confused. My capacity for stress is very small. Some nights, without clear triggers, I experience brief surges of panic as I am falling asleep. The adrenaline that has kept me going all day doesn’t know what to do when my body wants to relax. It is like change and transition are too much for my body to mediate. Here are some ways I am learning to steward my human limitations, my giftings, my fallenness, and my brokenness in this season.”

Learn From My Experience: 3 Ways To Ensure Expat Assignment Success
CEO World Magazine
An interesting piece that starts with thinking more locally in the workplace when on an expatriate assignment. Thinking locally, and acting in line with local practice, sends a strong message to nationals we live and work alongside – especially when done in humility. The author goes on to talk about different supports that improve the chance of success for a corporate expat assignemnt (something I’ve discussed before).
“They knew I was not a corporate tourist. I was fighting in the trenches alongside the “home team” to achieve our business goals…While my family and I were able to acclimate and earn success in all our overseas assignments, it was through trial and error. That’s how I learned to stay in Tokyo to help the local team through year-end. I did the right thing for the business while still making time for family holidays and vacations. Over time, we found a balance that worked for my wife, children and me.”

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Applied to Third Culture Kids
Cross Culture Therapy
A little piece looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how they might be applied in a TCK context. Food for thought indeed!
“The goal of this article was to act as some food of thought for Adult Third Culture Kids who are currently in a life-planning phase. The comments in this article may not be relevant to your situation exactly but for those of you wondering about the next couple of years in your life it may be good to look over Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and take each level into account as you plan your next step in life.”

Expat feels

Here is another in my series of reflections on popular content from the past year. Today I’m sharing three posts from May, August and September last year. One is the most popular post I’ve ever written on this blog, and the others are in the all time top 20 most viewed. All three focus on emotional experiences connected to expatriate life.

Homesickness and the price we pay to be expats

This is the most viewed post on my blog, thanks in part to being picked up and shared by a few expat networks online. It also talks about something that’s been an important part of my expat life – openly acknowledging what this life costs me, and allowing myself to feel that pain, but alongside the sure knowledge that this was my choice. This emotional integration is an essential tool for finding contentment in life generally, but especially as expats.

There are two sides to this. First, the cost is real. The fact that I choose to pay the price doesn’t change the fact that it costs me something – something real. In my first years overseas, expressing my sadness at this cost often led to comments from my sisters about how “you chose this!” That was true, but it didn’t change the fact that I was sad about missing this event, or seeing that person. . .

Secondly, it is a choice, and that reframes the loss and pain of paying the price. I don’t just lose something – I have given up something good (many good things) in order to gain something I have deemed better. When we hold these two things together – both the reality of the cost, and the reality of my choice to pay it – we can integrate these difficult emotions, and come to a place of peace.

Click here to read the full “Homesickness and the price” post.

Expat Guilt: Being far from family

This piece is related: part of the price of my choosing to live overseas is being far from my family. That is a choice which impacts both me and them – and that brings guilt. I made a choice which affects them, which may feel at times like loving them less. In this post I share my own struggles with this common phenomenon of expat guilt.

Video chats are amazing but they don’t take the place of cuddling a niece or nephew, of interacting with them in person. I am so thankful for sisters who work to make sure I’m a part of their children’s lives, but I still miss being able to see them in Real Life. I know what it’s like to see my grandparents in person, and how very not the same it is to be far away – especially when they don’t use the internet at all, and now struggle to keep up with even a phone call.

And then comes the guilt.

Knowing that I can only blame myself. That I’m the one who decided to go. That I could be closer but chose not to be. Knowing I valued something more highly than being near the family members I love so dearly. That’s a hard truth to face – and yet also a hard one to escape!

Click here to read the full “Expat Guilt” post.

Phantom Pain: Feeling the pieces of self you leave behind

When I decided to share this, I honestly didn’t know how it would be received. I wondered if anyone would relate, or if they would think I was weird. But I put it out there anyway. In this post I explain a lightbulb moment I had after repatriating to Australia, trying to explain how I felt about China, now that I no longer lived there. I lived in China from age 21-32; it was where I lived out almost all my adult years and grew into my own woman. And even after I’d moved to Australia and settled into a life there that I enjoyed, China still felt like a part of me – albeit a part no one else saw, a part that was not tangible. It was particularly interesting for me to reflect on this now that I’m living in China again – a move I had not expected in the slightest!

Australia didn’t really feel like home. Not completely. I had settled into a routine, I had made friends, I liked the place I lived. But something didn’t feel right. I could still *feel* another place, a place that felt like part of me. I could feel the person I’d been there, I could feel the routines I’d had there, I could almost smell and taste the place I’d left. . .

I suspect anyone who moves around has the potential to develop this kind of phantom pain. The pain of sensing a part of yourself missing – a part of you which only exists in one place, one context. Losing a language, a role, a position – something you were or had becoming invisible, unreachable. Perhaps this is an inevitable (or at least highly likely) part of connecting deeply in and to more than one place. Another price we pay for this life.

Click here to read the full “Phantom Pain” post.

Re-reading the phantom pain post now, I realise it reminds me of something I shared in a recent Recommended Reading post – from an ATCK reflecting on how the language of her childhood home is a part of her even though she hasn’t lived there for a long time, and doesn’t often use it in daily life now.

That’s my reflection on the Expat Feels I’ve written about in the past year! It’s been a rollercoaster year of transition for me, and sharing these posts with you has been good for me, too.