Third Culture Kid Dating; adults who have spent their developmental years outside their parent's culture

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So hard to meet a guy you find attractive AND interesting. That spark is rare!

It’s incredibly hard to find a person with whom you can have fun with, someone you’re intensely attracted to, and someone who keeps you on your toes.  Some of my girl friends say that for them it’s so easy to meet guys they find interesting. For example, one of my close friends has met so many great guys that she has practically never been single, only a couple of months here or there between relationships. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel that way at all! I don’t know if that’s really about being a TCK. I don’t think so.  Although, I do think, it might make it that bit harder.  You want someone who is open-minded because you have such a mix of cultures.  You want someone who won’t judge you for certain customs you have picked up.  And you want someone who’s not bland.  I think I’ve always been looking for someone intricate. Someone I won’t be bored with.  I just think it’s hard to meet someone who you can’t wait to kiss, someone you find intellectually stimulating and someone who can just make you laugh. 

There are times when you think: I’ve met an attractive guy who I have things in common with.  You go to a pub with your girlfriends.  You see a really attractive guy chatting to his friends.  You run into him at the bar when you’re getting your glass of red wine.  You start flirting with him. He flirts back.  And you start thinking: hm, maybe this could work; I’m definitely attracted to him.  By the end of the night, you’re thinking, why hasn’t he asked for my number? He’s interested because he’s still here flirting. He’s bought me drinks. And he’s leaning in.  He’s asking me about myself. He’s actually listening to my answers. So from Cosmo and Glamour, all of the queues are there!  When your friends decide to leave, you look up at him, expecting him to finally ask for your number, and that’s when he says “I have a girlfriend”.  Right – I should have expected it.  It’s funny that it doesn’t come up as a possibility in your head. I guess those guys intentionally appear to be single so that they can flirt with you.  While their girlfriend is out with her friends or at home knowing nothing of this. So incredibly frustrating.  You think it shouldn’t be allowed. You’ve wasted hours chatting to someone who’s not even available. Couldn’t they have just told you earlier? 

Then there are the situations whereby it’s a guy you’ve me at uni or through work.  You can always talk to them for hours.  You have tons in common.  He’s interesting.  He likes you. That’s for sure. He always wants to hang out and he’s asked you out on a date a couple of times. But even with all of that, you just don’t feel that spark. You’re not attracted to him. There’s nothing there. And on that random Sunday evening when you’ve had such a crazy heavy drinking weekend, you think, aw maybe there is something there. I’ll text him to see what he’s up to. And the moment he texts you back (literally 1 minute later); you think: what am I doing? I’m not into him. I’m feeling a bit tired, a bit hungover. I kind of need of bit of that attention.  But you just know there’s absolutely nothing there. No spark. No attraction.  You’re just kidding yourself in believing that just maybe there might be something there.

It’s incredibly hard to meet guys you’re attracted to and want to be with.  I don’t think it’s necessarily about being picky. I mean, yes, of course, I was never willing to settle. But I think it’s simply that we want to meet someone who we admire. Someone we can look up to. Someone we feel comfortable with (probably even more so as a TCK).  What do you think?  Do you constantly bump into guys you’re interested in? Or do you also find it’s hard work meeting interesting guys?


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Who do you turn to when you have had a rough day?

Last weekend was my birthday.  And, of course, I have been thinking quite a bit about what it means to be a TCK, and how it changes you as an adult.  I had invited my friends over for some birthday drinks at a pub garden in Wandsworth. I looked around at my close friends sitting at the table, and realized something. I realized that as a TCK, when you finally settle down (if you do) for a couple of years in one place in your say mid to late 20s, you have to build friendships from scratch (AGAIN!) and work on keeping those friendships!  And this takes time. So I was happy to see that after 4 years of living in London, I had managed to make and more importantly keep so many friendships (as you can see from one of my previous posts, this was hard in the past, as I’d often get bored).

As a Third Culture Kid, after university, perhaps you move to a new city for a job and you consider living there for a couple of years.  I think that at first, you put yourself in the TCK mindset : these new friends are for the current period of time. I mean, come on, that’s how it’s always been.  You stay 3, 4, 5 years in a place, make some friends for the time being, and then you leave them and the whole cycle starts again in a new city.

Well, the thing is, when you have been living in a place for 2, 3 years in your mid to late 20s (as an adult TCK), you start realizing, hold on a minute. I haven’t moved away yet; I’m not planning on moving in the next year or 2 years!  Maybe my mindset should start changing.  I guess for me, I found out I needed to start thinking of these friends as people I would have in my life for more than just a couple of years.  Honestly, this was a foreign concept to me. And yet, I saw the necessity of it.

To start feeling ‘at home’ in a city, you need to start making some strong bonds with those around you, start building a community that will support you when things are rough.  You will no longer be able to just run away to a new city from your problems, so you better have some amazing friends to get you through those harder days or weeks.

I will be honest though; as a TCK, I’m still struggling to use my close friends for support.  Overall, I am a very positive and enthusiastic person, and that’s how I’ll be with my friends.  However, on those rare moments where I am really upset about something that is not going right at school or something that has been really stressing me out, I don’t run to my friends. I first try and sort it out on my own (individualistic side I picked up in the American education system perhaps…) or if that really doesn’t work and the situation is still bothering me, I will most likely give my brother a call in Boston or to my sister in Paris.

I think as a TCK, you have learned to rely on yourself or on your family when there is a crisis, and not necessarily your friends. And I think the reason is that you know your family (who have always stuck around through the first 18 developmental years of your life) won’t go away so you can fully rely on them. Whereas, with friends, we have had the experience that every couple of years, either you would go away or they would.  How do you build that trust that they will stick around? I think this is another aspect that I will choose to work on. I think this can only strengthen the relationships I have with my friends.  And hopefully it also means that they can use me for support when they go through difficult times.

What do you think?  Who do you turn to when you’ve had a rough day? Family or friends?


As a TCK, I feel incredibly comfortable in an airport. Maybe even too comfortable…

I walked through the crowded Heathrow airport: artificial fluorescent lighting, air-conditioning, jet-lagged passengers, and constant airport announcements. I could not have felt more at home.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I was flying out of Heathrow Airport to Hamburg to see my parents for the weekend.  They still live in Germany (proper TCK parents! They are French and Belgian).  They have been there for almost 10 years now. That is the longest they’ve been somewhere as expats!

As I slowly moved towards my gate in Heathrow, stopping at PRET for a white Americano, I realized how relaxed I was.  Suddenly the stress I had accumulated over the last couple of weeks about revising for exams, working on my company, and working at the Pilates studio part-time started melting away.  I knew that in a couple of minutes, I’d be boarding a plane, and I would be leaving behind any issues I had. It felt so freeing. And it was also this strange nostalgia I had for airports.  It just gave me a lovely warm feeling inside.  Am I crazy? Or does the feeling of being in an airport just remind you of childhood, flights back to see family over Christmas from different places around the world, flights taken towards a brand new destination?

It’s funny how much I enjoyed the movie ‘Up in the Air’. The way the character played by George Clooney knew how to go through the security check-in in a matter of seconds. He had nailed it after having done it so many times. He knew exactly what the airport security officers would be looking for.  Or how he just had a sense of calm when going through those busy airports. And when he got home, he almost looked uncomfortable.  I definitely felt that when I moved to Boston. I didn’t feel quite at home yet in my apartment there and almost felt more at ease in the Boston Logan airport.  What is it about airports?  Do you feel the same way?


Have you experienced grief and anger as a result of being a Third Culture Kid?


Before I tell you more about my business idea, I thought I would delve back into some of the common themes that come up as a third culture kid.  I went to a fantastic evening meeting Adult Third Culture Kids on Thursday night in a bar in Soho.  It was an event set up by the Meetup Group Adult Third Culture Kids in London.  It was great comparing stories of where we lived as kids and how being a TCK has shaped us, made us who we are.

In one of the conversations I had, I learned that some TCKs felt strong anger during their childhood and a little bit afterwards about moving and leaving friends and classmates. Most said they felt fine with it today as they had had the time to register why certain things had happened.  But when they were kids, and their parents all of a sudden mentioned they were moving to Germany or Honk Kong or anywhere else, they were stunned.  It meant that a couple of months from that point, they would have to say bye to their friends, not knowing if they would ever see them again. Leaving with the knowledge that they would have to be strong again, be proactive in making new friends, and start settling down in a brand new place.

I was quite surprised at first about the anger the felt.  I guess for it had been different for me.  And maybe for other TCKs too.  For one, since I was in international schools throughout, there was the expectation of new students coming and going.  Students expected people to leave, and they simply welcomed newcomers.  Yes, as the new student, you had to be extraverted and go towards people to make new friends.  You couldn’t be scared or timid because otherwise it would have been a real struggle to make friends. However, once you had made that first move over towards your new classmates, they were willing to let you into their group of friends.

I also felt that I always kind of expected I would be moving.  I was never surprised when my dad announced we were moving.  When he said we were leaving from South Africa to Vienna, I was just excited.  I took it really well.  I couldn’t wait really to try a new place out, learn about new customs and cultures, discover new activities, and meet new people.  And strangely enough, I never felt sad to leave.  I was able to completely and totally detach myself from the group of friends I was in. I was ready for a new adventure. And I had no fears about whether or not I would manage to make new friends. I simply knew I would.  And more importantly, that it would be extremely easy to.

I think it would maybe have been different as well if I had been moving on my own. For example, I knew some classmates who had to leave for boarding school.  I think this would maybe have been harder as you had to make the move alone.  However, because I was moving with my parents and my two siblings, I felt confident. We had such a close-knit family that it felt like that’s all we needed.  And the friends we would meet or connections we would make in the new place were just added-value.

Some TCKs said they had been sad to leave their friends for a new city. One of them explained that they had never expected to leave, and each time they had moved, it had been a surprise for them. They said this made it hard.  I think that’s why it wasn’t hard for me; I had anticipated a move.  I had expectations.  I knew I would be leaving.  So the knowledge that I would leave and the fact that I was aware of my situation made it easy for me to cope.  I think if I had not anticipated these changes, I would have been surprised.  Now I realise today how this has shaped me.  I have found out over time that today, as an adult, this means I am constantly anticipating what comes next.  I don’t let things simply happen to me.  I’m not waiting for things to happen to me. Instead, I’m always being proactive about my next move, anything from working hard to find a new job to figuring out what my next project will be or even making new friends when I know a close friend is leaving London.  If I get ready for the downside and expect the worst, I can be ready for it when it happens. Instead of being on the back foot, I can strive in times of change.  If you are reactive, then it’s too late I feel. Whereas if you proactively make changes and take action, you won’t be caught off guard as much.  I know today that this definitely comes from being a TCK.

How about you? Were you upset when you left a city as a kid? When you left your friends? Or were you excited, like me, for the unknown, the new people, and new adventures you would embark upon?

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What was I truly interested in?

There I was, learning what it meant to be a coach.  Learning how to reach goals more quickly and efficiently.  Through the coffee chats and facebook messages with friends of friends and extended network, I had learned that I wanted to move away from sales and finance, and close to people, psychology, and more supportive roles.  Through coaching, I had learned that often it is the unknown that makes us confused. And all I needed to do was reduce the unknown. So for example I wasn’t sure what roles would provide me with these aspects: people, psychology, and support. Even though the role as a psychologist sprang to mind, I wasn’t really sure what it actually entailed day to day.  What were the qualifications that I needed?  What kind of environment would I be working in?  If I still wanted to work in a business-like culture, would a psychologist role fulfill these requirements?  And more importantly, would I enjoy the role?

I needed to find answers to these sorts of questions to reduce the unknown. I asked one of my close friends.  I knew her parents were psychologists.  I asked her what their day to day tasks were; I found out that it could be flexible if you had your own practice.  I also discovered that it was an emotional job. You were dealing with serious and severe psychological disorders on a day-to-day basis. She told me it was about learning to detach as well from the emotions as well as empathise. If I chose this path, I knew I would need to go back to school.  So little by little, I was getting a better understanding of what psychology would entail.  Through being proactive and finding out what I didn’t know, I was able to reduce the unknowns. And realise this wasn’t for me.

I liked the idea of helping people who were struggling, but I didn’t want to completely leave the business world (I was still fascinated by it, and I like that hard-core challenging side of things).  So I tried finding what could mix psychology with business. So again, following the skills I learned in coaching, I was proactive and went through linkedin to find out if there were jobs out there with keywords such as : psychology, business, people, support, organization.  Guess what I found?  I found jobs under organizational development, organizational psychology, business psychology, occupational health, and this led me to find people who already had jobs in these areas.

I continued searching and found a ‘LinkedIn Influencer’ who was an Organisational Psychologist.  I knew that this area was of interest to me. I wanted to learn more about it.  I needed to know the qualifications or skills you needed to become an organisational psychologist. So I went through her LinkedIn CV and found out that she had done a Phd in Organisational Psychology.  A PhD meant paying more as it would be a much longer degree. Even though I knew it would have been a great experience, I did not want to fork out that much. Instead I looked for cheaper options. I found a 1 year full-time Masters at UCL, Royal Holloway, and King’s College.  Since it was also a brand new topic, I thought it was important to learn more about it first, before jumping into a long PhD program.
6 months later, I started a Masters in Organisational Psychology and Psychiatry at King’s College.  It brought me so much knowledge in terms of mental health within the work place, not only the very negative side of the spectrum but also the positive end.  How to improve well-being of people at work, how to keep employees motivated, and how to increase performance through effective management.

I would never have made my move to enrol in a Master’s Programme in this niche area if I hadn’t taken that first step of speaking to friends, family, and connections.  The time spent chatting to those people for 6 months to a year allowed me to have a better understanding of their likes and dislikes and through that pinpoint my own interests and passion.  I had realised once again that I was fascinated by people, their life stories, and the psychology behind it. However, I was also very passionate about business, and this interest would never go away.  It actually led me to realise that I wanted to start my own business some day.  And surprisingly enough, by taking proactive steps towards that dream, I made it a concrete goal.  How I found my very own idea for a business … in my next post.