Category Archives: third culture kids

TCK: Language Study

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A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.
David C. Pollock

Not every Third Culture Kid’s experience is exactly like another and when it comes to language study the same is true.  I have known some TCKs who are bilingual from their time growing up between two countries.  There are TCKs who only know one language from not being immersed in a second language while others know multiple languages. Continue reading

TCK: Where are you From?


Knowing where you are from is part of your self identity.  It is also the way others can form initial impressions and gain an understanding to who you are upon your meeting.  For many this is an easy, quick to answer question that requires no premeditated thought. For some it may take a little time as they have moved around, but upon further investigation will find they have a ‘family’ home through their family relations. Then in walks the Third Culture Kid (TCK) who may love or loathe this question for there is no real simple answer. Do you want the short version or the long version? How many more questions will you ask depending on the answer I give? How will you label me if I bring up certain places? Will you stop listening when my answer goes past two words?

I became a TCK because I grew up in a US military family that moved around military bases overseas. Not all my peers had the same extreme nomadic lifestyle that I did growing up.  They may have spent two years or maybe six abroad but returned ‘home’ to a semi stable lifestyle stateside.  I on the other hand have lived some places for a few months up to a few years (though never more than three) over and over again. If I were to go off the typical reasoning for being ‘from’ somewhere I would be without a country/city/state/province/town to hold as my own. As a TCK I hold each significant place that I have spent time in as a part of who I am.  Perhaps I only lived in that place for 3 years but it has now become one of my ‘homes’.  I am a citizen of the world and I am proud of all the stamps in every passport I have.


Where are from in the US?
Technically I am not. I was born in England during my father’s second tour (out of three) with the US Air Force.  I moved to the states at seventeen after growing up across military bases in Europe. I spent the next eleven and a half years spending several months to a few years living in various parts of the United States, including three summers abroad to Italy, Australia, and Thailand.

Alright but where is your family from in the US?
My dad was from Newark, New Jersey. He left at 17 to go to the USAF Academy and moved frequently for his work until he retired in Arizona. He is survived by a younger brother but I have probably only been to NJ less than ten times in my entire life. My mum had a nomadic life within the US as a church planting kid and I never knew her extended family either. While we have relations in the US, there is no grand family home to return to for the holidays.

When your husband was in the military, where were you guys stationed?
We were in Monterey, California for close to 2 years and then on the island of Oahu in Hawaii for 3-4 years.  We were blessed with ocean side locations during our six years as a military family. Hawaii is now the longest place I have lived anywhere in the US.

Where have you lived in Europe?
I was born in Oxfordshire, England and also spent a few years in Norfolk during the first gulf war.  Then I lived in Stuttgart, Germany in between two separate tours to Naples, Italy.  Three years ago this coming May we moved to Brighton, England and we moved to Bath a year ago this past Christmas.

What brought you to England this time around?
When my husband and I were engaged at Uni we had plans to move abroad to Europe.  He joined the military in hopes we could get overseas assignments like my father.  While Hawaii and California were great, when my husband finished his enlistment we decided to move on.  My husband started a masters programme in England and with my dual citizenship we left the US to start a new life for our family.  We now work and live in Bath.

Where will you move next?
We have no current plans to move.  This is the first time in my entire life I have not had to think about moving in the near future. The historic city of Bath is beautiful, quite safe, and a lovely community with picturesque countrysides surrounding it. We can now plan towards the future and look forward to future events here with our family.  I know that may seem like a lot coming from someone with such a nomadic background.  However, I have never felt as happy or as content as I do now.  It solidifies our decision to leave the US to see how happy my whole family is here together at last.

Want to know more about Third Culture Kids?
Read my other TCK related posts.

Parenting: 5 Things I Have Learned

Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved | 
The photographs above were taken on my mum’s last night in England.  Ronan was ready to have is photo taken and posed and Maddox was still holding on to his feelings of being upset. To his defense he did pick the flowers for me and out of love, but unfortunately it was not our garden. However, I love both photographs because they showcase the ups and downs that is raising children.  Before I had kids I envisioned a happy little family of laughter and giggles.  You do not think about the stresses and challenges that come along with your growing bundle of joy before having kids.  
I love my children and I love my weekends because it is all about family time.  I cherish those moments most as an expat living abroad.  I try to leave my Sunday posts open to flexibility so if I need a day to just write thoughts or share photographs I can do so.  So many of my friends as of late are starting to have babies or adding more children to their family.  So the thought of kids and parenting has been on my mind frequently.  Today I share five things that I have learned personally since becoming a parent.  While these may not agree to you, they fit my family.  My husband and I understand that just because it is different, it does not make it wrong.  If you do read through this and can relate, feel free to join in the discussion at the bottom by commenting.  Hope you are all having a great weekend! 
1.  When you become a parent you take on your own style of parenting.  
The way you parent may not necessarily be the same way that your parents raised yourself.  Nor will you parent the same way as one of your siblings.  Your best friend in all the world who shares all your common interests may too parent differently.  This does not make either party right or wrong.  In fact the same parenting style for one child may not even work for your second or third child.
2.  Families can be both extremely helpful and also overly complicate matters after children come along.  
It really depends on the family, specific family matters, and the situation.  I can be around my mum , sister, and uncle and have no issues arise while they praise the boys for how respectful and loving they are and accept my parenting style.  I can also be around the family of my inlaws and have every parenting choice put into question, be over stepped as a parent, and treated like a sixteen year old instead of a married mother in her thirties.  The thing you have to remember is when it comes down to it what is important are the parents and the children.  Block out the negative outside opinions and influences.
3.When kids are hungry they will eat.  
My children spent three years of their young life growing up in Hawaii and so they were introduced to a variety of foods that included but not limited to: fish, sushi, pho, pancit, and jiaozi.  Instead of eating out at typical ‘american’ chain restaurants we went to our favourite local spots for Vietnamese, Philippine, Chinese, or Japanese food.  Fast forward to today and we eat a lot of vegetables, fish, and meat with what is closely related to a paleo diet.  All in all I know my kids eat foods now that their cousins back in the US will probably never eat until they are adults. My husband and I also do not allow picky eaters at the table.  We serve them just enough that they would be able to eat and expect them to eat it all or most of it, depending on what is served.  If my son eats everything but leaves one thing and goes right into ‘i do not like it’ then he is told he has to eat it and do it quickly.  My sons have  yet to be stubborn enough to sit at the table for hours without eating the food and more often then none exclaim that they actually like the food after eating it.
They will probably be sick of this story once they are teens but I always tell them that learning to eat something you may not out right love will train them to be amazing travelers ready to experience new foods in any country they visit.  They will learn to eat something and smile so that they will always be respectful to their hosts when living abroad.  Again my children are not other people’s children and I am aware that they have had a broaden world view already for being kids with American citizenship.  However, from experience I have realized that my kids will eat if they are hungry or motivated enough.  Sometimes a little dessert bribery can go a long way.
4. Having boys is a lot different from having girls.  
I say this as a mother of two boys with no daughters and as a girl who grew up having just one sister.  I honestly did not know what life would be like living with a guy until after my husband and I were married.  I now live with three guys and it is quite the experience sometimes.  I remember growing up as a girl and being able to spend an entire day indoors reading or playing with my dolls.  Keeping my sons inside the house for too long and they will find a way to bring outside play into the house with running up and down the stairs, loud shouting, toys being thrown and explosion noises being heard from their location.  I recently was watching a group of girls in varying ages at the park play and just realized how differently they played compared to my sons and their friends who were running around the grassy field nearby.  I would love to have a daughter next, but after eight years could not imagine my life without my boys.
5. Being a mother is comparable to being a broken record at times.  
I honestly say the same things over and over in one day, in one week, and through out the month.  You would think that once it has been understood you have progressed enough to not have to look over the same situation again.  However it is different when raising kids.  I also would love to learn how to say something to my boys in my normal voice and be taken seriously.  I do not like having to raise my voice or call in the big guns, my husband, for things to get done.  I am exaggerating slightly but it seems to be a thing all my friends who are mothers deal with when parenting.
*Portraits belong to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007 – 2013 All Rights Reserved | 

Sports Day with a TCK Spotlight [VLOG]

Yesterday was one of those moments that I experience with my children that reinstates why I love raising them here in England.  As a Third Culture Kid myself, I really wanted to raise my sons as TCKs and travel with them through out the world.  I wanted their childhood to mirror my own and to give them even more than I ever experienced just as any parent would naturally feel about their children.  There is something so special as a simple school programme, like this Sports day, that can make having children so worth ever moment.  It was not about winning or losing but seeing the love of life and the joy of happiness coming from the little person you created.  
I know my son Ronan likes sports but we have not had the opportunity to have him involved in any sport teams outside of school yet.  All I knew was that he was very competitive and would be really hard on himself at school when he was not 100% amazing at something he just started learning.  Due to my work schedule last year this was my first time to see him participate in something with athletics.  I just did not realise he was so fast or that he loved running so much.  When he got home from school yesterday I swept him up in my arms, gave him a big hug and kiss.  I told him I would always love him so much and that his achievements that day did not affect my love for him but made me so proud to see him so happy.  
I have included some of the photos from yesterday below along with a special video about Third Culture Kids.  Ronan has wanted to guest post on my blog for a while now and we decided to do a VLOG format.  Thank you to all those who asked me questions on twitter and facebook for Ronan to answer.  Please let me know after you watch what you think. I know Ronan will want to read the comments so feel free to send him a shout out too. 

* Photography belongs to Bonnie Rose of Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007-2013 All Rights Reserved | 
**Video from Bonnie Rose on Vimeo.

Marriage, Inlaws and Cross Cultural Issues

It is official! My sister has finally booked her plane ticket which means my whole family will be for my vow renewal in about five weeks.  Granted ‘whole family’ means my mum and my sister.  I come from a very small family where both my grandmothers died before I was born and grew up with not a single cousin.  However if my dad was still alive you bet he would be here in a heart beat to support us.  I could not feel more blessed or more excited to see my kin.

Unfortunately I found out a couple of days ago that my husband will only have his father here to celebrate our ten years of marriage.  Despite years of rocky relationships with his side of the family we still have held out that change could happen.  That they would accept us a family. The problems all boil down to not meeting expectations and misunderstandings in our cross cultural relationship.  However you do not need a Third Culture Kid upbringing outside the US for this happen.  This could be the same situation with couples from families in different parts of the US with how vast and different the culture is through out the country.  

If you have been reading this blog for a bit you will know that I talk often about how life is not easy.  It is a valuable life lesson I work with my kids to understand.  We both come from families that did not talk and though there was lots of love lacked the intimacy.  It is something we have realised through our marriage and through what we want to change to be different for our kids. Marriage is not easy and ours took may pitfalls into a near divorce.  The silver lining is that life is also beautiful.  Through it all my husband and I are still married, are finally living in Europe, and are more happy now than ever.  To be celebrating ten years of marriage and to renew our vows in front of our family and friends is a big deal to us.

We, my husband and I, wanted this celebration to finally bring together the two families.  We can see how most of all the problems have arisen while on my in law’s turf.  My husband and I thought that having his family around my family and our friends and in our home country would help them assimilate to how our family works.  As a third culture kid and an American raised abroad there are many aspects of our life that they have not understood nor accepted.  From moving around a lot I know the easiest way to understand a new culture is to fully immerse yourself in it and get to know the people.  That was our hope from this summer.  I was finally excited to not have to ‘act’ a certain way or pretend to be someone we were not just when his parents were around because they live by different expectations.

It makes me sad for my husband.  Especially because I know how close he and my dad became and how proud he would be to support us.  I am also sad for our my kids. This is not the first time they have missed out on time with grandparents because of self imposed drama.  Last summer after a confrontation with my mother in law she left the state for several weeks, only wanting to return after I was back in England.  I wish I could say I am the root cause for it all, but it just happens over and over again. It is unfortunate.  However not all families talk about the problems.  They happen, no one addresses it and then they smile and act like nothing happens until it carries on into the next blow up. It is not healthy and though I cannot force my in laws to like me or to be here and support us I can share with you lessons I have learned from it all.

Just because it is different, it does not make it wrong. This is a sweet and simple statement from Disney’s Merlin animated film that I have used over and over with my in laws.  It is pretty much my go to answer when we run into differences in understanding about something.  If you just think about how big the world is, how many countries and cultures are within it, and how many different ways people live life day to day.  Not every one believes the same thing and it is okay. Would you go into someone’s house in a country across the world from you and preach to them about why their way of doing something is incorrect? Perhaps looking at close relationships the same way can help to understand those with different views. 
People Grow and Evolve. Yes it is true you cannot change a person, only they can decide to make the change for themselves.  People however do experience personal growth.  You cannot say that someone is a certain way or is a certain person because of something they said or did a decade ago.  We are also learning lessons continually in our lives.  However we are all also in different stages of our learning.  Just because you have learned the lesson on how to deal with personal conflict with others, does not mean someone else has learned it yet.  I have learned that instead of letting the hurtful words of other affect you, to be patient as they work through those important life lessons. This was something brought up by my friend Patricia this week. 
Don’t play the blame game.  This is a daily lesson I am helping my sons learn.  When confronted with why they are not ready for school, they are both quick to throw each other under the bus.  As adults I have noticed how the weight of exhaustion or stress can easily aid in placing the blame elsewhere.  I have learned the easiest way to avoid placing blame is to listen to the other person.  You might realize that they are really trying to reach out to you and all that it takes is deep breath and to be the bigger person. 
Don’t talk bad about others.  Most often from my experience people say the most cruel things about others because they are either deflecting from their own persona anxieties, stress, and hardships or because the unknown of the situation has them scared.  If people are saying bad things about you, sometimes it is best to just block them out.  Soon enough people will realize that they are spending more time bad talking about you than working out their own issues in their life.  If someone is constantly that unhappy there is a root issue that needs to be addressed.  I read a really good book years ago called ‘How to Be an Adult‘ which talked about how unresolved issues as a child can greatly affect our relationships as an adult.  
Life is short. Don’t waste your life on earth.  I wish I could have had just one day left with my dad to tell him how much I loved him and to say goodbye properly.  I wish I could have him back in my life so that he could be here this summer for our vow renewal.  There is nothing but death that would stop my parents from being here with us this summer.  The worse thing in life is to live with regrets and time is something you can never get back. 
You have to confront life to get past obstacles in life. Otherwise you are just running away from the problem. Confrontations are not fun, simple, nor easy.  But like ripping off a bandage, they have to happen if you want to heal wounds.  If you do not talk about things it does not make them go away. It only makes them fester and grow a toxicity inside you ready to blow.  When that happens it usually just makes the wound larger, it does not solve the problem.  You cannot run away from things or expect other people to speak up for you on your behalf just because you do not like it. If we as humans liked confrontations I think the word would be called something with a much softer tone to it.  The point is as an adult we have to learn how to confront others and how to work through problems.  We are all different and we may not always get a long but we can work through issues as adults. 
Be a positive person or get professional help if you are not. This lesson is what has made me indifferent to my entire in laws family.  You cannot change a person and if they are constantly upset, negative, angry, or putting toxic energy towards you than it may be a red flag that they are harboring much deeper issues.  If you cannot find the positive in people or in situations, perhaps it is time to seek out help.

Be Assertive.  I talk about things in my family.  I use things that happen in life and in current events to teach my children life lessons and to open up conversation. I do not believe in covering up the truth with sugar coated stories.  I really think the worst thing you can do is to not talk about something.  If I am having a bad day I would rather my husband know about it, than hope that he has magically gotten a sixth sense between when he left for work and when he got home.  You have to be assertive and act.

We have the power of choice.  You can choose how you act or react to situations.  I chose to Let Go when it came to things out of my control.  I also choose to be honest to my blog.  I love to take photographs and it is nice to be complimented on them, but I feel in turn I like to be open with my thoughts.  I think the worst thing is to be alone, to feel alone, or to have no one to talk too.  If you feel that way, feel free to talk with me as I have been there before.  It is through talking and through letting go that we can live life as adults and enjoy each precious day we are blessed with in our life.

Q: Have you ever experienced trials with families when it comes to different expectations or cultural differences?  How have you gotten through it?

VLOG: Interacting with Third Culture Kids

Today is the second day of May with the Blog Every Day in May challenge.  Feel free to join in and if you catch this anytime through out the month feel free to just jump right in.  I will be posting my normal posts, so you get a special treat of two different posts for each day this month. Read about Day 1.

Day 2, Thursday: Educate us on something you know alot about or are good at. Take any approach you’d like (serious and educational or funny and sarcastic)

I decided to do a VideoLog (VLOG) on how to interact with Third Culture Kids (TCKs).  
I hope you find this informative and if you would like to know more about TCKs click the top link.
I wrote out what I wanted to say for 80% of this and the rest was just me talking. You will be able to tell when I run out of my ‘script’ because I will start saying ‘um’ frequently. I apologize and I hope to get better at my future VLOGS.  Unfortunately my editing software did not want to corporate today.  Let me know if you liked this VLOG and if you would like me to do more of them on the blog. 


TCK: Saying Goodbye to Friends Pt. I

“The issue is that transition always involves loss, no matter how good the next phase will be.  
Loss always engenders grief and the greater you have loved a situation or place or people,  
the greater the grief.” – Ruth Van Reken 

Waiting’ Self Portrait | Bonnie Rose Photography © 2012 All Rights Reserved

The subject of being a TCK and the loss of friendships has been a subject heavy on my heart these last few weeks.  Understanding the loss a Third Culture Kid experiences is to know that the layers of loss run deep.  It is not a superficial issue of just saying ‘goodbye’ but becomes a loss of identity.  There is the loss of home, community, friendships, family, pets, culture, worldview, language, food, weather, expectations, etc. When you have a highly nomadic life as a TCK you lose your world over and over again every time you move.  In turn with each move and each series of losses you equally cycle through stages of grief, just as you would with loss of a loved one.  

It is that loss that I experienced when my parents repatriated back home to the US after serving six overseas tours with the military in Europe.  It took my final year of high school in the US, followed by two and a half years at University of not understanding the full scale of the loss and grief.  Then at a world missions conference I found out about TCKs, that I was one, and everything started to finally make sense. It is my experience that has fueled my need to speak out for the future generations of TCKs. There are some experiences I have now as an ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid) that prompt my need to write and to share. 
I am thirty years old and I have yet to live in one place for longer than three years at a time since birth.  For the most part I have been around people who have led similar nomadic lifestyles with being a military child and later a military wife.  People were constantly coming and going in and out of my life. Keeping in touch with friends when you moved twenty years ago (and back further) is quite different from today.  You swapped mailing addresses and not emails.  I believe I had my first email account in 1995 as junior high student while living in Germany. Ten years later in 2005 I started a myspace account and a year later in 2006 became active on Facebook. By this time I was living in the US, married with one child and one more on the way. 

When I think about how social networking has impacted our lives today, it truly is remarkable how much different it used to be.  I would keep mailing addresses of friends in an ‘old school’ address book.  It was not strange to mail something to a friend and have the letter later returned because they had since moved on to another location. When email started becoming popular it was normal for us in the younger genrations to change our email address. Email accounts only held so much space and there were always trendy new email servers popping up.  In the end remaining friends with someone from previous moves proved very challenging as a TCK.  Despite sharing a completely unique experience as a TCK, once you have moved twice that friend has now shared other life experiences and has made new friends too. I came up with a colour diagram as a way to explain how moving frequently affects friendships.  

Red is the current place you live in and so your friendships there are current and active.  When you move from your current location on to the next location those friends move into the yellow. The new place becomes your red hot spot.  You make new friendships, you see each other frequently and you know what is going on in your day to day life with those people.  The friendships you made that are now in the yellow zone have some what changed intensity.  While you may still keep in close contact with the selected view, many of those you will slowly over time lose contact.  Since you no longer live in the same city/country/continent the likely hood of running into each other to jump start a stale friendship is slim to none. When move again the friends from the red zone now move to the yellow, those in yellow to the blue, and it is possible that those in the blue now fade into the grey.  There are always exceptions and some friends can stay in certain zones or move up and down the scale depending on the work put by both parties on the friendship. Very few friendships may ever make it out of the blue zones, now that they are two times removed. Between the time that you knew anyone in that blue zone and the new zone in your current location, you have made many more friends and have experienced many more things in life that those people have no missed out on and vice versa.  Again there is always a chance for friendships to keep in tact it just takes a lot more work and friendships are a two way street.  

This is Pt. I, to read TCK: Saying Goodbye to Friends Pt. II click here. 
For more information on Third Culture Kids, TCKs, and ATCKS

*photograph and graphic belong to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2013 All rights reserved.
** Contact bonnie[at]bonnie-rose[dot]co[dot]uk for more information regarding photographic services.