Saturday, February 11, 2017

The TCK Identity is ambiguous

I have an ambiguous identity of a Third Culture Kid. There's quite a lot of nationalistic pride these days in the world and the more I shy away creating a strong stance on any of the particular countries I have either an affiliation, lived in before, traveled many times to and totally enamoured with because I don't understand nationalistic pride.

As a TCK, I'm ambiguous. Culturally mixed up and adopting cultural traditions that I like along the way. When one has a global stand point of view, it isn't about specific countries and patriotism to one country. It is about feeling torn because why does one need to choose? How does one choose? Should we choose at all...

I have a perverse fascination with people who have strong viewpoints because it means they have decided what they are going to fight for. Fighting for your beliefs is a very Western ideology that I grew up with in my education. I know what I believe in and will question why... just like I am doing now.

I've been interested in hearing both sides of the story lately because to understand a situation is to hear the extreme viewpoints of both sides. Perhaps, I'm optimistic in thinking this would probably solve or come up with a solution that both sides can agree upon. This is how I view disagreements between people.

As a TCK, many of us are used to looking at the world from an Outsider/Insider perspective even if we aren't realising it. This perspective can sometimes frustrate me because what is so clear to me can be clouded when one has a strong extreme stance.

I'm a globalist that believes TCKs and cross-culturals should assert the diplomatic Outsider/Insider perspective. This is the TCK privilege.

I am a TCK and I'm culturally ambiguous.
Straddling between cultures
I watch,
I listen,
I see,
I experience.
Then I talk.

Cultures clash and my mind races.
Trying to navigate a world that is so divided like night and day.

A dramatic world of extremes is a chaotic world.


All I want to do is create, produce, inspire, and love.


The world needs more love.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Third Culture Kid Spotlight: Philip

I found some of my old research survey answers from 2004 when I began my TCK research journey that started as part of my Senior project dance production "Third Culture Kids" that was part presentation, half documentary film, half dance, and based on the books written about TCKs, expats, and these survey answers by TCKs around the world. I'm unearthing them because our complicated stories need to be heard. 

1. What is your name?

2. Where were you born?
Brussels, Belgium

3. What is your heritage?
Mother is from the Netherlands (Amsterdam), with French grandparents
Father is 15th generation American, of Anglo Saxon (English/Scottish) descendants

4. Where have you lived & how long at each place?
Belgium 0-1 years old  (1 year)
London, England 1-8 years old (7 years)
Phoenix, Arizona, 8-15 years old (7 years)
Belgium again, 15-18 years old (3 years)
Chicago, 18 -  (4 years)

5. What is your definition of "home" and how is it different from those around you?
Home is wherever my family is "based' at a given time.  That means, wherever we have a house we can all get together at.... where my father is working.  It is not the town I've lived in my whole life, because I don't have one of those.  Sometimes I feel most "at home" in a town that's not necessarily where I'm living.

6. Where do you consider "home" and why?
I consider "home" to be Phoenix, Arizona.  I feel that it is where I spent my most formative years.  When I moved to Europe again in high-school, I had developed strong roots in Phoenix already and continue to go back to visit even today.  This is usually the answer I give on those short, "where are you from?" questions if I don't feel like telling the whole story.
My family is still "based" out of Belgium so the longer they stay there, the more I visit them there, the most that starts to feel like home too.

7. Do you have interests in the following: foreign languages, international relations, travelling, international politics, different cultures of the world, etc...  Yes/No If so, do you think your background has helped you develop these interests?
YES.  I love traveling, learning new languages and exploring different cultures.  Livnig in Europe made me really sensetive to international politics and the importance of learning languages to communicate.  So I think my surroundings definetly had an impact on my interests.

8. What are your thoughts on globalization? Current political situation?
I think globalization is very efficient, however, I find it kind of a sad thing.  The more the world becomes globalized, the more the beauty and individuality of different cultures will be lost.  As far as the current political situation goes, I think we've seen the worst.  I think the global climate has been pretty fearful and this is something that will turn around.

9. How are your thoughts on world affairs different from those around you?
I take much more of an international perspective, not always looking at everything on a domestic level.  I know how other countires feel and how other countries are affected.

10. Do you plan on incorporating a large amount of travel with your career?
I would like to, yes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A need for communication and peace

Having a Hot Toddy at Oliver Conquest gin bar in London, Nov 2016

Through the political uncertainty and chaos, we have to remember to be strong, compassionate, friendly, open-minded, and proud global citizens. There are too many problems of the world. From politics to the problems on the local community level. A lot of animosity, racism, bigotry, and fear of the unknown. People are more guarded and acting out of anger. As a third culture kid, this makes me disappointed that in today's mixed up global world this is still happening. 

I meet a lot of people from different cultures, socio-economic background, ages, and race. Sometimes it is hard to remain composed and diplomatic when people use their racial stereotyping to make assumptions. When I have these stereotyping thoughts, I keep them to myself and then analyse the reasons why I made the assumptions in my head.  It is painful to see people with a lot of influence encourage others to incite violence, racism, bigotry, etc. I have to remember that there are good people left in the world and to correct racial stereotyping in a calm diplomatic way even if it is irritating. 

I've been watching the world become more racist, bigoted, jealous, angry, violent, and lose sense of humanity over the past year. It is disheartening to see. I'm not just talking about one country, I'm talking about several countries. There is a decay. It is totally scary!

There is a need for communication, peace, open hearts, paired with lots of art, food, wine/drink. 

Communication because misunderstandings happen all the time. 

Peace because there's enough strife and conflict. 

Open hearts because we've become isolated, distrustful, fearful, and scared. (I'm working on this one.) 

Art because it strikes a chord with the emotional, thinking, feeling, perception, and diffuses difficult conversations with beauty. Dance, sing, act, paint, draw, sculpt, etc. 

Food because who doesn't love gathering around with good food. 

Wine because the complexity of personal stories pairs well with complex wines!

We need peace.

Talk to people, make friends, hear other people's stories.

Stand up for your own beliefs if you feel threatened. 

View from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, Aug 2013

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Third Culture Kid spotlight: Teresa L.

I found some of my old research survey answers from 2004 when I began my TCK research journey that started as part of my Senior project dance production "Third Culture Kids" that was part presentation, half documentary film, half dance, and based on the books written about TCKs, expats, and these survey answers by TCKs around the world. I'm unearthing them because our complicated stories need to be heard. 

1. What is your name?

2. Where were you born?

3. What is your heritage?
My mother is born in Finland to Finnish parents, my father is born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and a Polish father.

4. Where have you lived & how long at each place?
I've lived in Sweden from birth to age 3, from age 3 to age 6 in Maryland, US, from age 6 to age 17 in Sweden, from age 17 to age 18 in Beijing, China, from age 18 to present in Illinois, US, for college and now for graduate education.

5. What is your definition of "home" and how is it different from those around you?
I have several definitions of home, really. Depending on what level of experience with identities that do not depend on some perceived essential quality I perceive in who I am talking to, I use different definitions.

One definition is somewhere that I have lived or live now as well as where my parents live now, considered as facts unattached to emotions or identification. This is the most shallow definition that I use with people who have never lived abroad, for example. This definition is designed to be consistent with how non-TCKs see the world.

Another definition is somewhere I have lived or live now as well as where my parents live now that I did not/do not dislike. This is a definition designed to let people understand me a little bit better if I make the judgement that they might have enough understanding to do so. It is a list only linked by very strong negative emotion to fact.

My most true emotional definition of "home" that I only use to myself is somewhere I feel comfortable and relaxed, somewhere I belong by identification. It is different from others around me that it is for me completely subjectively defined, whereas for most others I meet it is a function of a combination of birth and how long you've stayed somewhere, in other words, facts about your life. As I have found this difference impossible to overcome by explanation, I do not use this definition to other people.

6. Where do you consider "home" and why?
According to the most shallow definition, my homes are Ludvika, Sweden; Frostburg, MD; Beijing, China, Galesburg, IL, Chongqing, China, and Champaign-Urbana, IL.

According to the second definition, my homes are the same as above but without Ludvika, Sweden.

To me, home can be rather delocalized. If I feel comfortable and like I fit in, I feel like I'm in a home. Right now, I am home in Champaign-Urbana. If I go to visit my parents, I go home. I just go from one home to another. Home is not so much a singular place as a set of circumstances and conditions under which you can be happy. Those can be in place in many different places.

If a territory must be named, it would be Beijing, because it is clear to everyone that I live in the third culture there, and it is a major international city that can sustain the cosmopolitan way of life that makes me feel at home. Beijing is a city that is increasingly owned by internationally oriented people as described in "Whose City Is It? Globalization and the Formation of New Claims" (Saskia Sassen, in The Globalization Reader, ed. Lechner and Boli, originally in Globalization and its Discontents (The New Press, 1998), and so although I am clearly a foreigner, it is my place. Also, because I am a clear foreigner, it is clear to everyone that I cannot be expected to conform to and know all of the intricacies of Chinese culture. In Sweden, I was expected to fully conform to social norms that I did not know very well, and this resulted in very painful ostracation and acute cultural marginality. Knowing that this can never happen in China helps make me comfortable there. Beijing also 'took me in' at a time in my life when I was very mentally broken down from this cultural marginalization and let me be whatever mix of cultures I wanted. For these reasons, Sweden is not one of my homes.

7. Do you have interests in the following:
foreign languages Y
international relations Y
travelling Y
international politics Y
different cultures of the world.  Y
If so, do you think your background has helped you develop these interests?
Yes. All of the above seem to me like the sort of thing that one ought to have interest in for one's own good. It's just good, sound, practicality.

8. What are your thoughts on globalization? Current political situation?
I am an Affirmative Global, as described by James N. Rosenau in his book Distant Proximities: Dynamics Beyond Globalization (pp 121-137). I feel very connected to places that are far away physically and have a relative lack of interest for what is going on locally, unless it has wide impolications. I consider the global level of consideration to be the most important for everyone, even people who profess a lack of interest in it. I believe that globalization can bring prosperity to more people than ever before in history. That potential makes it an ethical obligation to try to harness the economical power of globalization in such a way that the world as a whole benefits as much as possible. This may mean in some cases moderating the forces of capitalism, but more often than not this will involve nation-building and construction of infrastructure along with letting market forces generate revenue. I also think that cultural globalization has potential to increase the capacity of people everywhere to empathise with others. This sort of identification could contribute significantly to peace and stability.

Not that I see any way to opt out of globalization in the first place. Economics gives the first push, and the rest follows from there. In lack of alternative economic systems to capitalism, there isn't much any country can do to stay out in the long run.

Recently, I have become aware of just how much the changes globalization have brought are resented and create unrest in people's minds even in Western countries. The sharpness of this backlash has taken me completely by surprise - in accordance with Rosenau's characterization, I do have to note, I should have had warning - and I am having a lot of trouble understanding it. It is also causing trouble for some parts of my identity. The following is from my journal:

The group of people I have trouble identifying with and who feel alien to me are people who hate others on a group basis, be it 'turks', "liberals", or foreigners. That sort of hate breeds so much..... I hesitate to say evil in principle since I don't believe in absolute good and evil, but in lack of a better word I'll say evil and trust you know what I mean. Bad things happen to good people when hate becomes common, no matter why there is hate. Even though I may not be the direct target of the hate, we are all in danger as a society when hate starts spreading, along the lines of both of our concern with recent dubious internments. That's why it makes me feel so queasy when people from one of my countries hate, because I've already blanket identified with them (because we share at least some general culture), and that means that I've blanket identified with people who scare me, and so I feel both like a part of me sickens me and like I've been betrayed!

I find the extent of this backlash troubling and am searching for a suggestion on how to handle it.

The current political situation in the United States is making it very difficult for me to feel American. It is also very difficult for me at times to understand what has happened and is happening after 9/11. It just seems so unreal to me that the US  would issue such objectionable foreign policy. And what is even more incomprehensible to me is how someone who started a war, unprovoked, based on false allegiations and insinuations in defiance of most of the rest of the world including the UN, could possibly make "moral values" part of their running platform and WIN. In my version of reality of Western countries, one of the things that politicians never, ever do is start a war. Never, ever, ever, ever. Even talk of such things is suspect. I could type for hours about the current US political situation, but it is very exhausting to think it all over. We seem to be living in 'interesting times.'

9. How are your thoughts on world affairs different from those around you?
I find that my concerns are very different from those around me in that I am concerned about the world as a whole, not just about the interests of one country or even continent. The intense focus on the US here really bothers me, because it's not good for the country and it's not good for the world. I seem to be looking for win-win situations where regular Americans are looking for America-win-at-any-cost situations. Some element of this thinking is present everywhere, but due to its size, I believe that it is very manifest in the US. Similar trends can be seen in China, a country of comparable size. I consider myself a global citizen, not only because my concept of home is deterritorialized but also because I think it's the only really ethical thing to do. If people are all created equal, then I must apply ethical thought to all people in the world, not just the ones in one particular country.

10. Do you plan on incorporating a large amount of travel with your career?
Yes. I do not think I would be happy only being in one place for the rest of my life. I am actually hoping to expatriate using some company, because it is often much easier to have a company take care of arrangements and I will already have a job when I get there.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Best Books for Third Culture Kids

I've attended Families in Global Transitions conferences in 2010, 2011, and 2012. One of my favorite activities at the conference besides meeting amazing people like Ruth Van Reken, Jo Parfitt, Tina Quick, Apple Gidley, Julia Lee Simons, Killian Kröll, Eva Lazslo-Herbert, Lois Bushong, Becky Grappo, Isabelle Min, Alice Wu, Cheilaugh Garvey, Margie Ulsh, Mary Wertsch, Craig Toedtman, John Liang, Noel Roberts, and more! I like to check out the bookstore. 

Here's my list of best books for Third Culture Kids:

1) Third Culture Kids, Growing up Among worlds by David C. Pollock & Ruth Van Reken

4) Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing up Global by Faith Eidse and Nina Sichel 

5) The Mission of Detective Mike: Moving Abroad by Simone T. Costa Eriksson and Ana Serra

6) Home keeps Moving by Heidi Sand-Hart

7) Letters Never Sent by Ruth Van Reken

8) The Global Soul by Pico Iyer

9) Cross Cultural Connections by Duane Elmer

11) The Art of Coming Home by Craig Storti

This is just a short list (for now) of books that I found helpful. I still have quite a number of books that I have yet to read on my Kindle and storage. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Olympics are filled with TCKs

Stock image taken from Pixabay

The Rio Olympics is underway and so many elite and inspiring athletes from around the world are competing at their highest level to be the best in the world. Its been a rising trend that so many of these athletes are globally mobile and travel to get the best training in the world. So many athletes as a result become Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and Expats as a result.

Sports has a long history of soft-core diplomacy for countries. The exchange of good sportsmanship between athletes, the inspiration these elite athletes give to budding athletes, the athletic rivalry in competition, and the pride in representing a whole nation.

Wait... Patriotism among TCKs can be a tricky thing.

As a spectator, TCKs are torn between multiple countries. Who do we root for?

I recently asked my mother this question and she responded by saying "I don't have a country to root for"

To which I replied "I root for the winning athletes and the countries they represent"

She responded "So we should have multiple country flags and wave the winning flags"


Its trickier for athletes. Some are third culture kids early on in their childhood and had their training all over the world. Some move because they need to get the highest training they can get to make it to the top of their chosen sport. Some move because they would have a better chance at representing a country at the Olympics.

With global mobility becoming easier, an elite athlete would be able to get the best training she/he needs to make their dreams come true. There are so many critics to this tactic as it may be seen as un-patriotic. But what is patriotism these days for the global nomad? Global nomadic athletes train hard to push themselves to realise their dreams for competing with the best for an Olympic gold.

We should support the athletes and their hard work, sacrifices, and for having the determination that many of us lack to push through many long hours of sore muscles, injuries, etc.

Cheer on for the athletes that moves from Singapore to the USA, from China to Germany, from Greece to Austria, from USA to Georgia, from USA to Sweden, etc.

Celebrate the diversity of cultures mixing and healthy sports competition.

Stock photo taken from Pixabay

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The hardest thing about being a TCK

When your friends are scattered all over the world. Long distance friendships and relationships are hard. You're always missing a places and faces.

Life becomes complicated when you're always on the road traveling every couple months. The first question I get asked is "Where are you?" Its like the game of finding Waldo in the pictures. 

I have itchy feet. I feel stuck when I'm in one place for too long. Perhaps, I haven't been able to find that place where I can call home for a while. 

The thing is, I like the slow travel movement. Taking time to slowly take in the culture, sights, people (or lack thereof), scenery. I also like being in my own little space and being on my own whether typing up blog posts, researching articles, writing articles, dancing/choreographing, and cooking up all kinds of recipes. 

Social media is supposed to make it easier to connect people. An online world of connectivity. However, I find that people become a bit lazy to write each other. When I was a child, I had penpals in different countries and wrote letters to them every month. It was a joy to receive a letter in the mail and sometimes we even sent pictures and gifts. 

It took effort to buy a long distance phone card, write and send that letter, print pictures for sharing, etc. Now we have everything at our fingertips. As long as the internet connection is solid. I've been fascinated with how one can have a career online and work remotely from anywhere in the world. 

We as a society have become smaller yet more distant in human relationships. With all the distractions of the modern world and bombardment of online connectivity how does one maintain healthy connections with friends from around the world? 

Just something I've been thinking about lately as I'm working mostly online and connecting with my friends via social media.

P.s. I love getting letters and postcards so if you feel compelled to write to me send me an email!