Category Archives: TCK

One TCK’s (Third Culture Kid) experience with friendships

by Joyce Yeh

Today I would like to share with you an example of how challenging it can be to GirlsJumpinggrow up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK). I remembered when I was 13, one day, I learned that my whole family was about to move to another country again after 3.5 years back in our home country Taiwan. That day, while in school, I said to my best friend:

“Hey, I won’t be here already next semester “

In my head, I thought “Haha, I don’t have to be with you all the time anymore! I’m so looking forward to meeting new friends in another country.” Yet, I remember very clearly the sudden sadness on her face. She did not want me to leave at all. At that age, I did not give it much thought. All I could think of back then was how much fun it was to move around from country to country. Fast forward to more than 10 years and we are still in contact with each other.

However, over the years, we have met new friends, formed new perspectives, led on different lifestyles. There is no one to blame. Over the years living overseas, moving from place to place, I take it less seriously now that it is not easy to expect friendships to last for eternity. However, it took years for this feeling and acceptance of being a TCK to come and embrace me.

What about you? What has been your experience with friendships and being a TCK?

Joyce is a young Chinese TCK writer who talks about Chinese cultural misunderstandings, doubts and confrontations in daily life at
www.theculturalfrontier.wordpress.com

How to help your kids get excited about a move in 10 minutes

If it’s difficult for us, adults, to move from place to place starting over and over again – it’s paramount for kids.  Especially the kids whose ages thrust them somewhere between “I’ll miss my grandparents!!!” and “I cannot live without my friends!!!” sentiments.

So what are we to do to help those kids? Sharing information about the impending destination and communicating throughout the process will, of course, help, but how do we get them really excited about the move?

Here is a fun exercise you can do with your children to help them move from sadness to excitement in about 10 minutes:

(1) Get a sheet of paper, write “Moving to _____ “ on top, and divide it into 2 columns.

(2) Title the left column “Bad things about moving to_____” and title the right column “Good things about moving to _____”.

(3) Ask them to come up with the “bad things” first.  Write down everything they say and make sure not to offer your own opinions.

(4) After they are done, ask them to come up with the “good things”.  Again, stay clear of imposing your “good things” on them and instead listen for their ideas and write each one of them down.  This part works really well if you have already spoken with your child about your destination and things you can all enjoy there.

(5) After both columns are done, rate each thing you wrote on a scale of 1 to 10: 10 being “how bad that thing is” for the left column and “how good that thing is” for the right column (and 1 being the reverse).

Example:

“Bad things” about moving to ______ “Good things” about moving to ______
Leave grandparents (10) New adventures (10)
Leave school (6) Learn a new language (7)
Leave local TV (3) See snow (8)

(6) Sum up the numbers.  If you did your sharing and communicating throughout the process, your child will come up with a lot more “good” things than “bad” things and you’ll be able to point out how high their satisfaction is with the move as opposed to their dissatisfaction using the numbers.

(7) Hang the list in your child’s room until the move and remind your child that they can always look at it when they feel particularly sad.

Leave a comment letting us know how it went for you!

For another kid-friendly exercise that can help your children adjust in a new country, download our Adjustment Guide E-course – on online self-taught course that provides tools on how best to manage the effects of adjusting to another culture.

Also, enrollment is now open for May 1 start of the Expat Women Academy. a one of a kind program that provides expat women with strategies to overcome expatriate challenges.  Join us for a FREE webinar to learn more about it here.

Why Study Abroad?

Guest post by Anthony Garcia

Study abroad is an experience that can greatly enrich any student’s education. Like any opportunity, however, it is important to make sure that you get the most out of it. If you are traveling solo for research, or in a group of students from your university, it is up to you to make sure your trip is the best it can be. Determining what you want out of your study abroad trip and considering cost and location can help you do just that.

Not only does studying abroad make it significantly easier to learn a foreign language and gain fluency, but travel will immerse students in the culture of their location, broadening their horizons and teaching them in ways that a classroom setting cannot. The benefits of study abroad are long-lasting and widely-recognized. In 2006, the U.S. Senate published a resolution to support study abroad programs in the U.S. educational system, citing the need for a larger population of globally-aware American citizens. Time abroad helps students make connections outside their comfort zone, improving cultural awareness and independence. Practically, students who travel learn the leadership skills vital to success.

So long as the location and program are appropriate to the individual person, study abroad can benefit those who are in college, high school, or even younger. Deciding which study abroad program is right takes some investigation.

First, it’s important to make sure you are working with a reputable company. Those run by colleges and universities are typically a safe bet, while there are many privately-owned companies that specialize in sending students abroad. Another option is to enroll directly in a school overseas, but that takes more research and may not be possible in all locations.

Whatever company or organization you decide to work with, make sure you do the research thoroughly ahead of time. The company should hold up well to scrutiny and be able to answer any and all questions you have. They should be exceptionally knowledgeable about the countries they send students to and should be able to help you apply for a passport and student visas. The company should also direct you to any health precautions you should take before leaving, such as vaccinations and travel insurance.

Once you’ve found a company or program you want to work with, it’s time to decide where you want to go and why. What do you want to study? Art, politics, science, history, languages? Would you be more comfortable in an urban area or can you handle being in the country? How long do you want to be gone? What can you afford to do?

It is also important to consider the history of the place. Cultural and political history can give you a host of possibilities for study, but it may also place some challenges on studying abroad. These challenges can be positive ones, such as language and cultural differences, but learning about those differences will help you be comfortable once you get to your destination. Staying open to learning new aspects of history and global issues will also help you make the best of your trip overseas.

There are many scholarships and grants available to students for studying abroad, but they may not cover everything, including the costs of passports, visas, transportation, and food. If you can afford a set program cost on your own, you need to double-check what it will cover and budget accordingly. Costs will depend on where you go and how long you stay, but talking to other students who have been on the planned trip can help you get an idea of what extra money you might need.

No matter what it might cost you or what hoops you have to jump through, the benefits of studying abroad are well worth it. Both tangible and intangible, these benefits will last students a lifetime. Studying abroad is a truly enriching experience for any student.

About Anthony: Anthony recently completed his graduate education in English Literature. A New Mexico native, he currently resides and writes in Seattle, Washington. He writes primarily about education, travel, literature, and American culture.  He also writes for Online Graduate Programs.

Parenting, education and culture – a big mix

Yesterday I remembered Amy Chua and her now infamous book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  My daughter started middle school and her assessment scores for courses’ placement didn’t turn out to be as high as we expected.  Aside from questions on where that would take her in the process of learning and how it would affect her own self-esteem, I was suddenly faced with questions of my own… like:

  • “What the &^$%$!”
  • “She’s always been a stellar student, what’s going on here?”
  • “How can she score worse than before – and worse than the other kids?”
  • Etc, Etc, Etc…

And as I mulled it over, feeling embarrassed, let down, bitter, and confused, I noticed that my husband wasn’t as emotional about it as I was.  I was ready to march into school and request to see the tests, I unearthed the KhanAcademy site and persuaded my daughter to spend an hour doing math (excellent resource, by the way!), and I spent more than just a few hours planning an intervention for what I felt was a failing student (now, mind you, it’s only been 2 days since the school started!).

Meanwhile my husband, as upset as the placements made him, wasn’t as emotional about the whole thing as I was.  Yes, the results bothered him and yes, he wanted to investigate farther yet he wasn’t burning the midnight oil looking for tutoring resources and creating to-do lists on how to tackle this.  So why was I so up in arms and why was he so nonchalant?

Then it dawned on me.  Cultural differences.   He is American and I am Russian-born.  I grew up in a society where education was akin to religion and where being best among the best was a must for the intelligenzia children.  My husband grew up with the motto – “as long as you do your best” whereas I grew up with the motto – “you only do your best when you are doing much better than most of the others”.  And so having my almost-a-straight-A-student daughter placed into non-advanced courses definitely touched a nerve.

What have been your experience with your children’s education?  Have you felt any differences in how you manage your kids’ education especially if you and your spouse hail from different cultures?

REMEMBER: if you coach, train, or consult people who work across cultures, consider joining us for the Culture Mastery Certification and License Program.  We start September 21, 2011 and a discount is available to anyone who registers before September 7, 2011.

Out of the mouths of TCKs (third culture kids)

We all know that our children are wise but how often do we choose to listen to their wisdom?  Sure, we insist that they listen to us because as adults we… well, we know what’s best, right?  But what about listening to them?  How often do we give them the chance to share their wisdom and be heard?

The other day I suggested that my 11-year old daughter start a blog.  She likes to write, she likes to share her opinion on matters, she likes to be heard, and she likes to help people with their problems (don’t they all like that?).

“Blog?” She said. “What will I write about?”

“Well,” I responded, “you are pretty special.  You’ve been to a lot of places, you are a third-culture kid, and you can share your experiences with others – TCKs or just kids who may have to move and deal with adjustment.”

“Ok,” she said, still unsure. “But what can I tell them?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “Why don’t you just write and see what comes up.”

And so she did.  She wrote her first (and then later, her second) post without putting too much thought into it (or agonizing over it), but in the end coming out with some amazing pearls of wisdom (read it at TCKids: For Kids by a Kid)

What have you learned from your kids when moving around the world?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the programming?

Parenting across cultures — a never-ending exercise in cross-cultural misunderstanding?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Third Culture Kids — what’s in the “programming”?

I recently finished reading a fascinating book by Dr. Bruce LiptonBiology of Belief. Among many very interesting things, Dr Lipton touches upon the difference between sub-conscious and conscious minds.  He goes on to say that during our adult lives in 95% of the time we operate according to the programmed habits and beliefs that are stored in our subconscious mind.  And that programming of the subconscious occurs mostly between the ages of zero and 6.

That got me thinking about my own parenting, the messages that my daughter had downloaded into her subconscious in the first six years of her life – and how being a third culture kid affected those messages.  I realized that as we raise our kids in cultures that are foreign to us, we unknowingly pass on – without thinking – all the negative messages that come up in us in response to stress of adjustment, relocation, and simply being a stranger in a strange land.

If you think back to times when you moved with your kids at the time when they were young, what messages may have escaped your lips?  What behavior may you have exhibited in moments of stress that perhaps became recorded in your children’s subconscious?  What cultural misunderstandings may have influenced your reactions to things?  And can you now see those beliefs coming up in your children’s lives?

According to Dr. Lipton (and to many others), re-wiring the downloaded programs in our sub-conscious takes a lot more than affirmations and positive thinking.  Since our subconscious mind is our habitual mind, the only way to change the program is to engage in a completely different habit time and time again.  That’s not an easy preposition, but it can be done.  The best strategy, of course, is not to create those beliefs to begin with.

Your thoughts?

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Cross-cultural misunderstandings — got one?

Your identity in expatriation — will it stay or will it go?

To belong or not to belong — is that the choice we make when we move abroad?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Expatriates – surviving or thriving? Depends on how you look at it…

Recently a few articles and books caught my eye.  All of them were targeted at expats and all of them used the word survive in some fashion.  There was either a title “How to survive as an expat” (Disclaimer: not the exact words); or an e-book on “5 Ways to Survive your move abroad (again, not exact words); or an article on “Survival tips on…”, etc, etc, etc.  All this written material  was intended to help expatriates and was offering help from the perspective of survival and having to survive.

Why do I bring this up?  If we look at the definition of the word survive, this is what we get:

  • To remain alive or in existence.
  • To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere.
  • To remain functional or usable.

How is that for a perspective?  How inspiring does it sound to you if you are an expatriate (or preparing to become one)?

My point here is that perspectives from which we approach our lives matter a great deal.  Perspectives can be empowering and inspirational – the ones that make us look at the world thought the glasses of possibility.  Perspectives can also be cautious and fearful — the kind that force us to look at the world through the glasses of prevention.

Looking at our expat experience from the point of view of having to survive is nowhere as fun and calling as looking at it from the point of view of thriving.  What do you think?

And how do you look at your expatriate journey?

People who enjoyed this also read:

A different take on expatriate motivation

7 Habits of a Happy Expat

Culture Shock revisited or is it all about going through the stages?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Parenting across cultures – a never-ending exercise in cross-cultural misunderstanding?

Recently I read an article by Amy Chua on the subject of superiority of Chinese mothers.  Whether or not I agree with the author isn’t the point of this blog.   Although, as a side note, I must say that the author’s ego rivals that of Paris Hilton — which I thought was never possible!  And, as many other readers, I was amazed at the length she went to in order to satisfy that ego (the up-in-your-face article in WSJ included).  Disclaimer: I have not read her book but her article was enough for me to decide never to read the book and to feel bad for both her kids and her students at my (!) alma mater.

But back to the subject.  Amy Chua’s husband is apparently American and reading her me!-me!-me! article got me thinking of the role that parents of different cultures play in raising kids together.  I happen to be married to someone outside of my own culture and we are raising a beautiful girl.  How often do we agree on our own respective methods of parenting?  How often do we disagree?  And what transpires when you take an already mixed-culture couple and throw them into an expat lifestyle where a third culture becomes part of the mix?

We all know there is a lot of beauty in being exposed to and in living with different cultures.  We all know kids benefit from this immensely.  But that’s not what I want to discuss.  I want to discuss the difficulties.

If I had a penny for every time I was told I was “too strict” (I think I need to share Amy Chua article to show my husband what strict really means!) or that “my parenting culture was too critical” or that “I would do it differently” – I’d be a millionaire with my own private island already.  But instead of a penny, all I got was the feeling of being labeledjudged and misunderstood.  Of course I have not been a saint either and I think I’ve given my share of opinions about my husband’s parenting culture.

Dr. John Gottman in his brilliant book “7 Principles of Making a Marriage Work” says that 69% of problems in a marriage are perpetual.  He goes on to describe that no matter what you do, these problems are not going to go away simply because they are born out of your disappointed dream or a disappointed dream of your spouse.  Put another way – the times we fight and the fights that repeat themselves over and over again happen because our values are not being honored.  Instead – a label is issued.  Someone calls you strict instead of recognizing that by imposing a certain schedule all you are trying to do is to protect your child as much as you can from stress and anxiety.

In an interview I heard recently, Marianne Williamson said something so simple and brilliant that I am amazed I didn’t think of it myself.  She said that all over the mammal world, the maternal instinct first and foremost goes to the protection of the young.  As mammals, we – human females – are also quite intent on protecting our children.  And so thinking along those lines, I am now realizing that I am protecting my young – but I see that protection in my own, unique way.  The way that has come from my culture and my upbringing.

So what do we do if our instinct to protect and if our parental style that comes from our values collide with that of our partner/spouse?  When tensions run high and labels are attached faster than the speed of light, how do we stay calm and discuss the cross-cultural misunderstanding that’s at the root of the argument?

Your thoughts?

People who enjoyed this post also read:

Cross-cultural misunderstandings… got one?

7 Habits of a Happy Expat

Expat Entrepreneur?  Who is your ideal client?

Copyright © 2011 by Global Coach Center.  If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

A to Z of Successful Expatriation™: J is for JOURNAL

Ever since my daughter learned to write coherent sentences, I’ve always encouraged her to record the various trips we were taking.  We’d sit down at the end of every day – usually during a dinner in a restaurant – and while the food was being prepared, she’d record things that were especially interesting for her.  And even though it’s now becoming more and more difficult to get her to write her “travel journal” (age, I suppose), she loves going back and reading what she’s written years ago.

Journaling about your expat experiences – whether in electronic form or in an old-fashioned way with a pen and a notebook – gives us an opportunity to record the things we see and experience shortly after we’ve seen and experienced them.  Nothing gets lost in our memory, nothing gets forgotten and in the end we have a great collection of stories that can provide hours of memories years later.  Some of these stories may even end up becoming a book some of us have always dreamed of writing in retirement.

Keeping a journal in electronic form – a blog as we call them now – also allows us to share with family and friends at home.  Add a few photographs and you’ve just provided an evening of entertainment for your loved ones.

Journals help us remember and they help us share.  Do you keep a journal?  How?

For all the letters in the A to Z of Successful Expatriation™ click here.

And remember to check out our on-line courses on Culture Shock, Expat Know-How and on Cross-Cultural Training at the Global Coach Center Academy!

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us (with a live link)!

Celebrating Birthdays Abroad

This week my daughter is celebrating her 10th birthday, although this birthday will be only the 4th one she’s celebrated in the country where she was born.   As a third-culture kid (a TCK) she’s already had a chance to have her special day in Brazil, Argentina, and Russia — each celebration being very different from the others.  And so, as we prepare for yet another party, I am thinking of differences in the meaning of birthdays and in birthday celebrations around the world.  Not just for kids — for adults too.

The country where I grew up (Russia) one’s birthday is a very important occasion and that importance isn’t reserved for children only.  Adults treasure their birthdays and celebrate them yearly in circles of their family and friends.  An interesting fact is that when you decide to celebrate your birthday with co-workers, it is you, who is responsible for bringing a cake to share.  My husband, an American, always found that a bit odd.

In the US birthdays are a lot less of a big deal for adults.  Your family may or may not call you on your birthday and, even if they live far away but happen to be close on that special day, they won’t always come and spend the day with you.  But in a different tradition from Russia, in the US your co-workers will treat you to lunch and your friends will treat you to dinner.

What meaning does your culture attach to birthdays?  And how have you celebrated your birthdays (or your kids’ birthdays) in different countries?  Please share!

People who read this post also enjoyed:

Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings …Got One?

What do Expats look for?

Money Everywhere…

Copyright © 2010 by Global Coach Center.
If you’d like to reprint this, please do so but make sure you credit us!