Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Book review of the new book "Expat Teens Talk"

The book Expat Teens Talk has just been published and it is written by Lisa Pittman, a practicing psychologist and Diana Smit an educational therapist. It is forwarded by Ruth van Reken, co-author of the famous book "Third Culture kids, Growing up Among Worlds".

The power of the book is that it gives expat teens a voice.

"Being an expat teen is bittersweet; You're exposed to so many amazing people and places, but there are very few others who really understand what you have experienced".

"Moving around the world helps me to appreciate all the different cultures of the people I meet". 

"I find it difficult to constantly say goodbye"

The book is written for the teens, their parents and for professionals (teachers, therapists, doctors) too. As far as I know there is no book like this one available on this topic. The teenage years are considered to be the most challenging time in one's life and if during this time international moves are made it can be a confusing and difficult time. If the teenagers struggle it usually affects the whole family.

In the first part of the book there is advice from peers, parents and professionals on each subject. At the end of each chapter there is the possibility to write down personal reflections. The youngsters that give advice have been there and they know what other teenagers who move internationally go through. Being an expat teen you can often feel "the odd one out" (I know all about it), you think you're the only one not knowing how to behave (sticking out like a sore thumb), how to dress for a certain occasion or how to act. The great thing about this new book is that expat teens discover that they are not the only ones going through these transitions. They are not the only ones experiencing all these confusing emotions. That "aha" moment can help heal the pain of the teen's heart.

These subjects are tackled: the challenges of moving, sex, drugs and alcohol, stress and worry about school grades, and what happens after expat teen life. This is a down to earth, practical book. The authors have chosen to use the word "expat teens" but these teenagers can also be called third culture kids. I would have liked to see more internet links in the book. I think our expat teens are on the internet a great deal of the time and it would have added value to this book if there would have been more suggestions on where to find information on the internet. I wish this book had existed when I made my transitions during by teenage years.

If you are interested in reading more, you can read an interview with the authors of the book "Expat Teens Talk".
Find "Expat Teens Talk" on twitter @Expatteenstalk
Expat Teens Talk blog
Are you a teen and do you want to talk about your expat experience? You can fill a questionnaire in here. Number of pages: 183 pages
Published by Summertime Publishing

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It can be lonely

Image by Gladtobeout Morgue file

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Ice skating fever and third culture kids

We nearly had an Elfstedentocht this weekend! It is also called the Eleven cities tour on ice skates. There was excitement in the air and in the Dutch media as due to the cold winter weather there was a possibility that the race would take place. Our hopes were high. Even the Huffington post made mention of the possibility of the Elfstedentocht. I discovered that Tommy wrote on his blog Micro Adventures all about the Elfstedentocht in English. Nearly everyone was talking about the race and the newspapers were full of articles all about it: there is ice skating fever in the air.

You need to skate nearly 200 kilometres in one day to gain the "Elfstedenkruisje", this small medal shown on the photo. The race takes place in Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands and that is where my father comes from. I can proudly say that my grandfather and an uncle of mine have in the past completed this race and have the medal.

It is 15 years ago that the ice was thick enough for the race to take place. So our hopes were high but we were disappointed as the officials declared that the ice was still too thin. Aledys Ver writes about it on her blog. Now we need a way to handle our disappointment. Thousands of Dutch people put on there ice skates today and skated on one of the many channels or rivers, just like I did.

Photo taken 11.02.12 by Janneke @DrieCulturen the Netherlands
Young and old were on the ice. I saw young kids courageously attempting to master the art of ice skating. Falling and being helped up by their parents. These kids were three or four years old. It reminds me of my first time on ice skates. I was twelve or thirteen years old at the time. Way older than all the other Dutch kids who were great ice skaters while I was just starting my learning process. That's what happens when you are a third culture kid and you grow up on the warm African continent.

We did come on leave to the Netherlands every two or three years but we usually came back on leave in the summer. It was more practical to come back to the Netherlands in the summertime because we did not have any winter clothes. 

One thing I am glad about is that I did learn to ice skate. I did not give up, I did not give in. Sometimes our learning process is different as third culture kids but we get there in the end and that's what counts! Life is all about learning so just as those kids on the ice fell down and got up again let's do the same. After failing and falling, just get up, dust off the cold snow or ice and try again.

Photo taken 8.02.12 near Amsterdam by Janneke @DrieCulturen
Were there things you learned at another age than kids around you because you were a third culture kid? Maybe you are raising third culture kids, do they have a different learning process than other kids?

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Sunday, 5 February 2012

Re-entry into your passport culture

I just listened to an online program by MemberCareRadio and I was impressed. I discovered that there is lots to listen to about the process of re-entry. I listened to Marion Knell being interviewed on the subject of third culture kids and re-entry into their passport culture. Marion is author of the book "Families on the Move - growing up overseas and loving it". More recently she wrote the book "Burn up or Splash down: Surviving the Culture Shock of Re-entry". What I heard makes me want to buy both books.

You probably know that I was a third culture kid entering into the Netherlands after having been born and bred in Africa. You can read more of my story here. I actually only just survived the culture shock at the time. It certainly was an emotional roller coaster, but the worst part of it all was that I did not know what was wrong with me. Apparently it helps to have access to some information before returning to your passport culture. This can be through a debriefing, from books or by talking to people who have gone that path before. Looking back I had none of these. No debriefing, no books on the subject and nobody I knew who had gone the path before me. Sometimes we third culture kids wander down lonely roads.

Marion Knell gives third culture kids 4 tips to process their emotions when re-entering (or entering your passport culture). The 4 "P"s:
  1. Permission to express your feelings
  2. Permission to feel pain
  3. Pathways to say goodbye, saying good "goodbyes"
  4. People to share your experiences with, people who are interested in your stories.
I remember that I had one friend during my university days who was really interested in hearing my stories. She asked many questions. Where did you live? What kind of house did you live in? What was your school like? What did you do in your free time? We spent hours talking while we went cycling, walking on the beach or just while drinking a cup of tea at home. During our conversations we traveled the globe. We walked down memory lane. It was heart warming.

I hope you meet people interested in your stories. Remember not everyone is interested in your stories, but that does not matter. Just don't give up telling them but find somebody who wants to listen. Joining an international students society can help because there the chances are greater that you meet others whom you can relate to and who have stories like yours. Do you have any suggestions that can help third culture kids when returning to their passport culture? Please share them.

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