Raising kids abroad: it’s all just a guessing game

There has been a huge debate going on in an expat Facebook group I belong to over the past few days about whether it is right to take children to live overseas.

Started by a woman who is obviously struggling, the post hit such a nerve that within 24 hours she had something like 200 responses. And almost every one of them with a different view. Which just goes to show – no-one really knows the answer.

Some people obviously took huge offence at the notion that it isn’t necessarily in the best interest of the child to take them away from all that they know and love, into an alien environment where they would have to make new friends and find a new routine. To them, their decision to take their offspring abroad was seen as an entirely positive thing. They would be bringing up global nomads who would navigate their lives with a fantstic grounding in world knowledge, an understanding of different cultures and hopefully an extra language or two.

What could be wrong with that, right?

Well of course to many, this wasn’t so right. Others piled in with a totally different story. Loss of identity, sense of not belonging anywhere, losing friends, missing family……there were plenty of stories from the other side of the coin to counteract the rainbows and unicorns thrown around by the first group.

In between of course were plenty of sensible comments made by people who understood that in the end there is no “right” and no “wrong”. That just like pretty well everything when it comes to parenting (apart from maybe making sure your child doesn’t stand too close to the edge of Niagara falls), it’s all just guesswork. It is impossible to know exactly what effect your decisions today will have on your children in the future – you can only weigh up all the considerations and they chose one way. And hope. Not only that, but every family, every child, every situation, is unique. What works for one will not necessarily work for another. And what worked for your child when they were 5 or 6 years old might be a different story when they reach their teen years.

cooling off day one aug 08

Expat life can definitely have its advantages for children….

So should you move abroad when you have children? Well, having been a Third Culture Kid (TCK) myself, and now raising two more, I am not going to say no. But on the other hand I will caution that it is important to know what you are getting yourself into. I don’t agree with those who do nothing but rave about the experience. To me that sounds very defensive and I think there sometimes is a lot of “guilt” (oh don’t we all hate hearing about the parental gult!) behind their comments. Realistically, taking your children away from their home once, or multiple times, is going to affect them one way or another – and you are doing them a disservice to pretend otherwise.

However, so long as you are prepared and know what you are getting yourselves into, I also believe there are at least as many upsides as downsides to doing this – and hopefully in the end, the scales will come down in favour of taking the plunge. At the moment we are struggling with my youngest daughter who, nearly seven months after we moved here, is still unhappy. But on the plus side she has had some of the most incredible experiences that will stay with her for a lifetime, she is learning new languages, has friends from several different countries and been given an opportunity to learn about a fascinating country with a very unique history, first hand.

My other daughter has settled a lot better but there are a lot of issues around her schooling. Moving her into a different curriculum hasn’t been easy and I foresee problems when we move home again.

I, like others, question every day whether we have done the right thing. But there is no point in beating myself up about it – at the end of the day we are here and unless some emergency forces us home, we are staying for the duration. My youngest daughter might be unhappy but she could equally be just as cross at home – but for different reasons. And of course she isn’t always unhappy – she loves her new friends, seeing elephants in the wild, learning to ride a horse, being in the swimming pool for hours on end….

And the older daughter might have gaps in her maths knowledge, but she will have learnt things from being in a school with an international culture that she would never have the chance to back home. She will also have friends in several different countries – who hopefully we will have the chance to visit once this posting is done and dusted.

So what is my conclusion? Well, really it goes back to the title of this post – which is, who knows! It really is just a guessing game and whilst I would love to give you a straightforward answer, I can’t. To take your children to live abroad or to not take your children to live abroad? Well, that really is the question!

Resources: I can recommend two brilliant resources for anyone who wants to know more, both of which I have reviewed on this site: Your Expat Child website and the book Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counselling the Globally Mobile.

What do you think? Have you taken the decision to move abroad with children and if so was it the right one? Were you yourself a Third Culture Kid and if so, do you think it benefitted you? What advice would you give to others?

back-kuaa-on-kickstarter

 

 

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Guest post: Expat Emergencies and Turbulent Postings – a Child’s Perspective.

Today’s post in my summer of guesting comes from a blogger with whom I share a lot of background. The more I read or hear about The Ersatz Expat, the more I keep wondering if we have actually ever met in real life. Both of us have lived in Nigeria and Venezuela, and both went to school and university in the UK. We also both married Brits. Our lives are very different now, but both of us have a similar sort of childhood to look back at and compare to what we are able to give our own children. Here, the Ersatz Expat talks about some of the experiences from her younger years – and how it has helped her parent her own expat children.

Irrational fears

I have never not been an expat. As a child we lived in some benign places (Norway, the UK and the Netherlands) but also experienced some more challenging postings. This has coloured how I relate to the expat experiences our own children have and I try, wherever possible, to see things through their eyes.

Age 11, I was parachuted into a British boarding school far from the culture I had grown up with. Following a first term at my new school, I had to travel to Lagos on my own. (Yes the airlines supervise UM (unaccompanied minors) but the help they gave in the 1980s was close to useless so I had to fend for myself). I remember sitting on the plane to Nigeria for the first time having had no correspondence with my parents for 4 months. I was very worried about what I would find on arrival; I even thought my family would have become africans because they were now living there and I wondered if I would recognise them with brown skin and curly hair. This crazy memory makes me realize that children, no matter how mature and capable, can become irrationally worried about things.

A few months ago our son, who had previously spoken good Russian was refusing to ‘understand’ it any more. He was also failing to progress in his Mandarin and Bahasa Malay lessons. It turned out that he realised that I no longer spoke my birth language (Dutch) easily and that it takes me some time to get back into the groove, mostly because I have no real reason to speak it now my mother and grandmother are dead. He was worried that he might forget English if he learned another language. It was another irrational fear that, when analysed, makes perfect sense in the mind of an expat child.

Handling emergency situations with children

One time, when leaving Nigeria I got caught up in an armed robbery at the airport. Our flight could not leave as we were in lockdown and had been sent to the arrivals hall to collect luggage. We heard shots in the unloading bay and 5 bodies came up the conveyer belt. My mother took me to her car and told the driver to wait somewhere safe she then went off to investigate. I knew that I would be safe if I did what my mother told me with no questions asked and I trusted her to know what to do. Luckily our children have not been involved in an armed robbery or anything like that but we make sure that they know that when we speak in a certain tone they must do as they are told (being absolutely silent when the car is hit by a sudden blizzard for example) and that we will explain the reasons why later. We also make sure that they have confidence that we can handle any situation we are in (even if we don’t) and that our children are never an outlet for our fears.

We lived in South East Turkey in the 1990s (enough said). It was possibly the most dangerous posting we have ever had. A bomb went off in the building next to us while I was doing some work experience with a family friend, my parents were directly involved in another bomb scare and we had to check under the car on a daily basis. A guard followed me if I went out and flights to the local airport were in danger of being shot down and these experiences were the tip of the iceberg. Every time I called to reconfirm our flights (remember those days) I was told the airline advised against travel there. My greatest fear was that I would be called in to the housemistress’ room to be told my parents had been killed and I used to think carefully about how I would tell my sister. I was scared stiff for three years straight. My parents were always scrupulously honest about dangers and issues that arose which helped me to worry less. I also got the school to let me have R4 (Radio 4) on late at night in my room so I could sleep knowing that there were no reported issues at home.

What do you tell the chilldren about something like this?

What do you tell the chilldren about something like this?

Being honest

From this I have learned never to brush things under the carpet, we have always made sure that our children are aware of everything they need to be without blowing things up out of all proportion. We also make sure that they have the props they need to feel safe. My father in law died just before we left the UK for Kazakhstan. They were very young but felt his loss keenly and when they first went abroad they were concerned that another family member might disappear or that they would never see them again. We have always promised them that we will let them know if they need to worry and make sure that they have regular ‘phone and skype contact. Hopefully this helps to dispel some of their concern.

Just after we arrived in Sarawak the terrible news came through about MH17. A child in the children’s new school lost a parent and many others in the community were impacted. Our children heard what had happened and they knew that family would be coming to visit us via the same route and that we would be flying with Malaysian Airlines whenever we travelled out of country. They also knew the Ukraine, Kiev being a regular stop over on flights to and from Kazakhstan. Knowing how I would have reacted to the news as a child helped to inform the way we spoke with our two. We were very honest about what had happened and why and we have been similarly upfront about recent terrorist attacks. We feel that if the children are prepared for the world being a scary place while knowing that there are good and decent people in it they will be better able to handle it as they grow up and have more independent experiences in life.

One of the great benefits of expat life is the independence, maturity and capability it fosters in children from a young age. I certainly hope that our children gain those benefits although I also hope they avoid bombs and shootings for a few years yet.

(photo: RNW.org)

Have you been in any emergency situations with your own children? Or needed to speak to them about something that has happened? How have you handled it? How honest have you been with them?

Siblings and the expat child

Growing up as an expat child, moving constantly between homes, cultrues and continents,  there were really only five constants in my life until the age of 13 when I left for boarding school: my parents, and my three siblings. To be more precise, my parents and my three brothers. And actually, to be fair, the 1970’s being the 1970’s, I saw an awful lot more of my brothers than I did of my parents.

We spent what I think of as my formative years (from the age of 4 until I was 8) in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. It was, for the priviliged expat children that we were, a fantastic place to spend a childhood. We went to a large, International school; lived on a safe, gated compound where we were able to freely move around and run barefoot to friends’ houses; spent weekends either at the Army and Navy Club diving from the high board or at the Maya Maya Reef Club, snorkelling and collecting shells on the beach. We had what I remember as a large house surrounded by garden, filled with various pets – from cats and rabbits to quails and cockerals.

Maya maya pic

But when I think back to those days, although I do have memories of my mother (shopping, putting on puppet shows to raise funds for a local family planning clinic, plaiting my hair, ) and father (listening to the BBC World Service, putting on his tie, showing us how to catch fish), it is the time I spent with my brothers that really stands out in my mind.

We had to make our own entertainment. We not only had no internet, playstation, Minecraft, tablets, Wii, computers and all those distractions of modern childhood – we didn’t even have a television. There wouldn’t have been much to watch even if we had – bar the 1976 Olympics (when my parents managed to borrow a set for that glorious summer, and we all gorged on Wacky Races and the Road Runner), and the 1975 Ali/Fraser Thrilla in Manila fight. But we found plenty to do.

My family (plus one stranger, minus one brother) on the summit of Mount Apo, the Philippines 1977

My family (plus one extra, minus one brother) on the summit of Mount Apo, the Philippines 1977

Card games, in particular, loom large in my childhood. Like the leader of some sort of slightly shady crime family, my eldest brother would regularly set up his own card school where we used centavos or pennies (depending which country we were in), beans or even matches (yes, really – this was the 1970’s don’t forget!) in the place of proper money. I learnt three-card brag, poker, gin rummy….I learnt to lie convincingly, not get too upset if I lost and how to spook someone else out about what was in my hand. All great skills for later in life!

We played numerous other games – from non-gambling card games (knock-out whist, something involving the black queen that kept getting called different things), to board games like Monopoly (never my favourite – it went on WAY too long) and Diplomacy. We  made endless, complicated mazes for our pet mice out of bricks. We climbed on the roof and scrambled under the house – trying not to entangle ourselves in the electric wiring. We spent hours swimming in our neighbour’s pool, playing Marco Polo and a game that you had to pretend to die and the one who died most convincingly was the winner….

We also travelled a lot so for much of our free time were away from our school friends. On a beach, in the middle of nowhere without our toys, our imaginations really ran wild. I remember one game where – as there were four of us – we became the Swallows and Amazons: finding an abandoned sail boat to use as a prop was the icing on the cake. I always had to be Titty – but my poor second-born brother was forced into being Susan. He seems to have got over it!

All of this doesn’t mean that we didn’t fight. Boy did we fight! I can still feel the pain of my hair being pulled from the roots, and there will always be a place in my heart for the dolly who got thrown in the swimming pool and whose eyes never opened again….But isn’t this part of growing up, of childhood? Isn’t the rough and tumble with our siblings one of the ways we learn how to behave in the adult world?

On the Kyhber Pass (also 1977)

On the Kyhber Pass (also 1977)

Of course childhood doesn’t last forever. In fact, my own children’s childhoods are passing in a flash. And as we grew older, we started to go our separate ways. There is six or seven years between the oldest and youngest of us siblings so while my younger brother was still quite little, the oldest was off to boarding school. We all followed one by one, but then it was university, the world of work – and then we were spread to all corners of the globe.

Childhood bonds don’t always translate into adult closeness, and so it has been for us (although the birth of our own children has brought us closer than we have been for a while). But the shared childhood, so precious because we were our only constants, will always be there. I look at my own two girls now as we are about to take off for another overseas adventure and I hope that they too will look back on these days, and the time they spend together, as a precious time. Even if I don’t let them gamble with matches!

In memory of my eldest brother Matthew Quantrill: May 21st 1965 – June 30th 2014.

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Review Wednesday – Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere

This is a book that spoke to me. It spoke to me because it is a book about people who have had a global childhood, and the impact that can have on them as adults. And, as any regular reader of this blog will know, I certainly had a global childhood.

Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counselling the Globally Mobile by Lois J Bushong is really a book for counsellors. Lois, a counsellor herself but one with an expat childhood, found a gap in the knowledge of many counsellors when it came to working with Third Culture Kid’s (TCK’s) and Adult Third Culture Kid’s (ATCK’s), and decided to do something about it. So she wrote a book, which is also a guide for therapists, including exercises, activites and discussion points.

However, even as a non-counsellor I found this book fascinating. And eye-opening.

everywhere and nowhere

The book starts by helping the counsellors to identify whether their client is a TCK, and if  the reason they have come for counselling is related to their childhood (I can’t believe it wouldn’t at least come up, in the majority of cases). It then goes on to discuss the different issues that might have affected these clients: depression, adjustment disorder, even post-traumatic stress disorder. And while PTSD may seem extreme, I think about the older expat children of my friends who lived through the 2008 bombing of the Mariott in Islamabad (and subsequent evacuation), and the worry they  had about how to talk to their children about what happened.  If not dealt with there and then, it’s very possible that some of that trauma might surface later on in life – perhaps even at the worst possible time – when those children are at teenagers and at boarding school.

Throughout the book, author Lois uses examples that she has taken from her real-life practice but disguised or amalgamated so there is no breach of confidentiality. However, you can be sure that the examples she gives will be very real, even if they are not each based on one real person.

As an ATCK myself, I found myself nodding along as I read the stories based on the lives of other ATCK’s: Katie, a middle-aged woman who spent a childhood in Asia and struggled with depression at university; Portia, who shied away from getting close to anyone; Rhonda, a teenage client, who asks why her family just can’t be “normal”. And of course, as many of the stories relate to childhood, I also kept the thought in my mind of how living an expat life may affect my own children – and what I can do to try and make things easier for them.

Much of the book is very counsellor-speak, as well as American (although I don’t find it overly touchy-feely in the way American “self-help” books often are; Lois was, of course, an expat child herself so perhaps is less American than some writers of this sort of book!). But because of it being aimed at counsellors, there were parts of the book that I just skipped entirely. The parts that I did read in depth more than made up for the missed bits, although I would still love it if Lois now wrote a book entirely for the “lay ” reader!

There were so many sections of this book that I really liked, and found relevant, that it is hard to pick just one or two out. But to give you a flavour, I have picked out a couple of quotes:

A major reality for those who grow up as TCK’s is that their lives are filled with chronic cycles of separation and loss. Obviously, such cycles are part of the human experience for everyone. Non-globally mobile folks go through this as well. But for the globally mobile, the cycles are chronic and often relatively sudden or severe. They may not lose a friend here or there, but often they lose a whole world when they take an airplane ride away from a place and people they have loved

And

While there may be many TCK’s who struggle for a while with wondering who they are or where they belong, once they understand the reason for their confusion and that these feelings are within a normal range for others of like experiences, most go on  and embrace the various pieces of their life rather than feeling as if they only have an either/or choice to decide who they are.

The last third of the book is taken up with a long bibliography and list of references, two appendices that focus on systems and techniques for counsellors, and finally a TCK Wall of Fame, which gives further details of some of the contributors featured in the book. Finally, it gives a list of useful resources, including books, films, organisations and – helpfully! – a list of suggested counsellors.

I found this book incredibly useful, and made me want to explore my ATCK experience further. But I also think it would be really helpful for parents of current TCK’s, as well as anyone who works with TCK’s – in particular International School teachers and counsellors. If you have already come across it and/or read it, I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

Why I have always felt British, all my Expat life

Welcome to June’s #TrailingSpouseStories.  This month we explore our national identity and how it shows in our day-to-day expat life.  We also reflect on how our itinerant life has influenced the expression of our national identity and how we feel about it.

I have lived in eleven countries on five continents. I have travelled throughout the world, visiting some of the most remote areas on this globe. I have been to school in the Philippines, worked in New Zealand and Jamaica, accompanied my partner in Pakistan and St Lucia. But throughout every single year of my life, I have never had any doubt about my national identity. I am a Brit.

Over the last few years, especially when researching my book the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, I have come across an increasing number of articles and stories about what is commonly referred to as Third Culture Kid’s (TCK’s). A TCK is basically someone who moved around – specifically to other countries or cultures – as a child. As the world becomes more global and more and more people take their families to live overseas, so the numbers of these children are rising. Thus, the increase in the number of things I see written about (or by) them.

But I am finding that many of these articles don’t really resonate with me at all. So many of them refer to the confusion these third culture kids apparently feel when it comes to their identity, the battle within themselves between their home culture and the one they have adopted in their new country.

Whether it is because we moved so many times to so many very different places, or because we always kept a house to return to in the UK (and lived on and off there throughout my childhood), or because my father worked for a very British institute (the Foreign Office), I don’t know. But I have never felt anything but British. I’m not fluent in another language, I don’t prefer another cuisine overwhelmingly over my own, I am not divided between my home team and that from another country during the World Cup or the Olympics (although I always cheer on the Cameroonians, Venezuelans, Jamaicans and others from any country I have spent any length of time in). I get British humour, I love British tv and I follow British politics avidly.

If you get this you're probably a Brit...

If you get this you’re probably a Brit…

Last week I wrote this post about “home”, and about what it means to me. As a result, I have had many online conversations about what home means to others – from those who grew up and have always lived in one place, to others, like me, who have moved around on and off all their lives. Most people agreed that a feeling of “home” usually relates more to people than to a particular place, and that it’s your immediate family who give you the greatest comfort.

But people still want to feel that somewhere is their “home”, their “place”, where they come from and where they will, eventually, return to. I spoke to one mum about her son who is from country x, lived many of his formative years in country y, but now resides in country z. While she still feels she belongs to her home of birth (country x), her son is adamant that country y is where he feels he belongs. How, she asked, does she help him feel more like he comes from country x, which, after all, is probably where they will eventually move back to and, in all likelihood, he will attend university and end up working?

I thought about her question, and why I had never felt like this about any of the countries we have lived in, but I don’t have a clear answer. Whilst there are many reasons why I have always felt British and not that I am from any of the other country’s I lived in as a child, I couldn’t give this particular mum any particular piece of advice about what she could do to help her son feel more like he came from his country of birth.

But what I did say to her was that if, in the end, he decided that country Y was where he felt most at home then maybe that was okay. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter where we come from, beyond that we are happy there and that it feels right. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if we’re not from anywhere and nowhere is home, bar the place where we currently live. Maybe it also doesn’t matter if we don’t feel very much from one place, like I do. After all, the world is becoming more and more globalised every year – and, I suspect, so are the world’s citizens.

So while I have always been so sure of my national identity, I wonder whether my children will? Maybe it will become less common to feel you are “from” one country – perhaps one day, we will all feel we are simply “from”planet earth. And in the immortal words of the John Lennon song:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

How do you feel about your nationality? Are you very definitely “from” one place? How about your children – if they have lived overseas, especially those who moved when they were very young, how have you manageg their sense of nationality? How important is it that they know where they are from?

Check out other #TrailingSpouseStories in this month’s blog crawl:

Clara of The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide says that although she has travelled extensively all her life and lived in many different countries, she has never felt anything but British through and through in Why I Have Always Felt British All My Expat Life.

Didi of D for Delicious discovered that when she lived outside the Philippines, she learned to embrace the entirety of her Filipino-ness – the good, the bad and the ugly in #TrailingSpouseStories: Embracing Filipino version 2.0.

Liz of Secrets of a Trailing Spouse shares how her view of her home country has changed in the four years since she left in What Is This Place I Call Home?

Tala interviews her BFF The Diplomatic Wife in Freedom To Be Our Own Filipinas.

Tala reflects on her own rediscovery of being a Filipino abroad in The Personal is the National.

Yuliya of Tiny Expats shares that sometimes, what your national identity represents is not exactly what you would like to represent in At War With National Identity.

Photo: Lee Jordan

Interesting expats: Olivia Charlet

Today I start another new series, called Interesting Expats, in which I speak to expats from all sorts of backgrounds, countries, ages, eras….you name it, I’ll have it. Of course, in their own way, ALL expats are interesting: by definition just the fact that we have taken ourselves off to another country to live makes us interesting in my eyes. But there are a lot of “common or garden” expats out there, and then there are those who are a little different for one reason or another. In this series I will first explain why I think they are interesting – and then hand you over to the subject themselves to tell you more….

OLIVIA CHARLET

Why I think she is interesting: I first heard about Olivia when I saw her name pop up on some of the expat forums I frequent on Facebook. We often discuss our backgrounds and what life is like for those of us who have been Third Culture Kids. Also known as TCK’s, these are children or adults who spent at least part of their childhood travelling between different countries and cultures. Much study and research is being done into TCK’s at the moment – mostly to understand why we seem to still be affected by our experiences even years after we have settled down. But Olivia had taken things one step further – she had realised how hard it can be for young TCK’s to find love and that the answer might be to help them find other TCK’s. So she has set up a dating site – TCK Dating. In the meantime, she has also trained as an expat coach and is always on the look out for what she calls “strong, determined expat’s, open to change but who have maybe lost their way a little”, to work with. If this is you, or you know someone who fits this mould, please do contact Olivia via her coaching website.

So these are the reasons I think Olivia is interesting – now it’s over to her:

Please tell me a bit about yourself and your background, including where you’ve lived and for how long. And what you are doing now?

Sure! My parents are French and Belgian and I was born in Tokyo. I lived there for 4 years, then moved to Dusseldorf for 2 years, Johannesburg for 6, Vienna for 3, and finally Hamburg for 2 years.  I then went to university in Boston for a 4-year Bachelors degree. During that time, I spent 6 months in Auckland, New Zealand, and 6 months in London, UK.

After working in finance for 3 years and starting my own dating events business for expats and global nomads ‘TCK Dating’; I now work as a life coach. I coach mostly high-performers who are feeling stuck. They’re not quite sure what they would like to do next in their careers or in their lives.

I also coach individuals on reaching their dream life. Often we focus on how we should live or what we should be doing; using coaching questions I help move them to what they really want to be doing (no shoulds!).  What does their ideal life look like (without thinking about what family, society, colleagues, friends think)? Where would they be living? What would they be doing? Once we have a very clear picture of their optimal situation, we help create a detailed and strategical action plan to achieve that life.  There’s a misunderstanding out there that life coaching means giving advice, it’s not about that at all. It’s about asking questions using different models that allows the client to have insightful breakthroughs and find their own optimal solutions to achieve their dream goals. Sometimes it’s also about taking aways those limiting beliefs that tell you: I could never do that. I don’t have the time. I’m not good enough. I don’t have the money for it. I could never start that. I’m not qualified enough for that role.

Olivia Charlet Contributor Photo 4 Black

Can you tell me what a TCK is? And what about an ATCK?

Sure, there are many definitions out there for a TCK, but the one I’ve come across most often is a person who has spent some time during their formative years outside their home or passport country. An ATCK is simply that type of person as an adult.

What made you decide to start a dating website for them?

Well, I had struggled myself to find someone romantically who could keep me on my toes. I was always restless and didn’t feel I met enough people who understood me. I also used to get bored with guys very easily! I wanted to not have to hide any of who I was (which is a large mixture of customs). I finally met someone a year and a half ago who does just that. He makes me laugh, is not intimidated by my multicultural background, and fully understands and appreciates why I am the way I am today. I wanted to create a platform where TCKs could meet people who they’d feel comfortable with. It’s not to say that all TCKs will get along, let alone be romantically attracted to each other; however, it does allow for a much larger common ground. I’ve met so many TCKs since I’ve started this platform and I’ve realised how very often, I feel so incredibly comfortable from the get go. We have so many things to talk about and we can go off on so many tangents! We also have had to deal with a lot of the same sorts of feelings: restlessness, goodbyes, commitment to relationships or cities, and lack of what most call ‘home’.

Why do TCK’s need their own site?

You know what, they don’t. We don’t even need dating sites. But you know what? We want one. I wanted one at the time. I wanted one additional option to meet more people.  And turns out, that other TCKs out there want one too.  What’s not to like about one extra option of meeting the love of your life?  I loved meeting new people, and I love meeting people who can relate to my story. People who I don’t have to explain things to. People who won’t be shocked by customs that are not their own. Of course, you’ll still go out, hang out with your friends, meet guys at a bar, at university. But what if you could increase your chances of meeting someone? Wouldn’t you take it?

Do you have any stories about TCK’s dating other TCK’s? Or any disaster stories about them dating NON TCK’s? What about your own dating stories?

Great question! I think that in the end it’s not necessarily about whether that person is a TCK or not. However, what I do think is it means that if you’ve been struggling to meet people who understand you, it can feel amazing to have people who truly can because they’ve been through similar experiences growing up.

I’ve met someone who’s not a TCK and we’re madly in love. He’s someone who was never intimidated by the many countries I’d lived in, the 3 languages I spoke, the experiences I’d already had at 25. He is complex, intricate, interesting, different, incredibly intuitive, and very open-minded. I think that those traits helped so much. It allowed me to simply be ‘me’ and no one else. He is sometimes surprised by some of the things that I say or some of the things that I’ve done, but he doesn’t judge it in any way.

I never had the chance to meet another TCK when I was single. I’d only ever meet single expats or single locals in the cities I’ve lived in. And it’s only when I started TCK Dating that I met TCKs, and I was shocked about how quickly we bonded. Straight away, I felt we’d known each other for years. And that was a very special experience for me. It was what I realised most people must feel when they meet another Australian person if they’re Australian. It’s that connection that’s almost unexplainable.

Do you have any recommendations for young TCK’s who are looking for love?

I’d say that it’s all about getting out of your comfort zone and really being proactive about meeting new people. It’s funny that for careers, we will do everything: work on a CV for days, send it to friends for editing, write 20 applications, and network in alumni events. Then once we have the job, we’ll spend 9 hours a day at work, spend time with work colleagues, train for our next qualification.

Then, when you ask someone what they do for their love life, they say ‘nothing’. It will just happen. On its own. I don’t have to do anything. I’ll just meet them. I just don’t believe that. I think we have to be just as proactive in our love life as our career. If that means, joining a club that inspires you to meet new people. Joining a touch rugby team to play on the weekends to find other people who share your interests. Attending networking events on your own to meet a new network. Joining dating sites, and actually sending out messages and being proactive on it. This whole waiting game in our love lives is funny. We would never ‘wait’ for a job. As if it would just come to you. That would be seen as ridiculous. We would research jobs, send applications, go to career fairs, speak to friends or old colleagues about opportunities, get out there, and be open and ready to make opportunities happen for us. I believe we should do the same for love.

And what about parents of TCK’s, especially those who are teens or young adults? Is there anything they need to be aware of? Do you have any recommendations for literature or website links they could read?

I think that the book Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds written by David Pollock and Ruth van Reken is an amazing book that really allows us to further understand what it means to be a TCK or CCK (Cross Cultural Kid). The book can be a valuable tool for parents to have a deeper understanding of what their kids will be going through during different stages.

I would say that having that balance between really supporting TCKs in whatever they choose to do and yet also allow their children to be truly independent and learn who they are on their own.  We have enough pressure to do certain things in life; it’s lovely when you have a family who supports you no matter what you choose to get excited about. That’s when we can be truly happen, when we feel fulfilled and engaged in our work or studies.

My parents did a great job in showing that our family would never break and was a solid structure in an ever-changing environment. I think that without that feeling of strong comfort and home within our family it might have been harder for us (my siblings and I) to cope with so many changes and goodbyes.  Having this strong family structured allowed us to appreciate the moves, the experience of seeing new cities, experiencing different cultures and meeting new students everywhere we went.

Thanks to Olivia for answering my questions and help get this series started. Reading back through this is struck me that I have always enjoyed interacting with Olivia and now I know why – we are both TCK’s so have that in common immediately even if our nationalities, ages and backgrounds are very different.

If you are an “interesting expat” or know anyone who you think would be an interesting person to feature in this series please let me know!