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.”

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.”

Recommended reading: February 4th, 2019

I finally have an up-to-date Recommended Reading post for you! Today I’m sharing some great posts from the last month. I’ve been really blown away by a wide selection of excellent TCK-specific content, as well as some more general expat issues.

My Best Friend is a Mono-Cultural; Does that make me a traitor?
We All See this World a Little Differently
This is a really important piece of writing. In it a TCK points out a common blind spot among TCKs, and asks us to reconsider prejudices we may feel are justified. There is some faith-based reflection at the end of the piece but the core argument is applicable to all TCKs:
“…one of the things we (the TCK community) pride ourselves in is being tolerant and accepting of other cultures – except the culture of our passport, apparently…When I honestly consider my own experience, I realize I would never been able to learn the US culture without a “cultural guide”. This is where our arrogance and humility intersect – we need our mono-cultural friends initially, but so often we then discredit their value once we’ve outgrown the need for them. The conclusion I’ve come to is everyone has a place at the table. I don’t believe anyone should ever discredit another person’s experience. Everyone you meet has had some experiences that are different from yours and some experiences that are shared – and this is no different for the TCK and mono-cultural citizens.”

Searching for Identity, and How to Find It
Explore Life Story
Dr Rachel Cason talks about a common TCK experience – “having multiple cultural identities”. She explains beautifully the underlying experience of adapting to others’ expectations, and suggests the important practices of “attuning to self” and self-expression in order to have a more mindful presence and find an authentic semse of self. Really helpful read for young adult TCKs in particular (which I obviously appreciate, given my current project!)
“The difficulty often lies with the ‘adapting at will’ bit of our skill set. At whose will do we adapt our presenting identity?…it is the needs of others that determines who we seem to be, rather than our own sense of who we are or who we want to be. When our identity is ‘other-need’ driven, it can feel precarious, ephemeral, inauthentic. We often carry a sense of ‘if they only knew’ into our social relationships, leaving us feeling insecure about the attachments people have to us. We doubt our relationships, holding them lightly, suspecting that they only love ‘this bit’ of us that they can see.”

Third Culture Kids Develop Valuable Career Skills
Cartus
For me, the title of this post is a little misleading. The core of this piece is the beautiful description of a young cross-cultural kid struggling with identity because of how others react to her blended reality.
“These are just a few examples of questions I was bombarded with by those who were so desperate for me to ‘choose a side’. I was quizzed by classmates, strangers, teachers, and even family members, who just could not fathom that I felt equal kinship with both places. I sincerely doubt that they knew that their interrogations were contributing to a slowly developing complex; “Where do I belong?” To be surrounded by people and yet not feel a particular affinity with any of them can be very challenging. For this reason, it is vital that we begin to see TCKs as bridges between cultures, windows into other worlds with which we are unfamiliar.”

“I’m not breaking my kids” and other things expats would like to say
The Culture Blend
I’ve seen this post by Jerry Jones popping up all over the expat-internet, and for good reason! Jerry gives a message to all the people living “at home” who have friends and family living abroad, sharing things expats wished they knew – with the proviso that not everything applies to everyone! There is so much good stuff here, I really do recommend you go and read the whole piece.
“This new place and these new people haven’t REPLACED anything – or anyone. It’s a different thing altogether but I like it, and I’m learning what it’s like to be home and miss home at the same time. And maybe you should know. I’ve changed.”

My name is not Nishihara
The Korea Times
Thought-provoking piece by TCK Olivia Han. In it she recounts an unexpected experience which helped her identify with her Korean heritage in a way she hadn’t previously.
“Born in Hong Kong, ethnically Korean, I was a U.S. citizen attending a Canadian international school with mostly Cantonese-speaking kids until we moved to Seoul in 2009. Strangely, it was only after moving to Seoul that I felt like I was not truly Korean. It was only after meeting “real” Koreans that I realized my Korean was tinged with a Western accent. I also did not feel a “oneness” with Korea, whereas in the past I always did.”

Traveling While Black Can Be Downright Bizarre
Daily Beast
A really interesting piece, especially after previous Recommended Reading about experiences of racism abroad. I won’t try to summarise, but here are some quotes to whet your appetite:

“Traveling while black is often disorienting or downright bizarre: My skin always adds another—other—layer to the experience… Even when I stand apart, I search for connections and commonalities. I do what I’ve always done—survive amidst cultural chaos. The floundering black girl forced to reinvent herself in dozens of different climates and cultures now does so assuredly, hoping to position herself—a good citizen of a global community.”

Reverse Culture Shock. Repatriation. Re-entry. Returning Home.
FIGT
Lindy Chapman shares a round up of simple but solid advice on returning to your passport country after time living elsewhere. Lots of practical advice, and acknowledgement of the potential pitfalls of these moves. A lot of this covers similar ground to my Six Tips for a Good Transition, so I definitely agree with it!
“unlike the grace period often allowed to adjust to life and work in a new land, the employee and relocation spouse typically feel pressure (real or perceived) to immediately perform at full capacity. So it’s important to be prepared (knowledge is power!) and understand that repatriation typically ignites a rollercoaster of emotions. From the excitement to return home to family and friends–to a surprising mix of sadness, alienation, disorientation…and a much slower than ever imagined readjustment to life back home that can lead to loneliness, fear, depression, and anxiety if not anticipated.”

Free counselling offered to help returning Irish emigrants
The Irish Times
And finally, a quick note of this excellent service being providing to repats in Ireland! The article has a few stats from a survey of 400 recent repats, which (unsurprisingly) found that repatriation was more difficult than expected, with 20% saying it was a significant challenge.

Recommended reading catchup: November 2018

Here is my second Recommended reading catchup – great posts from November 2018 I missed out on sharing with you while I was sick.

Capable of Complexity
A Life Overseas
In this wonderful post the fabulous Marilyn talks about the struggle many TCKs have to accept that life is, for everyone, a mixture – both good AND bad, both wonderful AND difficult. She also references Misunderstood which was a very touching shout out. This piece is full of stories and well-crafted words – very much worth the time to read and consider.
“It takes many missionary kids years to accept that their experience was a complicated, beautiful package of good and hard. Owning the hard feels like a betrayal. . .For years, all I could do was claim the positive…My childhood was perfect, thank you very much, and don’t even start with the negative. . .As Tanya Crossman points out so well in her book Misunderstood, the third culture kid narrative is a perspective and not a one-size-fits-all single story. Each TCK story contains things that are deeply painful and other things that are incredibly unique and joy-filled.”

Why Gratitude is the Best Answer for Difficult Expat Emotions
World Tree Coaching
Another great post from Jodi looking at the emotional side of life from a expatriate perspective. I love her mindful approach to gratitude – not to pretend that everything is okay when it isn’t, but to make a deliberate change in perspective that allows us to see good things alongside and in spite of the bad things. This also makes it a great companion to the piece by Marilyn I shared above.
“It’s not that by being grateful we suddenly erase the shittiness of bad things that happen. I strongly disagree with the idea that in our most difficult emotions we should simply apply a little gratitude and everything will be okay. What we can see, however, is that gratitude offers us the chance to see our experiences and our emotions in the context of the larger picture.”

Pillars and Bricks: The Values Clash of Expat Wanderers and the Homebodies Who Love Them
The Culture Blend
I wasn’t really paying attention to which blog I was reading when I came across this piece. I loved it so much, then realised – of course I do. It’s another piece by Jerry. Hah! Seriously though, this is a really sensitive and helpful look at different ways people build their lives – in one place, or in many places. Neither right or wrong, merely different, and capable of holding one another’s values. I see reflections of my own relatioship with my father. I’m sure many other expats will find helpful insights here as well.
“My father is a pillar. I am a brick. His values are pillar values. Find your plot and build. Commit. Plant roots… Set your pillar and build around it. He has never shown me anything but support and respect, but I don’t make sense to him. How could I? I’m a bricklayer. I moved away. Far away. To another country. Another continent. Another world. Then I moved again. And again. And again. And again, until I finally showed some sense and came home – and then moved again. One brick and then another. That doesn’t make sense – to a pillar.”

Old Things Made New
Weird Eyes
ATCK Karissa shares a poignant reflection of her relationship with a language she left behind – and yet is still part of her. She connects this to her background as a TCK, and the coping mechanisms she came up with while creating a life for herself settled in her passport country. I really relate to her description of familiarity with a language, the way it feels to connect with a language. Especially a language people don’t think of as belonging to you.
“I like the way Chinese sounds. Familiar, but also with infinite unexplored corners. I like picking it out in a crowd, like a code that most people can’t decipher…I like being able to speak a second tongue without effort, even if I rarely use it. Like an old locket that’s always around my neck, but hasn’t been opened in a long time. It’s like opening the door of your home after a long trip away, and recognizing its smell that you can’t decipher when you’ve been living in the midst of it…Maybe I can identify myself in a realm that encompasses more than loss of things I’ve loved.”

Talk Cities To Me
TCK Town
In this piece another ATCK, Molly, talks about seductive conversations – talking to men from different places, who have lived elsewhere, and that wonderful excitement and familiarity of spending time with someone who also doesn’t entirely fit. Really lovely read.
“He left too. Again my friends reminded me that I should focus on dating men who lived in this city. I reassured them that I wouldn’t catch feelings. I just enjoyed the conversations. I liked spending my evening talking with someone about places I’ve never been and swapping our best travel stories. I’ve fallen in love with Melbourne, London, Stockholm, San Francisco and more just from talking to these men.”

How to Avoid the Expat Bubble
Global Living Magazine
Some simple advice and warm encouragement to expats to engage with the local communities we live in. The comforts of expat life can be alluring – and they aren’t bad! But plugging into ordinary life is an important part of feeling at home wherever you find yourself.
“Take the time to understand the heritage of where you are living and explore the real city. When you have guests visiting, don’t just take them to see the tourist attractions. Show them the hidden gems that you’ve discovered. By doing this, it will start to feel more like home for you too. If you aren’t sure where to go or what to see, take a walk. Sometimes, just walking and exploring a neighbourhood is the best way to find your new favourite places.”

Zooming Out to Find Perspective
Velvet Ashes
This piece makes a good point about how we look at long term friendships, especially as expats. The author reflects that no, she doesn’t have friends she’s lived alongside forever, but she doesn’t have friends she’s shared life with, and maintained bonds with. She also makes a good point about the pace of building friendships, how it is different from place to place. This is something many expats struggle with after moving back into a less transient place.
“Now that I live in a small town, I’m surrounded by people who have been friends for years, and it can tempt me to feel lonely or out of place because I don’t have a friend that goes back years and years here. However, when I zoom out and see the rich friendships I carry with me from my time overseas, I see that I have a lot of great friendships, but they look different than those of the people around me.”

Reverse Culture Shock: What it’s like moving home
Melis Living
Speaking of moving ‘home’, I appreciated this post – one woman’s experience of reverse culture shock after a short spell (one year) living overseas. There’s lots of lovely little thoughts and comments throughout. And I totally relate to not knowing what side to walk on!!!
“You feel kinda confused all the time and do some stupid things. I often forget which side of the stairs or escalator to be on and end up getting in people’s way. . . Luckily moving home has had far more positives than negatives and overall I am so happy we are back. I can’t really explain the feeling but I literally am like a different person since we returned. I prioritise what matters, I don’t let people get to me as much and I just have this nice feeling of contentment and happiness! Moving abroad seriously does change your mindset.”

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 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.

Lessons from a Third Culture childhood, part 3: after “everyone leaves”

My first post in this series explored a “lesson” TCKs learn through growing up internationally: that everyone leaves. Next, I paused to address a very common response: “what about the internet?” The internet allows for relationships to be maintained long-distance, which is so very helpful! But it doesn’t actually solve the underlying problem.

Now in part three, I am finally (delayed due to a month of ill health) getting to the “solutions”. Only after we stop to really hear the sadness TCKs experience can we start talking about what happens after everyone leaves. With that foundation under us, I’m going to work through a few ideas that can be helpful for anyone dealing with the life lesson that “everyone leaves”. The bottom line is this: you can’t change the past, but you can choose what sort of future to build. Understanding what we think, and learning new ways of thinking, can make a huge difference in this regard.

Change, transition, and goodbyes

While the focus of this post is dealing with the aftermath – the life lesson encoded from a childhood full of goodbyes – it’s worth taking a moment to consider what to do in the thick of things. It’s important to understand the relationship between change and transition, and the impact transition has on our daily lives – whether we stay or go. Understanding this process, leaving space for it, and practicing self-compassion during it, goes a long way toward encouraging future healing and growth.

Saying good goodbyes is also really important. I’ll write a full post about this at some point, but as a summary thought – anything that matters (a person, animal, place, group) is worth saying goodbye to. Any relatiosnhip that will be changed, any routine that will be lost, is worth marking. There are lots of ways to do this (parties, gifts, memory books, photos, last visits, etc.) but it can also be an internal process. I can stop and recognise the importance of each person/place, expressing sadness and gratitude, any time – even after the fact, even years later, when a good goodbye was not said at the time. This is especially helpful when a family moves unexpectedly – for both the ones who leave, and the ones left behind.

Living “everyone leaves” long term

What I really want to focus on in this post is what to do later in life, when the lesson that “everyone leaves” has sunk in and affects the way I think and act. As I’ve listened to and mentored young adult TCKs in particular (especially as I start preparation for my next book) I’ve found a few tools that help us reframe our thoughts – and take control of the future. Taking time to consciously understand how these very valid past hurts impact our present-day reactions allows us to stop the past from stealing the future.

Saying goodbye sucks. Losing friends sucks. There’s no point sugar-coating that. The reality of change and loss can be painful, and it can’t be changed. The past is what it is. But staying in that place of pain, and the helplessness and hopelessness that often goes with it, doesn’t change the past. We must acknowledge the truth of our lives. But we don’t have to be ruled by it forever. We get to choose what happens next.

Sunk costs

In business there is a term for money you’ve already paid: a “sunk cost”. It is money you can’t get back. You’ve already paid the rent, bought the inventory, paid the salary – whatever it is, good decision or bad, it’s done. The question now has to be what is the best way forward, given that you can’t get the “sunk cost” back. This rule means that sometimes the best decision for a business is to sell old inventory at a loss – because that’s better that having it take up space in a warehouse. Let me use a mundane example to explain. Imagine you’re at a restaurant, and having eaten 3/4 of your meal you are feeling very full. Part of your brain is saying you should eat the rest because you’ve already paid for it! A “sunk cost” mentality says that you pay the same price for the meal no matter how much you eat, that the money is already spent. So, would you enjoy the meal more by stopping now, or by making yourself sick eating too much? Forget what you can’t change, and make the best decision starting from now. Perhaps you can take the small leftover portion home to be a snack later. But even if that’s not possible, eating it all in order not to leave waste may not be the best decision.

I’ve found sunk costs an extremely helpful concept in my personal life. Something has already happened in my life. I can’t change that. So what am I going to do about it? I don’t need to “fix” something that’s already happened. Blaming myself for a bad decision, or blaming someone else for causing me pain, doesn’t change the situation I find myself in. Instead, I can look ahead and decide what to do next.

When it comes to the “everyone leaves” lesson, we can’t change what has happened. We can only decide what is the best way forward, all things being as they are. Yes, I have experienced many goodbyes, and that hurt. But what sort of life do I want from now on? What choices will help me build that sort of future?

Change happens

Change is a part of life everywhere – you can’t insulate yourself against it, no matter what you do. You may decide you want to settle down in one place for the rest of your life, to minimise the potential for change and loss. But anywhere in the world, your best friend might choose to move away, perhaps without warning. No matter what you do, you can’t eliminate change. To be happy and healthy moving forward, therefore, you must find a way to cope with change.

Some people want to be the one who initiates change, so they are in control of it. They may move frequently, change jobs, or locations. One adult TCK told me that she had lived in the same town (with her husband and two kids) for six years, but in five different houses. Most of those moves happened simply because she wanted to move. She would find a better area, look for a better house. It took her years to realise she felt uncomfortable staying put for too long; when work kept them in one place, moving house helped soothe her itchy feet. Having recognised this, she wanted to try addressing the underlying feelings, but in the mean time she was pleased she had found a compromise that worked for her – that kept her living in the same city, not running away.

Another ATCK finds moving stressful, but still has a deep desire to see the world. So he and his wife travel frequently, but always come home to the same house.

I think the important part of this isn’t how I cope with change, but that I do cope with change. That I am able to face my feelings about change, and make conscious choices about how to respond to those feelings – not be controlled by fears I avoid. Each of us needs to acknowledge that change happens, and we can’t avoid that – but it doesn’t mean
we don’t have choices.

Pick your poison

Many TCKs I’ve talked with over the years have laid out the two choices they have: either go through the horrible pain of saying goodbye over and over, or don’t invest deeply in people to begin with. For many, avoiding deep relationships seems like the obvious and logical choice. The problem is that it’s not a choice between pain or no pain, it’s a choice between two different kinds of pain.

Yes, getting close to people only to have to say goodbye, over and over, is painful. But going through life without those close friendships, without people who know you, without anyone to share life with, is also painful.

So this is the real choice: either enjoy the beauty of friendship while you can, and pay the price in grief when someone moves away, or swap that sharp pain for the constant dull ache of feeling isolated and unknown. There is pain either way. But one path leads to relational connection – pain with gain. The other leads to isolation – a more lonely and sad kind of pain.

Faced with the reality of this choice, most of us instinctively understand the benefit of continuing to take the risk of investing in people.

And THIS is where the internet comes in

Maintaining friendships via the internet helps with a middle ground here. There is still the grief when a friend moves, or something happens and I’m not there in person. Tthere is still the ache of not sharing everyday life. And yet, an ongoing bond through different life circumstances (in different countries!) can be rich and rewarding. My own best friend and I have only spent two of our 13 years of friendship in the same country. We both travelled across oceans to be in each other’s weddings. We come from different passport countries but have each visited the other’s family home, met parents and siblings.

I’ve had to grieve the changes in our relationship many times. But each time, I knew it was worth continuing to invest in her, and in our friendship.

This is the bottom line: you can’t go back. you can only go forward. Take the time to acknowledge hurts and grieve losses – then move forward.  Make choices about where you want to go, and who you want to be, rather than what you want to avoid. Invest in people, even though it means investing in harder goodbyes. Work out what you want from life, and start building toward that.

You can’t change the past – but you can make choices about what happens next.

In part 4 of this series, I take on the second big lesson of a TCK childhood: “no one understands”.

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.