Recommended Reading catchup: September-October 2018

I am starting a series of Recommended Reading catchup posts. While I was sick, I was still finding headlines and skimming articles related to TCKs and expat life, but didn’t have the energy to really read them, let alone prepare them to share with you. I ended up with a long list of links that I didn’t want to abandon but also hadn’t shared in a timely manner. I went back and sorted them by when they were first posted, and I’m going through them month by month. I’m starting out with a few posts from September and October 2018 that I discovered too late to include in the Recommended Reading posts I wrote before getting sick.

It’s ‘never too late’ for parenting advice, study says
BBC
Okay, so this isn’t expat specific, but I think there’s good news here for every single expat parent who is concerned about things they *should* have known or done when their children were smaller. “The research says it’s time to stop focusing on when to intervene with parenting skills, and step in to help children in need of all ages.” Whatever age your child is, learning more about the TCK perspective, and making adjustments accordingly, can be incredibly helpful!

From Stateless to Citizen
Hiraeth Magazine
TCKs (and often expats) can feel the pain of having no legal recognition in the place that feels like home, but how much deeper is the pain and impact – emotionally, legally, and in every aspect of life – of having NO place that legally recognises you? This piece tells the story of Mamoun, who was born stateless as a Palestinian refugee in Syria. It follows his journey to gain citizenship in the Netherlands for himself, and his family. The post links to a fundraiser which is now closed, but was successful in funding his application for Dutch citizenship. There is also a video interview with Mamoun.
“[Mamoun spent] almost 40 years without even the hope of a chance to become a citizen. Being stateless affected his ability to work and to travel. It made him feel like someone from another planet, belonging nowhere. He worried for his children’s future as stateless persons. It was a tenuous existence. . .Not only will Dutch citizenship give him a permanent right to stay, work, and build a life in his adopted country, it is also the cumulation of his lifetime dream to be a citizen, to have a passport, to truly belong in a place he can call home.”

5 Ways How Living Abroad Helps Increase Creativity
Global Living Magazine
In this piece Nepalese jewellery designer Kajal Naina explains some of the ways that living overseas has widened her experience and perspective, and how this has translated into deeper creativity as an artist.
“Having walked through the stories and atmosphere of both countries, I can pull pieces from them both and marry them in a way they couldn’t otherwise co-exist. . .Design that transcends borders speaks to people and connects them. In the example of bringing Japanese and Indian design together, you have to wonder how the two cultures would react to seeing it.”

Thriving in Your Expat Life
Global Living Magazine
And here’s another piece from Global Living. This one is a simple list of things to keep in mind when preparing to move abroad, and while adjusting. This is good, solid advice – both for new expats who don’t know what to expect, and good as a reminder to those of us who can get a little world (literally) weary. I particularly appreciated point three:
“Keep expectations real: No-one moves abroad and fits in immediately. Making friends, setting up new routines and embarking on a different career will challenge you.”

Expat friends and always saying goodbye
The Expat Mummy
This is a great post about the underlying nature of expatriate friendships – why they are great, how they’re different, and their inherent challenges. The list of questions we ask ourselves – is it worth it? Should I invest less? Altogether a sweet and helpful read.
“A expat life is invariably a fluid thing, a transient state. By their very nature people that move abroad to start a new life are open to new experiences. More often than not those experiences mean moving country again. Expats are a nomadic group, a collective of travellers.”

The Tricky Allure of Becoming a Black American Expatriate
The Atlantic
This is a powerful piece. I really appreciate the way author Kimberly Springer articulates her journey as a black American expatriate, and her experience and understanding of racism both at home and abroad. There is a lot to learn here, an important perspective to listen to. She also demonstrates how living in another place affects perception – both providing escape and also fondness through nostalgia, plus new information, and a new lens through which to view both past and present.
“Feeling free from the metaphorical shackles of American racism has lasting value. Yet, being a black expat, one who’s attuned to American racial suffering, can merely heighten one’s awareness of other colonialist histories around the world and the racial disparities that persist because of them — a far cry from actually escaping racism. Living abroad can mean becoming one’s full self and being more deeply engaged with black struggle throughout the diaspora.”

My Very Personal Taste of Racism Abroad
The New York Times
In this piece, another African American woman talks about her experiences of racism abroad. I think it’s helpful to include these two articles together – the previous one talking more about general institutional racism, and this more personal piece. Racism is a multi-faceted issue, and there are so many different experiences of it (which this piece also mentions).
“During orientation, the Italian instructors talked about customs and other important practices to take note of. What I remember most is one woman from the program telling us to be mindful that Italians can be “bold” or “politically incorrect.” That was one way to put it. No one mentioned the possibility of racial encounters and tensions, largely aimed at the rising number of African immigrants.”

Recommended listening

I’m not quite ready to jump into Recommended Reading reviews just yet, but I was recently interviewed on a podcast which I’m going to recommend to you. So I also made a list of a few different podcasts I’ve appeared on in the past year or so as some recommended listening until I return to a regular schedule of Recommended Reading.

Migratory Patterns

I recently had a great conversation with Mike Shaw for the Migratory Patterns podcast. We talked about a lot of things, but particularly focusing on Third Culture life, both for kids and adults. I also explained a little about my current research, and why I’m preparing to write a book for twenty-something TCKs.

“Most of my interviews were with twenty-somethings and so I was really into these issues and aware of it and it was informing everything that went into Misunderstood. I was talking about their childhood experiences from that perspective of looking back on them… But what happens for a lot of those kids is they get to university and it’s like they walk off the cliff. There’s no support for what they go through, because their process of growing into adulthood looks really different. They’re juggling all these different cultural inputs, these different attachments, so their identity formation takes a lot longer. Not because they’re behind but just because they have a lot more information to process. The decision of how to work out what you want to do with your life is a lot harder when you have way more options. When your idea of what success is – you’re not even sure what you think, because the answer for you has always changed depending on who you’re talking to. When you now have to decide for yourself, when it’s not “my environment is determining for me”. Where I have to, as an adult, make my own independent decision. That’s a new skill.”

Click here to listen to my conversation with Mike

Mo Sibyl

Podcaster Mo Sibyl is a Nigerian academic in the US with an interest in Korean culture – among other things! I really enjoyed talking with her – we turned out to have many shared interests, including a love of language and statistics! At one point she said: “This is now a conversation between two language nerds!

What I appreciated most was how she got me talking about my work. She asked different questions from interesting angles, eliciting interesting responses from me in return. Even if you know me well, have talked to me about what I do, there’s probably something new in this. Here’s a few excerpts:

A lot of what I do is translating the TCK experience… Articulating things that they aren’t able to… Because of what they’ve been through, this is how they see the world, and here are some ways we can support them and understand them better. . .Over ten years I developed a set of tools that work. So now what I’m doing is sharing with parents and teachers the tools I developed on the ground.”

Click here to listen to my conversation with Mo

Go Ye There

The first podcast I was invited to speak on happened while I was still in Australia completing my studies. It is a podcast by/for missionaries, but our conversation is a great primer for anyone raising kids overseas. We go through the basics of the TCK experience – what “TCK” means, what the Third Culture is, how growing up overseas shapes a child’s worldview, and more.

“All expats live in the Third Culture, but adults and children experience it very differently. Adults are viewing their international experience through the worldview shaped by their own childhood. Whereas a a TCK’s worldview is shaped by an international childhood. And this determines how they view the rest of the world, including their home country. When you grow up with more than one culture as a child, it affects the way you understand life, and the world, and yourself… Your kids might not be “struggling” as such, but they’re absolutely affected, because childhood experiences shape who we are.”

Click here to listen to my interview on the TCK basics

TCK Summit

I recorded a ten minute talk for The Change School‘s TCK Summit shortly after Misunderstood was first released. The TCK Summit is a series of short talks hosted on youtube discussing different aspects of cross-cultural life, especially as it affects TCKs. The month I contributed to was themed “Cultivating the Mind”. Two areas The Change School focuses on are “developing a Global Mindset” and lifelong learning, so my talk included what this looked liked for me.

The core of my talk was about connection to multiple cultures, and why this requires cultivation of mind. There is stress attached to navigating differing cultural expectations, which can dim mental clarity. This is something that came out in a number of my interviews for Misunderstood – TCKs faced with the need to make a decision about the future often experienced anxiety they needed tools to work through.

“The influence of multiple cultures can be quite stressful at times. If you are influenced by two cultural systems that means double the information to take in, double the social rules to learn, double the means of communication to master, double the values to internalise… Knowing yourself deeply, consciously processing emotion, acknowledging difficulties, creating mental space – these are all strategies that make it easier for each of us to grow through our engagement with multiple cultures rather than become overwhelmed by all the noise.”

Watch my TCK Summit talk on youtube

That’s it for today! I hope to be back with some Recommended Reading catch up next week.

Recommended reading: November 19th, 2018

This week’s Recommended Reading is a little shorter than usual, with fewer comments from me. After so many weeks of illness (and waking up to a lingering sore throat and head this morning) this is the best I can manage – and I’m learning to be okay with that. I still have long a list of posts I’ve saved to read later so have no fear – there’s a lot of material waiting for future editions of Recommended Reading!

Multilocalism Is Taiye Selasi’s Response To Those Attempting To Put A Label On Her
Forbes
I love Taiye Selasi’s thoughts on multilocalism. I referenced her TED talk both in Misunderstood and also in many semianrs I run. This is an interview with her about the concept and why it matters.
“For me the concept of being multilocal or experiences of being multilocal emerge from 20th and 21st century life taking such deep root in the places where people find themselves. It becomes most salient now because people find themselves in increasingly more places. Now, because our thinking and our language about identity has become more nuanced we know to ask more refined questions and we’ll expect to hear all of these local experiences of where someone is from. To be multilocal is just be informed by the totality of your local experiences”

The Lonely Life: Expat Suicide, Depression & Hotlines for Help
Flying with Toddlers
A sobering but oh-so-important post talking about depression and suicide among expatriates. As the author points out, these are not merely tragedies for individual families, but deeply impact the expatriate community. Sadly, so often those who are struggling feel isolated from that community. This post lists a variety of resources available to struggling expats, which is really helpful.
“If there’s one thing I could say to any woman struggling after relocation it’s this: you are not alone. There are hundreds if not thousands of us out there navigating our way through the maze of expat life alongside you. You do not need to suffer by yourself. For anyone needing support transitioning to a foreign country, there are a variety of resources available.”

Global Education Is Patriotic. Nationalist Rhetoric Does Not Benefit Our Students Education Week
An argument for the benefits of global engagement as opposed to nationalism, especially in education. A relevant topic for globally mobile families. It’s hard for a child with connections to multiple countries to engage with nationalistic sentiment.
“Why frame this as an ‘either-or’? Can’t we love our world and our country at the same time? Gaining a global mindset based on intellectual, social, and psychological capital, not being ruled by fear, is a privilege every child deserves. It makes our country stronger.”

A Homesickness Unto Life
In Search of Waking
Beautiful and poetic meditations on the meaning of “home” – especially in the midst of a world-travelling life.
“As I flit once more from this continent to that, packing my life’s possessions in three overlarge suitcases (discounting, of course, the books, pottery, clothes, and childhood toys that live in perpetual storage in my parents’ house and grandmother’s attic), it strikes me that home is a gift that must be given and received.2 It is bound to our conception of place (the familiar, the safe), but, at its core, deals in intangibles that transcend the physical world home inhabits: love, acceptance, belonging. Home is that place where one is sheltered and cherished. Not simply where one is known, but where one is desired to be known. The place where grace is extended and perfection is neither required nor expected. Where there is room to play, experiment, and fail. Where there is room to grow.”

Expat Parent Interviews; Where are they now?
Our Globetrotters
Great post re-interviewing several expat families about their journeys around the world. Long post, but great stories! Here’s a few excerpts:
“Then after 2.5 years life turned upside down when my husband was made redundant. Out of the blue the government organisation he was working for pulled out of mega project and all the staff were let go. This made us realise how quickly your life can unravel when your life is tied to a residency visa from a company. Your job, house, schooling – everything. . . I didn’t think I could replicate my ‘tribe’ or expat family I’d found in Hong Kong, so finding a few of the best friends I’ve ever had really was such a welcome surprise. When it eventually came for us to call it a day and head to Sydney for our next posting, we were all so torn. Leaving the adventure that was expat life was tough but leaving our friends was heartbreaking. . . The past two months have been both chaotic and wonderful. We have been deep in the throes of transition and have experienced every feeling from loving our new country to feeling culture shock all at the same time. . . The biggest thing during this period was the uncertainty. The living out of a box. We went from the end of March until the end of September without our familiar furniture, the kids toys, or even a place to call home. We knew we were moving but we weren’t sure when or exactly where.”

5 Ways To Help Knock Out Culture Shock
Diplomatic Kid
Five suggestions from a diplomat kid for facing and working through culture shock.
“Meeting others, while doing something physical somehow breaks cultural barriers… I have long believed that everyone should be a lifelong learner. Taking a class is not only humbling, but can also open up doors, shed light on culture, history and lead one down a path they never thought of.”

Recommended reading: November 5th, 2018

Welcome to another week of Recommended Reading! I’m starting this week with two posts written about Military Kids, one sub-type of TCKs and CCKs. I’d thought about saving them to go toward a military-themed edition of Recommended Reading but then I reconsidered. These are quality posts with excellent points that apply to lots of expatriate families.

Military Kids Face Unique Challenges to Their Mental Health
Tonic
In this post, the grown up military kid author looks at research into mental health outcomes for military kids and possible supports to improve this. I love this quote particularly. It explains exactly what I try to communicate – there is so much good that comes from an international childhood, but there are difficulties and needs that also need attention.
Military kids are frequently praised for their resilience, and rightfully so. But for many, the path to building that resilience is paved with anxiety, feelings of abandonment, and depression. Just as their strengths are celebrated, their needs deserve serious, resourceful attention…I don’t regret a second of my military childhood. The more we can understand the impact a military lifestyle can have on adolescents, however, the more I, and maybe other military brats — the ones who are foreigners in their hometowns and don’t know a single person from their childhood — can make a little more sense of our lives beyond the military.

3 Reasons Your Military Kids Don’t Need Roots…and Why They’re Better Off
Military Spouse
This piece acknowledges that a childhood with lots of transition does mean kids miss out on developing deep roots, with stability and continuity. But, the author suggests, they are learning different skills. There are some really good points here about different positives that can come from an international childhood. As long as articles like this are read alongside those like the one above – that we balance seeing the positives and also supporting the difficulties.
Often, as military parents, we worry about what we are not providing our kids: stability, continuity and those thick, long roots. We worry about how the military lifestyle is affecting our kids now, in the present: are they scared? Nervous? Shy? Sad? Lost? Lonely? Anxious? How is deployment affecting them? Is it interfering with their learning, their happiness, their ability to socialize? But then I thought of what we are giving them, and deep down I believe it has the power to prepare them for the long-term in a truly awesome way.”

Transitioning Well As a Family When Moving
Taking Route
Great post with simple and practical suggestions to help families deal with transition. Even better – each tip comes with a practical way to implement the idea!
It took us a few tries and lots of practice, but our family discovered several keys to making transition calmer, more manageable, and even…enjoyable. Yes, enjoyable. We have some great family memories from times of transition. (We’re a little crazy like that.) So now we’ve become routine-loving homebodies who also enjoy moving and change and new places. . .You may not become a change junkie overnight, that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace transition when it comes. And your attitude will set the example for everyone else.

Building resilience in children
Japan Harvest
Some simple tips for building resilience in TCKs. This is from a missionary perspective but, as with the military posts above, has helpful information for all kinds of expat families. A lot of what I commonly teach in seminars is summarised here – the need to learn that failure is part of the process, the importance of learning to grieve losses well, and modelling this for them with emotional vocabulary. (Even quotes Julia Simens – who I regularly reference!)
Children are not naturally resilient, but parents can teach them the skills so that they can learn how to be resilient. Such skills include things like making friends, having faith, building relationships, and letting failure be okay. As parents of TCKs, we can also teach them an emotional vocabulary that leads to emotional literacy, which will help them to process the large amount of loss that is part of the TCK’s life. This process helps build resiliency in our children and prepares them to lead successful lives.

Peeling Pomegranates in Rania
Communicating Across Boundaries
Yet another lovely reflection from Marilyn as she transitions to a new life on another continent. What I love about this particular piece is how a simple task connected her TCK past to her current life.
Most TCKs acquire skills that are useful in their childhood but often end up as hidden parts of their lives when they are older and living in their passport countries. Suddenly this ability to peel pomegranates feels important. Growing up in Pakistan and acquiring the skills that were not needed in the U.S. has uniquely prepared me for living here.”

Learning to Be an Acceptable Outsider
China Source
This is a short but challenging piece about what it means to be a “foreigner” – to be seen as an outsider, and know that you will never be considered a local. This can be annoying, and even painful. The suggestion this article makes – become an “acceptable outsider”. This advice comes with a list of questions to consider – what does this look like, and how can I do this.
In order to be an acceptable outsider, we must have access to the world of the insiders…we must be willing to submit to insiders and their ways…we must be willing to change.

Why being a career expat is a huge leap of faith
The Piri-Piri Lexicon
One thing I tried hard to do in Misunderstood was capture the wide range of expatriate experiences, and therefore the wide range of ways a TCK might grow up. Not all expat families move frequently, and not all have financially generous ‘expat packages’. This post talks about this other experience – the “career expat”, a family who move abroad independently, without the financial and logistical support others receive. There are some interesting points about what this means for a family. Well worth a read!
Many expats have a home country and/or a company as a safety net. Being a career expat family is a leap of faith without that safety net. Maybe being a career expat is not for people with a plan B.

The Expatriate Mothers’ Network
Indonesia Expat
While this post is about a particular experience in a particular country, there is also something more universal about it. The suprise at how deep expatriate relationships can go. The importance of having that support when you are so far away from your original networks. Having people who understand – something we all need.
I never thought that moving abroad would result in gaining more friends than I had before I left. I thought my journey as an expat would be lonely and that I would struggle to find like-minded people. Instead, I have met many soul mates and genuine connections from various backgrounds and cultures. When I became an expat, I became a part of a dynamic network that would grow even stronger and larger when I had a baby.

Recommended reading: October 29th, 2018

More recommended reading about TCKs and expat life. This week tackles a few emotionally difficult issues – grief, attachment, loneliness, and how our physical state affects our ability to cope. But there’s also some lighter pieces as well. Whether heavy or light, each of these posts has something helpful to speak into our expat and TCK lives.

When Do You Grieve? Pre, Post, or Present?
Djibouti Jones
Fantastic piece from Rachel looking at grief with a real and tangible example – her twins finishing high school and starting university, and the three countries involved in that process. She describes, with detail you can see and feel, goodbyes that were both hard and sweet. And then she brings it all together with the theory on pre/post grieving – how we each process grief differently.
Knowing this about myself and my response has helped me not feel guilty for not crying in the dorm room. . .It also helps me understand my husband and our youngest, as we talk through how we are each doing. Helps us not compare our specific emotional states in time. Helps us not judge other parents. Helps us not judge ourselves. Helps us do the grieving so we can do the healing, too.

Third Culture Kid Relationships: Attachment & Trauma
Life Story
Rachel does a fantastic job in this post of explaining how the Third Culture childhood experience involves “trauma with a little ‘t’” and the way this impacts TCKs as they mature into adults. She links to some articles on attachment theory to help further explain this. She writes, as always, with great compassion and understanding of the TCK experience, including the resistance many have to accept that their background involved some difficulties, and the reality that some ATCKs really struggle as a result.
Your challenges are not simply the result of personal failings, but are instead normal responses to extraordinary circumstances. But where does this leave us? It leaves us in the uncomfortable position of inferring that certain elements of Third Culture Kid experiences as essentially traumatic. Traumatic because they interfere with the abilities of large portions of the TCK population to connect securely in their adult relationships. Of course, there is hope. Where we learnt self-blame, we can learn self-compassion…We can change behaviours learnt through painful experiences. Change is, after all, what we do best.

7 Ways Traditions Foster a Healthy Expat Identity
World Tree Coaching
I love this post! One of the big tips I share with expat families about how to help their TCKs feel settled and get the most out of their international experiences is to work hard at creating traditions that stick, no matter where you are. In this post, Jodi gives a lot of great practical advice on how to do just that!
We often think of the importance of traditions and rituals in the context of creating a home space or in building family unity, but for expats, there’s even more to it. When we move frequently from place to place, creating rituals, adhering to traditions and enjoying celebrations makes a globally mobile life more than just the transitions, baggage, and upheaval. It helps us define the very nature of who we are in the midst of those things. Traditions and rituals help us express ourselves fully in new spaces and remind us who we are in familiar ones. They can help us build community, learn new things about ourselves and create a sense of home no matter where we go.”

Physical Well-being and Cross-Cultural Adjustment
Communicating Across Boundaries
I shared this on social media already, but it bears sharing again! Marilyn talks about how “Physical well-being has a massive impact on our ability to adjust.” YES! Transition is hard. Transition when you’re unwell feels downright impossible. And often when we’re physically down we don’t have the energy to believe things will ever be different than they are in this moment. That’s when we need to read words like Marilyn’s.
Suddenly I questioned everything. Why did I think I had the capacity to make an international move? Who was I kidding? I was no use to anybody in my passport country, let alone a new place, new people, new job, new language. . .You are not a failure. You are human, made of flesh and blood, cells and vessels. Sometimes you get sick. This happens in countries where you know the language perfectly, and in countries where you don’t know the language at all. Take extra time to rest and get well.”

Tips How to Raise Global Citizens and Travel More with Kids
Skimbaco
I’ve read posts with similar titles before, and found them trite or not terribly realisitc. This one is different! Katja explains how their family made travel a priority, and shares some tips on ways to stretch always limited time and money in order to prioritise travel as a family. Here’s one tip I found particularly interesting:
Here’s another secret. Family travel doesn’t always have to mean the entire family travels together. We have a tradition in our family that says that each child receives a special day trip for their 10th birthday and an even more special trip for their 13th birthday. Of course we prefer to travel with the entire family, but by doing it this way we are able to offer special trips for each child.

House Hunters International frustrates me. Here’s why.
The Expat Spouse
I was surprised by how much I appreciated this post. On the surface it might seem a bit silly – an expat’s perspective on a reality TV show. But there are some really good points! The disparity in the experience of “ordinary” things, like looking for suitable accommodation, in different places.
Funny storylines aside, what frustrates me is that it’s fundamentally an unrealistic conversation. Why isn’t anyone concerned about the closest metro or walking distance to a grocery store? It’s like everyone forgets that they’ll have to shop for food everyday (because they won’t get an American-sized refrigerator). They all talk about wanting to explore Europe, so why don’t they look for a house close to transportation hubs? Why this isn’t part of the conversation. I struggle with understanding why tv programs can’t paint a more realistic picture of an international house hunt. I think it would help to better prepare current or potential expats in their very real relocation. It would also educate the audiences on the true complexities that we as expats face. I’m think I’m looking for more authenticity of what we all go through. What’s wrong with being more honest about the challenges we face?

Lonely as an expat? Not anymore!
I Am Expat
An easy-read post with practical suggestions of how to handle the loneliness so many expats experience from time to time.
Being an expat can be a lonely journey. You are immersed in a completely new culture with a different set of values and way of life, you meet different people, you don’t speak the language, you miss your friends and family, but most of all, connecting with the people around you is really hard (especially in the beginning). You have no idea where to start, how to approach people, and most of all, how long it will take until you feel at home. . .Like all painful experiences we endure, loneliness can also be the catalyst of a productive period in our life; a wonderful opportunity to start working on meaningful relationships and a chance to build the life you want.

What’s it really like to move to a country where you don’t speak the language?
Absolutely Lucy
This piece reflects on the experience of moving to a place where you don’t speak the language – the challenges and the joys that go with it.
It’s truly humbling to feel so vulnerable and to understand what people from communities around the world must go through every day. It can feel isolating and lonely at times…but the loneliness is also inspiring, it is pushing me to learn as much as I can, it makes me want to learn for all the kind, thoughtful German friends I have made, the ones who try so hard to include me. . .There will be struggles and there will be times when you feel like giving up and going home, but I feel that the more prepared you are for dealing with these, the more likely you are to stick it out and make it work.

Talking about TCKs and expat life with Mo Sibyl

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ve been sick the last 2+ weeks, while also being busier than normal. This means I still haven’t finished the article I’d intended to post today. Thankfully, I providentially have something else to share with you! In a Recommended Reading post back in June I shared a piece by Mo’lanee Sibyl. Following that, Mo and I connected through social media and soon she invited me to appear on her podcast, More Sibyl. The episode we taped just went live, and you can listen to it here!

I really enjoyed our conversation, and reliving it by listening to the finished podcast was lovely. Mo and I found we had a bunch of shared interests, including a love of language and statistics! (At one point she says: “This is now a conversation between two language nerds!”) We kept finding new tangents to chase, and shared experiences and perspectives to exclaim over and laugh about.

What I appreciated most was how she got me talking about my TCK work. She asked different questions from a different angle, and got a different response from me in return. Even if you know me well, have talked to me about what I do, there’s probably something new in this. Here’s a few excerpts:

“A lot of what I do is translating the TCK experience… Articulating things that they aren’t able to… Because of what they’ve been through, this is how they see the world, and here are some ways we can support them and understand them better. . .Over ten years I developed a set of tools that work. So now what I’m doing is sharing with parents and teachers the tools I developed on the ground.”

Click here to listen to the whole conversation.

Recommended reading: October 22nd, 2018

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
China Source
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
Friday Magazine
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
Expatica
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
The Atlantic
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’
MEAWW
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?
PRI
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!

Recommended reading: October 15th, 2018

This week’s Recommended Reading centres on corporate assignments: when a company sends an employee (and their family) overseas for a protracted period. I have a passion for supporting these families, and they were one of the key groups I had in mind when I wrote Misunderstood.

Business families often receive very little support, and kids of these families are (in my anecdotal experience) the least likely to know there is such a thing as a Third Culture Kid, and therefore the least likely to receive much needed support. These families often get far more cross-cultural support from international schools, should their children attend such schools, than from the company that sent them abroad. When they don’t have kids in an international school, many are left quite on their own. One mother told me of travelling 1.5 hours each way to attend a talk in another city because she was so desperate for any information she could get. My own family lived overseas for two years when I was a teenager due to my Dad’s job. There was no cross-cultural support for us, even though my Dad’s company tends to be more proactive than most when it comes to considering work-life balance etc.

Families don’t often need to be convinced of the need for resources and support. It’s companies (and HR departments) who most need information to demonstrate why cross-cultural preparation and support for the whole family is essential to making international assignments work – and how this affects the company’s goals (and bottom line). For this reason I’ve included a number of posts that help make these arguments. If you are considering taking a post overseas, or are looking for ways to explain to your company/HR department what your family needs, these may be helpful resources to consider.

How to Help Your Spouse Cope with Work Stress
Harvard Business Review
But first – a more general post about work stress, bringing it home, and how to deal with this in and with your partner. There are some great helpful hints in here, and some common sense which is always good to go back over. This is helpful for all kinds of families, not just expat employees!
There are two kinds of work stress. “There’s sporadic stress, which is the result of a bad meeting or a client project gone awry,” and there’s “chronic stress, which bubbles under the surface” for a prolonged period. Chronic stress, she says, is a signal that your significant other may “be in the wrong place.”

5 new trends of relocation that are changing the face of expat assignments
ACS International Schools
A short article which gives a broad overview of how expat assignments are changing over time. The piece is a little peppy, but has some helpful stats on the bigger picture. For example:
Prior to the 1990s, expat assignments usually lasted three to five years, according to Expat Focus. Today, assignments are much shorter, often just a year or even six months.

Out of Sight Out of Mind: Why are Expats Forgotten?
LearnLight
This is a great piece about a forgotten piece of the expat employee’s experience: going back. Repatriation is something talked about a lot for expats generally, but this is the first piece I’ve seen about the specific experience of going back into the same old workplace you left a few years earlier only to find you have a rocky adjustment!
This means that the organization considers the assignee to be on holiday. There is an implicit understanding that they will just fit straight back in when they return. When the assignee does return, their international experiences are dismissed, and the assignment is viewed as a perk. The repatriated assignee cannot describe any achievements or successes without starting the sentence, “When I was in…,” and as a result, they are not taken seriously.

Why 40% of Overseas Assignments Fail and What You Can Do to Prevent It
LearnLight
Another post from LeanLight, this time a good summary of the issue of overseas postings: the fact that many are considered failures, and what companies can/should be doing about this. Of particular note: specific issues of preparation that are overlooked, the need to be informed about the family’s issues and needs, and ongoing support.
Four in ten international assignments are judged to be a failure. And yet the number of overseas assignments continues to rise…To minimize the risk of such failure and to ensure the well-being of their employees, organizations must examine the key challenges facing expats deployed overseas, and determine the best way to prepare, support, and manage them during their time abroad.

How can employers reduce the risks when sending employees overseas?
Personnel Today
The above post leans heavily on this article (a press release from Punter Southall Health and Protection), which has helpful quotes explaining some of the same material. I was both shocked and not at all shocked by this statistic: “According to KMPG, only 38% of companies offer cross-cultural training to the assignees and family and 35% do not offer any cross-cultural training at all.” Shocked, because this seems like such a glaring oversight! Not shocked, because it sounds about right from my own anecdotal evidence, talking to expat families about their experiences.

The secrets to managing overseas postings for modern families? Start with the spouse
The Conversation
This won’t come as a surprise to most expat families: the success of an international assignment hangs largely on the family at home. If they don’t cope with the situation, it doesn’t matter how good the job is! And yet this is still a farily new consideration for most HR departments. This article gives a few thoughts and points to some research explaining why the needs of an accompanying partner are so important to a successful posting.
Career paths are no longer choices for a single breadwinner, but compromises between couples or within families. This means there are a number of stakeholders to consider when an overseas assignment is on offer. The dynamics between the various immediate family members play a major role in whether the assignment is a success.

Why companies supporting expatriate children have an edge
Globiana
In a similar vein, this piece lays out a basic argument for the importance of companies providing effective support to employees’ families on international assignments. The lack of effective support for corporate families was a key motivator for me in writing Misunderstood. I interviewed a number of business kids who said their family received no information at all about how cultural issues might affect them. Many did not learn the term TCK until years after repatriating.
In a recent report from EY & NetExpat, “Children Issues” was among the top 5 most common reasons for failed assignment (in addition to “Partner Not Happy,” “Job Satisfaction,” and “Employee Performance”), and 65% of the people polled cited “Other Family Issues” as being among the most common reasons for not accepting an international assignment. Expatriation failure (or early repatriation), can represent up to 2.5 times the cost of the employee’s yearly salary.

Nurture Connections to Enhance Expatriate Success
Association for Talent Development
The post argues for the importance of relational connections to make for a successful overseas assignment, and gives practical suggestions for how HR/talent development support personnel can work to help this happen.
Connecting expatriates to social resources is an indispensable strategy for easing their cultural adaptation and supporting their effectiveness. Talent development professionals can apply strategies during each phase of an expatriate’s experience to promote social connections…Facilitating such relationships not only helps expatriates but also can lead to greater success for the organization that is sending employees on international assignments.

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update, June 2018
Expat Focus
This post includes information on different trends in expatriate health insurance, including rising prices, that insurance is required for expats in some countries but not others, and general information on health care for expats from around the world.

And finally, a few research resources:
2017 Global Assignment Policies and Practices Survey (KPMG)
Corporate Insights (infographic from 98 clients of Allianz)

Recommended reading: October 8th, 2018

Time for another addition of Recommended Reading! There are several posts from expats in this week’s collection, sharing their experiences abroad, and reflecting on issues of belonging and identity that affect anyone with a cross-cultural background.

The good, bad and frantic of raising kids overseas
Eternity
While this piece is specifically about missionary families raising kids overseas, there are some really good insights about parenting TCKs in general. This, for example:
You can never be fully ‘present’ in your host country because at some level you’re always preparing your child to live in your passport country, either for home assignment, or for your eventual return. But then, you also aren’t parenting in your passport country so are influenced by your host country.

TCKs and Education
Diary of a Desi TCK
Long but interesting post from a TCK (and school psychologist in training) talking about some of the difficulties of changing schools – and hints to help families do this well.
I genuinely believe that being a TCK is one of my life’s biggest blessings (though sometimes I can see it as a curse, such as when I lose touch with friends due to the constant distance) and I think that any child who has lived a similar life is so lucky. Through our TCK lifestyle, we gain a unique and wonderful understanding of the world, one that I feel you can’t really get otherwise. You understand other cultures in ways that you can only if you experienced them for yourself. That said, sometimes certain things, such as TCK education (ie. the education of a TCK) can be negatively affected by this otherwise extraordinary lifestyle.

Rania – Reflections on Place, Work, and Travel
Communicating Across Boundaries
Marilyn continues her beautiful writing as she reflects on building a new home in a new country. This short post is a lovely tribute to the beauty (and cost) of creating home again.
I walk up the three flights of stairs to our apartment and unlock the door. I step inside and breathe a sigh of gratitude. No matter where you live, you need a home base. This is why the displacement and refugee crisis of our time is so important to care about. We are created for place. What happens to us when place is disrupted, creating fear and insecurity? This is the question trauma experts will be called on to answer for decades. This one bedroom apartment has quickly become our place and haven.

Expat Parenting: Learning to Leave it All on the Stage…and Teaching our TCKs to do the Same
World Tree Coaching
This post talks about redeeming one of the trickier parts of life for expats who move frequently. Those transitions can be overwhelming! But they also give a freedom to try new things: “Something turns out not to be what you anticipated? Who cares! Next year it’s a clean slate – new home, new friends, new school.” Obviously it’s not that simple, and this isn’t about whitewashing difficult experiences. Instead, there’s an offer to think differently – to reframe an experience, and see what you can get out of it.
I also reminded my son that it’s important to remember that sometimes things will hurt. You might feel embarrassed or regret a choice you make. Leaving it all on the stage is not about creating a myth that everything will work out fine, it’s about seeing that challenges are a normal part of our existence (no matter where we go) and that our lifestyle, in it’s extreme flexibility, offers the opportunity (and maybe even the anonymity) to recover faster when things don’t go your way. Leaving it all on the stage is the ultimate embrace of the inherent ambiguity and unpredictability of life – a reality that expats face over and over again, every day.

The Joy of Life
The Black Expat
Interesting post introducing Martine Ngo Nlend Manga and her wide range of international experiences. I particularly love these reflections on balancing global life nad the need for a place to be ‘from’. This can be a struggle for TCKs – when you have a less clear sense of ‘from’ centred in place.
Being a global citizen, at least for me, only works when you know where you are coming from. Because at some point, wherever you go, people ask you where you are from. And it can be complicated. . .Global citizen cannot be enough. Where can you go back to, if things get complicated? But I was born in Cameroon. There is a personal culture attached to it, even if I’ve had international experiences. No matter where I go, I will always be seen as Cameroonian, especially when encountering others from Africa. Even when welcomed with open arms, I’m from there. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing. But it’s a part of my identity and in [some] people’s minds it won’t change. And it’s a good part of my identity.”

Why Swedes are Happier Than We Are: An American Perspective
Swedish Freak
This post is an interesting example of what I consider to be one of the biggest benefits of living overseas – gaining a perspective that helps you evaluate your own culture more objectively. In this case, an American expat compares aspects of life in her passport country to that in Sweden, where she now lives.
This word is uniquely Swedish, and a direct translation does not exist in the English language, which is the best evidence of the purity of its genesis. Roughly translated, it means something akin to “not too much, not too little,” “sufficient” or “adequate”. For example, you can have a lagom number of meatballs, live in a lagom apartment and have your heating set at a lagom temperature. For me, this single word “lagom” encapsulates the entire Swedish socially-democratic philosophy on life: that everyone should have enough, but not too much (which is antithetical to the stereotypical American capitalist mindset).

Living a meaningful life abroad: identifying your values
Intentional Expat
Nice post about how identifying and living our individual values helps up to make the most out of life – even in the midst of frustrated plans and everything else that goes along with international life.
Values are unique to each and every individual. There are no right or wrong values. They are related to what you ultimately want your life to be about…being aware of our values allows us to enjoy the moment rather than being overly focused on completing our goals. Instead of being focused on arriving somewhere, we can also enjoy the journey. We don’t need to wait until we achieve our goal to start living a rich and meaningful life, we can find small ways to live in accordance with our values each and every day.”

Gidday, Ni Hao, Kia Ora……Can You Have More Than One Hometown?
Mint Mocha Musings
Nicole took a trip to her birth country, the first time she’d been there in 15 years, with family along for the ride. In the light of this, she reflects on the power of place to stir our memories and emotions:
“...memories are cued by the physical environment. When you visit a place you used to live, these cues can cause you to revert back to the person you were when you lived there…Does our birth place hold a piece of our heart, indefinitely?

CurrencyFair Vs TransferWise | World’s Best Compared
iCompareFX
Another random finance-admin post, this time looking at two international transfer services that skip the banks (and their fees). I’ve used TransferWise before but CurrencyFair is new to me. This article does a good job breaking down and comparing the different aspects of each service. Helpful and interesting – for me at least!

7 Helpful Hints for Raising Kids Overseas

This week I’ve written a post for Expatriate Specialist, sharing 7 Helpful Hints for Raising Kids Overseas:

“Don’t you wish there was a step-by-step guide to successfully raising a family abroad? Or anywhere, for that matter! Unfortunately, no one has all the answers. What I can offer, however, is years of experience listening to young people who were raised overseas. I’ve learned a lot about what their parents did to help (or hinder) them along the way. These 7 helpful hints for raising kids overseas will point you in the right direction, whether you’re thinking about a move, starting out, or years down the track.”

One of the things that motivated me to write Misunderstood was wanting to support parents who worry about whether they’re doing the right thing for their kids, and how it will all work out long term. Yes, raising kids overseas complicates things, and every kid is unique. That said, there are things any family can do to help smooth the way through some of the harder aspects of international life, and set kids up with tools for future growth.

In this piece I give short summaries of several key pieces of advice I regularly offer to parents. I talk about the comfort of familiarity, emotional health, building connections, and recognising the difference between the experiences of children and adults. Please take a look, and let me know what you think!

Read the full post on Expatriate Specialist