Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Adult Third Culture Kids: Potential Global Leaders with Cross-Cultural Competence?

Time's flying and it is high time for me to write a new post. I once again read some interesting articles which I really feel I need to share with you. The first is a disseratation "Adult Third Culture Kids: Potential Global Leaders with Global Mindset" by Patricia Stokke (2013).

"The ability to bridge differences is an example of how ATCKs may integrate their international experience preparing them to work in global organisations." The ATCKs seem to be good "bridge builders". Patricia says that future research needs to be done to bring ATCKs and business together so that not only ATCKs recognize their global skills and abilities, but that recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers appreciate the potential value these individuals can offer organisations.

I came across another interesting article in the Journal of Global Mobiliy. This journal is new by the way and currently the articles in the first 3 issues are available for free (until the end of March 2014). In the article "Antecedents of dynamic cross-cultural competence in adult third culture kids (ATCKs)" by Tarique and Weisbord they look at what the predictors are of cross-cultural competence. They found that there are 5 predictors of cross-cultural competence in ATCKs:

  1. Varienty of early international exeperience (number of counries lived in) 
  2. Language diversity 
  3. The number of languages they speak
  4. Family diversity (the number of different ethnicities in their family's background)
  5. The personality trait of openess to experience (to which extend are individuals original, innovative and willing to take risks)
By the way dynamic cross-cultural competence includes knowledge, skills and attributes that are aquired through learning experiences. So it seems that  experiencing international travel during childhood and growing up abroad can provide competencies today's employers seek. This is good news for ATCKs. I feel I already knew this and you probably did too but I like it when research confirms these kind of things.

I like the article on DenizenMag "Making the Most of Your TCK Experience When Applying For a Job". As a TCKs you have adapted to new environments, so you will probably adapt quickly to your new working environment. Probably you have learnt to be flexible and adjust. You may be a "bridge builder". You may be have cross-cultural and multilingual communication skills. Recognize your own global skills and abilities! Make sure you mention them in your résumé. This is one of the things Ruth van Reken said too when she spoke at EuroTCK in Germany in 2013.

So it looks like we have cross-cultural competence, we are "bridge builders", we are the people empoyers are seeking. Will we be the global leaders of tomorrow? What do you think? Looking forward to your comments.

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Photo thanks to NPClark2k Morgue File

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Third Culture Kid Christmas Wishes!

Happy Christmas to you all! I want to break the 7 week silence to give you season greetings and share some of my Christmas season experiences. I had a "TCK moment" at a Christmas concert in Leiden, the Netherlands recently. There were a couple of choirs that sang Christmas carols in different languages (Dutch, English, French and Spanish). I really enjoy singing Christmas carols. The audience was encouraged to sing athe chorus of "The Star Carol". The conductor made us practise because he said that the Star Carol was not well-known. When I heard it memories came back to me of singing carols at Townsend Highschool in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and at my primary school in Blantyre Malawi. Where did I learn that carol? Was it in Malawi or Zimbabwe? I just don't know. It was my "TCK moment", realizing that my past was different from that of the Dutch lady sitting next to me.

Can you feel "at home" while singing a familiar carol? I did have some kind of feeling like that. There is something about music that can trigger memories. Here is the chorus of the Star Carol, maybe you know it too:
Spotted this tree in Antwerpen, Belgium

"See His star shining bright
In the sky this Christmas night!
Follow me joyfully;
Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary!"

I had another "TCK moment" during an international Christmas church service on Christmas eve. At the end of the service we all sang Silent Night and we were encouraged to sing it in our mother tongue all at the same time. What an interesting mix of languages! While we were singing I discovered that I know the words of Silent Night better in English than in Dutch, eventhough I am Dutch and it is officially my mother tongue. While growing up in Africa most carols were sang at church and at school and the language there was English. So I know the English version better than the Dutch.....

A couple of days ago I was walking in Antwerpen, Belgium and I spotted a third culture kid Chrismas tree, it was a tree full of "travel boxes". Even TCKs that are adults and have settled down, like me, often still love travelling or feel some kind of bond with travelling.
What will the new year bring us? New travels? Or will we stay in one place and grow some roots? These are some of the questions adult TCKs ponder about. What about you? Will it be a year of moving or staying in one place?


I want to share a comment Rebecca posted. I interviewed Rebecca 1,5 years ago, you can read the interesting interview here. She is raising trilingual expat kids here in the Netherlands. I asked her where home is for her daughters. Recently her daughter said "Home is where the people you love live." I hope you were "home" this season, with the people you love! Did you have any "TCK moments" this season? Please share them with us.




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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Interview with Fellow Third Culture Kid and Author Heidi Sand-Hart

More than a year ago I interviewed Heidi, author of the book Home Keeps Moving. I really liked the interview so I have decided to repost it. There is a great opportunity to get a signed copy of Heidi's book with 25% discount check her website.

I like her advice for third culture kids or adult third culture kids:
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.

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. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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!  

13. 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…

14. 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…

15. 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".

A thank you to Heidi for the interview. Heidi's blog is: homekeepsmoving.blogspot.com. You can follow her on twitter: @HomeKeepsMoving. By the way what would your advice be to third culture kids?

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Friday, 18 October 2013

I'm not a tourist but I 'm not really Dutch either...

With a suitcase, a really full bag, my viola with a tennis racket strapped onto it I board the plane. Alone. Depature was from Harare, Zimbabwe and the destination Schiphol international airport. Arrival time a fresh morning in May. Blond, blue eyes, nineteen years old, the start of an adventure called: going to university in Holland. Was I an international student? Was I Dutch?

One thing was certain even though I spoke Dutch I did not really understand the Dutch. I thought I knew what I should know. I thought I would be able to understand the ways of the Dutch. What a major culture shock! The wierd thing was that I had not expected a culture shock at all. In the meantime I have survived and started to thrive here so I have some advice for you.

10 tips to survive and thrive in the Netherlands:
  1. Buy a bicycle. It's an easy way to integrate, do as the Dutch do. If you are sensible you will buy some
    At Keukenhof by DrieCulturen 
    good "fietstassen" (bicycle bags) too. Mine are one of the best investments I have ever made. They have served me so well I could write a whole post just about my "fietstassen".
  2. If you are serious about learning Dutch get a button "Spreek Nederlands! met mij!" and pin it on your jacket. Otherwise people start speaking English to you when they hear your accent or hear you struggling to speak Dutch.
  3. Buy a museumkaart which gives you free entry to nearly 400 museums all over the country. To give you an idea there are more than 30 museums in Amsterdam which you can visit with the card.
  4. If you have a garden plant some tulip bulbs, it will make spring even more exciting. You can plant them now between September and December. I mean it is the country of the tulips so why not let them flower in your garden.
  5. Make sure you know how to flush the toilet. There are many different kind of toilets here. Sometimes you need to push a button or pull on a chain. There are even bloggers that write about the toilet here: everything you never wanted to know about Dutch toilets.
  6. When going to a Dutch birthday party remember to congratulate all the family members too, it's what you do here.
  7. If you want to start a conversation while waiting in a queue just start talking about the weather. In the beginning I was irritated about the fact that everyone complained about the weather and was always talking about the weather but it is just a way to start a conversation. What a revelation!  
  8. Start cycling just for fun. There are nearly 35 thousand kilometres of cycle paths in our country. It is the cyclist friendliest country in the world. Discover the cycling culture! Even the BBC wonders why cycling is so popular in the Netherlands? Do you need suggestions for your cycling adventure? If so check this website Nederland Fietsland. 
  9. Taste the local food like stroopwafels, drop (liquorish) and herring. Did you that herring is the thing the Dutch miss most when they live abroad?
  10. Make a local friend and spend time together.
Now back to the question about where I'm from. The answer is a complicated one. I am not a tourist but I am not really Dutch either. I was born and bred in Africa but I have a Dutch passport. When I came to my "passport country" I suffered from a culture shock. I now know I was a hidden immigrant at the time. I looked very Dutch but I thought differently. My identity had been formed by all the years I had lived in Africa. Even though I spoke Dutch at home I did not know the sayings and the slang words. I easily connect with expats and internationally minded people, actually I love being in an environment with people from different nationalities. Years ago I discovered that I was a "third culture kid". That discovery helped me understand my confusion. It gave words to my feelings. I am a member of the "third culture kid" tribe. Actually I am a global citizen living in the Netherlands at the moment. In Dutch we would say "een wereldburger".

Just in case you have never heard of the term "third culture kids" it refers to a person who has spent a
At Madurodam by DrieCulturen

significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture, like I did. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any.

Moving to the Netherlands years ago was the start of my new adventure. I hope you meet as many interesting people as I have here, I hope you become addicted to cycling like I did. I hope you not only survive but thrive in the land of the clogs and tulips. Do you have any survive and thrive tips? Please share them here.

If you enjoy this blog would you take a couple of minutes and vote for my blog in the I'm not a tourist expat blog competition. Voting closes 30 October 2013. So time is short. Thank you for your support.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Will therapy be the place a third culture kid finds their voice?

Once again the internet has helped me find some research on third culture kids. This time it is a thesis on the subject "Third Route Kids: A New Way of Conceptualizing the Adult Third Culture Kid Experience" by Tamara Lynn Williams at the University of British Columbia (February 2013).

I want to quote part of her research. I know she writes specifically about the therapeutic setting but there are some great themes here: third culture kids as hidden immigrants, fitting in to the dominant group, silencing their voices, and not telling their stories.

"In a therapeutic setting, it may be of help to recognize your role as a therapist in restoring the voice to the TCKs in the room and to encourage them in finding places where their stories and their voices will be accepted as valuable. Being able to share their stories, even in a focus group setting, appeared to be a positive and encouraging experience for the participants, and their stories were often punctuated with laughter and recognition of a shared experience. Remembering that TCKs are often a hidden minority/non-dominant/immigrant population is important, since they may often be able to fit into the social expectations in the world around them and will often avoid talking about stories or experiences that may make others uncomfortable or that sessile individuals have difficulty relating to. As a therapist, it is important not to place people into predetermined categories based on assumptions of their culture or past. Many TCKs are able to appear to fit into a dominant group, due to the silencing they have experienced; if not given a voice in therapy, their experience may go unexplored. It is hoped that therapy will serve as a place where TCKs’ voices are heard and not another experience where TCKs are silenced."

The research included focus groups of third culture kids in which they discussed different topics. What was striking is that participants noticed that they all experienced a certain time that they felt:

  1. Increased angst
  2. Dissatisfaction with themselves
  3. Identity confusion.
As they matured they grew out of the period of angst and identity confusion. During that time they they felt:

  1. Dissatisfaction with their sense of self
  2. Heightened anxiety
  3. Sadness
  4. Worry over whether they would ever fit in
There were periods of feeling grief, anger and sadness over their childhood experiences. The good news is that as they matured and grew out of that developmental phase they began to feel at peace and happy with their experiences.

If you grew up abroad, like I did and have experienced one or more of the feelings mentioned above then I hope you know now that you are not the only one with these feelings. It can be quite painful at the time but there is hope. A time can come when you feel at peace and can look back and kind of be happy with your experiences. I have not had help from a therapist but some times I wonder how it would have helped me. I read a lot on the topic of third culture kids. Reading and talking to others has helped me on my journey.

You might need a little help in the process, maybe a therapist can help you a little on the way. If you find a good therapist, the therapy can be a safe place where your third culture kid voice and story can be heard.

Tips to help you on your journey in becoming an adult TCK:

  • Find people who will listen to your story!
  • Remember you have a unique story which needs to be told. Start a blog or submit your stories for the TCK anthology, read Giving Third Culture Kids A Voice for more information.
  • Sharing your story with like-minded people can be positive and encouraging.
  • If in despair seek help from a good therapist.
Have you felt any of the emotions mentioned? Have you found a way to be at peace with your childhood experineces? Any tips? Did therapy give you a safe place to tell your story? I wonder. Please share your story here. By the way here's the link to Tamara Lynn William's research.

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