Tuesday, 8 November 2011

My 10 disadvantages of growing up in another culture

Photo by Anita Patterson Morgue file
The last post was My 10 advantages of growing up in another culture. This week it is about the disadvantages of growing up in another culture. I do think the advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages but the are real challenges when you grow up cross-culturally and when you relocate as a child many times, like my family did when I was growing up. In this blog post you can read how many times I moved as a child. Here are my tips when moving with kids.

So here are my 10 disadvantages:
  1. Having had to move often.
  2. Saying "good-bye" many times. I remember my parents used to tell friends and family that they preferred everyone to say "hello" to us and welcome us back to Holland at Schiphol international airport than that they would wave us goodbye. Maybe they found saying "good-bye" difficult too?
  3. Being far away from family and friends. I found this great blog post by Libby Stephens Grandparenting over the seas. Some good advice, worth reading. I grew in the age before email and skype. Communicating is a lot easier these days.
  4. Not knowing where "home" is.
  5. Not knowing the geography of my passport country. I never had geography of the Netherlands. When I had geography in Zimbabwe it was mainly "African" geography.
  6. Not knowing certain popular TV shows, songs etc.
  7. Having a kind of restlessness. I need new challenges and changes. I even find it difficult spend time at home during a holiday period.
  8. Preferring not to change my email address or telephone number if it is not absolutely necessary. In this I prefer to keep the same email address for ever if possible.Making it easier to stay in contact with old acquaintances?
  9. I have some language difficulty (with Dutch), I attended international and local schools, this was all in English. We had some extra Dutch lessons but I don't feel very confident in writing Dutch.
  10. Not knowing all the Dutch sayings.
On the internet I came across The 10 Lifestyle habits of third culture kids. It gives insight into the life lived by third culture kids and the kind of baggage you are left with as a result of you experiences.

"Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven."  ~Tryon Edwards

I don't think the list of disadvantages is complete but for now it is fine like this. What disadvantages do you experience or did you experience?

Related posts:


  1. I left South Africa when I was 6 and grew up in China and Japan. I now study in a university in the UK. I feel so alone here and don't have any really good friends like I did when I was in international schools. I don't come across a lot of people like me these days, and I don't really know how to relate to non-TCKs.

    Also, I'm a bit of a pessimist because I'm always thinking about the end instead of enjoying the here and now. I've been told this is because I've said goodbye to friends so many times.

    And I agree with your restlessness. I want to leave the UK as soon as possible. I don't like living in a country that speaks English. I'd rather move back to somewhere in Asia.

  2. Dani thank you for commenting on the blog. Through your words I feel your pain. I'm so sorry. I remember feeling terribly lonely when I started at university here in the Netherlands (coming from Zimbabwe). Don't give up on friendships, do try to make them with non TCKs and if possible with TCKs. Are there no TCK groups in the UK that you know of? Maybe through TCKid.com?
    Have you read the book "Third culture kids, growing up among worlds" by David Pollock and Ruth van Reken? Or the book "A Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition" by Tina Quick. The first one really helped me and the 2nd one was published recently but is worth reading!
    The problem with the restlessness is that even after moving it's still there. Have you been back to Asia? It's also possible to idolize living in Asia.
    These things are tough to deal with....

  3. Thanks for the good list...I am going to post it on the "raising TCKs" facebook page. I think it would be good for parents to read over your list of advantages and disadvantages and think through how to help kids transitions. Thanks for your honesty.

  4. Thanks for posting this on your facebook page. I would really appreciate it if parents at least spend some time thinking about the consequences of their choices. Please let your kids talk about the positive and the negative things they come across in their mobile life.

  5. I just saw this post and totally can identify especially with the fact that I feel restless when I go home to Croatia and dont know a lot of the pop culture the expressions, sonsgs...I had to catch up with it all when I went home in the summer.
    I am ashamed to admit I got on the wrong train in Croatia from the capital to my hometown...had to change trains and double back... I got the geograpy wrong, just like you:)

  6. Thanks for the comment Zvezdana. I'm glad you can identify with this list. I actually found it a relief to discover that my restlessness had to do with the many changes I had faced in my life and that it was not part of my personality. Now it's up to me to find a way to deal with it. Any advice?
    Just like you there is a gap in my knowledge of pop stars, TV shows etc and with some of these things it is just really difficult to catch up. I have given up in that area.
    The geography can be a challenge, though I know exactly where Mutare is in Zimbabwe, but that is not very useful information now.

  7. Well said, so many TCKs' lists hold similar items. I agree that expat parents really ought to spend some time discussing with and helping to prepare their TCKs for dealing with the impact of these developments. Just as technology helps make it easier to stay in touch globally, it also provides information. Your site helps get the word out, which is important. Thank you

  8. My passport country is France, and my English is *way* better than my French, to the point where I refused to even speak French for a long time. Pop culture references? I'm still trying to hold on to what I learned when I lived there in the 90s. A Finnish friend of mine had to clue me in as to what was going on in France (he mentioned some pop culture stuff in passing, wasn't even showing off, it just came up). I think we both got a good laugh out of it.

    When I wanted to do an English degree in France, I failed the entrance exam based on the French portion of it. The irony of it is, since my name is so typically French, they said that my English wasn't good enough.

    Same thing about the email, I won't change mine either if I can help it. And I'll always have a regular place I can hang out at, no matter where I am. I don't care how often I change apartments or where I get my mail delivered to. But if I don't have a regular café or bar I can hang out, I don't really feel like I belong.

    I think it's also that we automatically adapt before we even think about it, it just comes naturally. Then, when someone makes a really weird comment, or something triggers the thinking process, we've been easing ourselves into the culture for so long, it's second nature to us. That critical voice a lot of people have, hasn't been turned on as early as for some others. On the "darker" side, maybe creativity is the only outlet for when things can't be explained to others, either because they've always been in the same place all of their lives, or they can't relate for other reasons. So you either retreat into your own shell, or else you try and come up with creative ways on how to communicate all that you're feeling. Never mind all that travel, I think you learn pretty quickly how to come up with interesting ways to make long hours less boring.

    Just discovered your blog this minute, so belated hi and I have a feeling I'll really like it here.

    P.S. I can never figure out how to comment using my blog on blogspot (have the same problem with a friend of mine), and since I don't want to be Ms. Anonymous, here's the url:


  9. Thanks for this post, certainly strikes a chord (actually, several chords!) with me. Well-put.
    Kind regards,

  10. Thanks Linda, Helsinki Lives and Susie for stopping by. At least I'm not the only one who does not want to change change their email address. Just knowing your not alone helps at times. I wish I had known that I was not the only one feeling all those confusing feelings when I came from Zimbabwe and started university here in the Netherlands. Typical TCK feelings.