Monday, 25 June 2012

Dare To Be A Creative Third Culture Kid

I have a feeling that third culture kids are really creative. It's a feeling I have and when I checked a definition online it mentioned that TCKs often contribute to society as a whole in unique and creative ways. The word "creative" is mentioned here too!

Here's the definition of third culture kids as it is written on

"A TCK is an individual who, having spent a significant part of the developmental years in a culture other than that of their parents, develops a sense of relationship to both. These children of business executives, soldiers and sailors, diplomats, and missionaries who live abroad, become "culture-blended" persons who often contribute in unique and creative ways to society as a whole."

Why do I think third culture kids, or children who grew up overseas are so creative:
  • they think "out of the box"
  • they are flexible and adaptable
  • have a broader worldview
The free online dictionary says creative means:
1. Having the ability or power to create: Human beings are creative animals.
2. Productive; creating.
3. Characterized by originality and expressiveness; imaginative

Human beings are creative, well I would say third culture kids are creative, productive and characterized by originality and expressiveness. Even our existence is original, each third culture kid has such a unique story. We are characterized by originality. Creative people are characterized by sophisticated bending of the rules or conventions, and characterized by originality of thought. I must admit I often have original ideas.
Recently I read a post Shanghai's Calling You on Linda's blog: Adventures in Expat Land. She wrote about a contest that is being held, an expat story contest. There's a film that's called "Shanghai's Calling", I really want to see this film by the way. The contest is all about stories of things that happened abroad. When I read the post on Linda's blog I thought TCKs often have many stories too, sometimes they are hidden stories but now's your time to shine.

There's beauty in symmetry: The Worlds Within by DrieCulturen
This week I heard about a new Third Culture Kid Anthology of art and writing that is in the make. The call for submissions has started recently. The editor of the new book is Eva Laszlo-Herbert and the publisher is Jo Parfitt.

Any third culture kid between the age of 0 and 27 years old can submit art work or writing. The deadline for submission is 30th June 2013. If you are older than 27 you can submit writing too but you have to have been younger than 27 at the moment of writing.

The book will be called "The Worlds Within" an anthology of TCK art and writing: young, global and between cultures. So please share your hidden stories, your world within, by letting it out, sometimes healing comes within. This is a great opportunity for international schools to encourage their students to be creative. International school teachers I hope you challenge your students to participate.

Are you creative? Do you agree that third culture kids are creative? Any suggestions why they are so creative?

Related Posts:

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Winner of the Book "Home Keeps Moving" by Heidi Sand-Hart

Flowers remind me of Africa
Last week it was my blog's first birthday and to celebrate that there was an interview with third culture kid, and author Heidi Sand-Hart and there was a possibility to win a free signed copy of Heidi's book: Home Keeps Moving. I like the book because it is a nice first hand account of the life of a third culture kid and of the challenges that can be faced. I promised that I would let you know who has won the copy of the book. By the way I believe that if you promise something then you have to do what you promised, so here comes:

The winner of the signed copy of the book Home Keeps Moving is: Julia Munroe Martin!
Congratulations Julia, I hope you enjoy the reading the book, it will be coming your way soon.

I "met" Julia online through twitter. I really enjoyed the first article I read by Julia. It's called: Word-by-word, scene-by-scene, chapter-by chapter a guest post on Emma Pass's blog. What it's like being a Third Culture Kid? Julia is American, she was born in France and grew up in Kenya, Africa. I am impressed because there were so many comments on this guest post.

You should read this post by Julia too: The Stories a Picture Can't Tell. I'm so glad that there are more writers and bloggers out there writing about being a third culture kid. Raising the awareness, you know it excites me.

I have just discovered this guest post on Milliver's Travels by Julia: Summer vacations at my grandma's house, Poland, Ohio. Moving around frequently as a child, she had no place she could call home. The closest she ever felt home was with her grandmother at her house in Poland, Ohio, on the banks of the Yellow Creek. Julia paints pictures with her words and there are lovely photo's there too. I encourage you to read the post. Just like Julia the family farm where my grandparent's lived in Friesland, the Netherlands feels a little like home to me. It has been a place I can always come back to. So even though grandparents may live many miles away they can still be of great importance to children growing up globally. I recently posted a guest blog by Libby Stephen's on: Grandparenting over the Seas.

By the way I have to confess that to choose the winner I did it the old fashioned way. My daughter had fun drawing a name out of a hat. She was excited about that. Thank you all for adding comments and joining in the competition. Thank you all for reading my blog, I am so happy that there are people reading what I write. Thank you Heidi for donating the book. As Heidi said if you did not win a signed copy you can buy a copy of the book and she will sign it for you! So the book written by adult third culture kid Heidi has been won by another author who is an adult third culture kid too! What fun. Lets keep on writing and telling the world the hidden stories within us.

Related Posts:

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Guest blog: Grandparenting Over The Seas by Libby Stephens

Libby Stephens is a third culture kid consultant who is passionate about third culture kids and works with them, their parents, teachers at international schools. She is committed to using her expertise in supporting organizations and schools, and empowering individuals worldwide. Check her website for more information. You can follow Libby on twitter too: @Libby_Stephens. I read this article on Libby's blog and I asked her if I could share it with you. Thank you Libby for such useful information in this internet age.

Third Culture Kids
One of the risks of living internationally with young children is that your child may not develop a close relationship with his/her grandparents. Your parents will never forget they have grandchildren, but it is possible that your children forget they have grandparents. But it is only a risk. It does not have to be so. Being relationally close while geographically distant is definitely possible if planned with thought and intentionality.
Here are some reasons why it's good for your Third Culture Kid to have a close relationship with grandma and grandpa:

1. “Stories” are the language of TCKs so it is important they hear some of those stories. As parents we often don’t tell stories about our own lives growing up. That task often falls to extended family members…especially to grandparents.

2. When grandparents make attempts to get to know their grandchild even while living far apart, there is a unique foundation of relationship that begins. When the child goes “home” he now has someone who accepts him, loves him. This is especially critical for TCKs because being with extended family can sometimes be the most difficult. In this way, grandma and grandpa’s house can become an oasis. It often gives them something to look forward to when they return to your passport country.

3. It gives them exposure to older people. When I was working at an international school my father, a biochemist and microbiologist, came to my school after retirement and taught AP classes in science. He was a quiet man, but the students lined up to talk to “Doc”. I asked a group of students one day why they liked Doc. “He’s old. He’s wise. He is history. I think he must be like my granddad.” They would say. Because many TCKs are in the international community for much of their growing up years they do not have the opportunity to get to know older adults.

4. Having grandparents provides a relational root that is connected to time and history. It helps them develop a sense of relational history. Since a TCK’s sense of rootedness is in relationships rather than in geography, it becomes all the more important that  relationships with extended family and most especially grandparents be strong. Parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, great grandparents give the TCK a family line he belongs to. Not just by blood, but in relationship.
Here are just a few ideas for grandparents to help them develop emotional closeness while they are far apart from their TCK grandchildren.

1. Skype…Grandchildren need to see grandparents because keeping the children current on what grandparents look like is very important. Though some children may actually get to be with grandparents in the summer months, I don’t think that is enough. It’s important that children see their grandparents age. There can be a lot of physical change in children and grandparents in one year. Remember, young children keep the last image they saw of the person as what he/she is supposed to look like.

2. Create a CD…As parents we often make videos of our children and send them to grandparents, but I would like to suggest that it happen the other way around. Oh yes, continue to send those videos to grandma, but encourage her to make one for your child. I know of one grandmother who set the camera on record and made a CD of herself reading bedtime stories to her grand children. She would read a little, then turn the book around to show the pictures as if her grand children were right in front of her. Just think how magical that was to those kids.

3. Photos…on the computer to be printed by you or sent via mail…it doesn’t matter. Just ask your parents to do this - and often! This is a tangible thing that can be put by a bed, in the living room, or at the dinner table when there is a special occasion and you want your child to remember your parents. It keeps grandparents present.

4. Emails…Quick little updates especially for your child! Kids love getting mail. And getting mail from grandparents is especially good. If your children are teens, ask your parents to send them text messages. Short texts at spontaneous times does wonders for a relationship. The teen doesn’t forget grandpa is there, and he sees grandpa as cool because he knows how to text!

5. Hand written letters...Sadly this doesn’t happen much anymore. I know a TCK who was in boarding school who said he got a hand written letter every week from his dad! I asked how much that meant to him and he said, “Well let me put it this way, to this day I have never thrown even one away”. Do grandparents need to send a hand written letter every week? No. Actually I would vote against it. Emails or Skype every week, I love it, but not the hand written letter. Save this medium for special occasions…first day of school,  her first date, a proud moment, or a treasure of truth that a grandparent may want to tell his grandchild.

6. Gifts…this is a tricky one. Everyone loves gifts and grandchildren know the best gift givers are grandparents. Here is the tricky part. Mom and Dad, it is your responsibility to keep this under control. It is so important for your children not to view grandparents as gift machines…putting money in every envelope, giving them everything they want when they visit. Balance is the key. Otherwise there is no real opportunity for real depth to grow in their relationship. It becomes all about the presents.

7. Play games together online…Yes, I really do mean this! There are so many games online that require multiple players and it doesn’t matter where you are. Time zones might be an issue, but I say it’s worth it.  Think about how they would get to know each other and what memories are being made!  Trust me, when they see each other face to face, there will be plenty to talk about and a great way to start conversation.

8. Tell stories …You as parents need to tell stories about your parents to your children: “I remember when your grandfather…” Family, history, roots are important! But it cannot stop there. Grandma and grandpa must tell stories too, about you, about their own childhood, about the child himself, from grandma’s perspective.

9. Watch a video or cartoon together…why not do this via SKYPE! The share screen option means the grandkids and grandparents can watch the same move at the same time, while both are eating popcorn! These make wonderful MEMORIES and a great story to tell.

10. Visit the child’s world…I cannot close this blog without mentioning this tip for forming close relationships between TCKs and grandparents. I know often we live in places where when on holiday, we just want to get away. But please do consider once in a while flipping the trip. Bring the grandparents over to you. They will see that though you may be living in a difficult place, your family is fine. More importantly, your parents have entered your child’s world. When that happens something unexplainable happens. There are new conversations. There are shared memories in your child’s land. And your parents will begin to understand the vocabulary of your child’s life.

What about you? How have you ensured that your parents stay emotionally close to your children when they are geographically so far apart?
Looking forward to your thoughts and ideas,

PS: Of course, it’s up to you as parents to make these things happen. Explain to your own parents why it is so important for you, the kids and for them.
Photo by JDurham, Morgue File

Related Posts:

Monday, 11 June 2012

It's my blog's birthday! Let's celebrate with a giveaway and interview with Heidi Sand-Hart

A year ago I started writing this DrieCulturen blog. To celebrate this first birthday author Heidi Sand-Hart has agreed to an interview and has donated a signed copy of her book "Home Keeps Moving". Thank you so much Heidi. To participate in the giveaway leave a comment on this post (with your email or some way so that I can get in contact with you). Heidi her blog is: You can follow Heidi on twitter: @HomeKeepsMoving

1. In which countries did you live as a child and what age were you at the time?
England - born and lived off an on until I was 16, India - age 5 (off and on) until I was 18, Norway - 15-17 years old.

2. What was the reason that you were living abroad? If it was work, what kind of work did your parents do?
My parents were missionaries so that is the reason we lived between India and England all the time, for durations of 8 months - 2 years. My mother started 2 orphanages in South India for unwanted girls and my father taught but also researched different tribal groups.

3. Please tell us about your book "Home Keeps Moving". How old were you when you wrote the book?
“Home Keeps Moving” tells the story of growing up in many worlds due to moving frequently throughout my childhood. It gives a lot of insight into the many struggles and challenges that “Third Culture Kids” face with constantly leaving friends, homes and their familiar surroundings – of those trying to grasp an understanding of who they are and how they fit into their current society. I actually started writing "Home Keeps Moving" over years ten ago when I was 19 years old but realised the task was too overwhelming at the time. As I’ve gotten older, I have realised how exciting, colourful and unique my own childhood was and I wanted to share that with others.

4. Many people want to write a book someday, but you did it! Who was your inspiration and what was the key to your success?
I was inspired to write a book when I discovered there were hardly any personal accounts of growing up as a "Third Culture Kid" out there. There is the TCK bible (as it's referred to) but not a lot which actually tells the story first hand of constantly moving, adapting, transitioning…leaving friends, houses, pets, schools and starting all over again. I realised as I entered my early 20s how much my unusual upbringing had moulded me and wanted to reach out to others in the same place. I also hoped the book would be insightful to people from conventional backgrounds and can be used as a tool to understand their TCK friends/colleagues/spouses better. As for who inspired me to write it…conversations with my brother were the catalyst but I just had a desire within that wouldn't fade away so ten years down the line, I picked it up and gave it another go!

5. What's your advice for other TCKs or for anyone wanting to write a book?
Stick with it until the end! It seems like everyone has started writing a book at some stage of their lives but not many people complete them. It is tough going at times but make sure you surround yourself with supportive people and keep giving yourself goals to achieve.

6. Do you have any interesting new projects and the moment?
I do have one potential project in the pipeline at the moment but it isn't confirmed so I can't say too much. If it comes off, it will combine my passions - writing, travelling and orphanages -- so it would be a dream come true! Stay tuned to my blog for updates. :)

7. What did you most like about growing up abroad?
I loved spending so much of my childhood in India…a culture so completely opposite to my European heritage. It's colour, vibrancy, smells and smiles were captivating and I loved all the travelling and tropical holidays we had there. I loved the chaos and freedom…as a child, it felt like you could do anything since it's not ruled by laws like Northern Europe.

a) What was most difficult?
I suppose missing friends in England was the hardest thing and I remember missing sweets and food but we adapted quickly and had a rich life in India in different ways.

b) How did living abroad influence your choice of career or study?
Living in India and seeing the value of my mum's work (orphanages) birthed in me the desire to do something similar with my life. It seemed that all around me people had made unconventional choices with their lives and it gave me the boldness to not do traditional further education (university) but pursue my dreams instead.

c) Can you say something about your social network? In how many countries do you have friends?
Good Lord, that's a great question…one that I can't answer though! It must be close to a hundred countries for sure but don't hold me to that! Social networking sites (such as Facebook) have really helped me stay connected to dear friends around the world. It makes them feel closer even though I rarely get to see them in person.

d) Which languages do you speak? Do you have advice on learning languages for families living abroad now?
I speak English and Norwegian (limited) and a small mishmash of other languages. I studied French and German at school but unless you immerse yourself in the language, I don't think it sticks for as long. Growing up as a TCK is definitely the best opportunity to jump leaps ahead with languages…it's a great advantage.

e) When and where did you first hear of the term “third culture kid (TCK)? How did you hear of it and in which way did it help you?
I first heard the term "Third Culture Kid" as a 16 year old when I was living in India. My cousin had sent an article (by David Pollock) to my parents and it suddenly jumped out at me. I was extremely excited to know I belonged to this tribe and felt proud of my upbringing.

f) Do you have advice for TCKs or adult third culture kids (ATCK)?
Read as much as you can about TCKs so you can understand yourself better -- connect with other TCKs either in person or online and begin to process the results of your upbringing. Deal with any unresolved anger or bitterness you may have as a result because it will eat you up after a while. And focus on the many positives that such a diverse life has - embrace the uniqueness.

g) What characteristics have you developed or do you think you have developed because of growing up abroad?
A deep love and passion for travel and different cultures. I have a travel bug that can never be eradicated…the more I see, the more I realise there is to see. I love seeing and recognising the positives in both the European and Asian ways of life despite being opposite. The world isn't rigid, there is no right or wrong. We are just the result of the bubble we grew up in and luckily, my bubbles are many and large. TCKs generally have cultural awareness and can pick accents easily!   
h) Are there things related to growing up abroad that are difficult for you to this day?
I constantly miss the other side…the grass is always greener and when I'm in London, I constantly dream of being in Asia. When I've been there for a while, I usually romanticise London! The hardest thing is always having a part of you missing…

i) How was it to return to your “home country” (passport country)?
This one's tricky because my passport growing up was Norwegian but I was born in England and hadn't lived in Norway until I was 16. When I did move to Norway though as a teenager, it was a huge shock and very difficult time for me. I didn't fit in at all and actually wanted people to think I was English! I talk a lot about this in the book so I will leave it at that…

j) With which countries do you feel a bond? Where’s home?
The strongest bonds for me are definitely with India and England. Despite my parents both being Scandinavian (Finnish/Norwegian), I have never had an affinity with either of their countries because we didn't spend much time in either of them when I was a child. It was just summer holidays and we always thought upon England or India as "home". India lives in my blood, constantly calling me back. And England…it's the country of my birth, most of my early childhood memories and bonds occurred there and I have chosen to bond with it. I understand how everything works…the humour, the system, the people, the transport…but deep down, I still know that I'll never truly fit in. That's why I love London…it is so multicultural and you can be from anywhere in the world yet be accepted as a Londoner. For now, it's "home".

To participate in the giveaway leave a comment on this post (with your email or some way so that I can get in contact with you). The winner will be randomly selected. The deadline is Tuesday 19th of June 2012. The winner will be announced on Wednesday the 20th of June 2012. The competition is now closed. The winner of the book is: Julia Munroe Martin! Congratulations.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Most Difficult Transition For Third Culture Kids

Today I was reading a post on a new blog called La Vie Overseas. It's a nice blog about expat life as a foreign service wife. The post that attracted my attention is called Raising Third Culture Children: the other side. The post is an interview with an adult who grew up in a foreign service family. What struck me most was the answer to the question "I what place did you experience the biggest culture shock?" Now the Adult third culture kid had lived in several different countries: Jerusalem, Ankara, Falls Church (VA), Islamabad, Cairo, and Tel Aviv. The answer was that going to college in Virginia was by far the most difficult. It was actually pretty easy to adjust to all the other countries.

Home: where the tulips grow? By DrieCulturen
Wow! It sounds just like my story. When I was a child and later as a teenager our family moved several times, within cities, within countries and within the African continent. I cannot remember being really sad about leaving every time. It was a way of life, many families around us led the same kind of life. The big shock came when I went to university in the Netherlands. The rest of our family stayed in Africa so it was out on my own this time. I have written about it in an earlier post: Cultural identity confusion and the third culture kids. All my life in Africa I had felt Dutch and now being in the Netherlands all of a sudden I was not like the other Dutch university students. We did not think alike, we did not feel alike, I had completely different associations with certain things. The worst part was that no one had prepared me for this "culture shock". We can all have a "pity me" party now but that will not help. I just hope that there are people out there: parents, teachers, therapists, friends and family who are preparing teenagers for their return to their "home" country or for the transition to college or university. Let's raise the awareness about the challenges these youngsters face. From the comments on this blog I can see that there are many more like me who would have liked a little more help, a little more preparation, a little more support. It's such a lonely road to walk.

Luckily there is some information available on this subject:
  1. A Third Culture Kid's Guide to college: it's at DenizenMag an online magazine
  2. The book "The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition" by Tina Quick. It's a useful book and I wish it had been written when I went to university.
  3. My earlier post "Third Culture Kids going to university"
  4. "The 10 Things every global nomad needs to know before leaving for university" found on the website International Family Transitions.
Please share your thoughts on this subject. Do you know of any useful resources for preparing teenagers to return to their "home"country?

Related posts: