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

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Attachment Theory

There were several observations that John Bowlby, a British psychologist famous for his work in child development, made on attachment theory. One of these was the following scenario consisting of three stages: A primary caregiver leaves his or her infant behind in a room. The first reaction of the child is to protest, which entails crying, screaming, and looking for the caregiver. The second stage is when the infant expresses despair; Bowlby describes this as being unresponsive and sad. Finally, the last stage is detachment: when the parent returns, the child does not show interest and instead avoids that caregiver.

Bowbly’s observations resonated with me, having just finished a degree in psychology, and made me question whether a Third Culture Kid (TCK) goes through these same stages whilst following their globetrotting parents around the world…

This week the rest of my post can be found on Culturs Magazine! Find it here Detachment and an Adult Third Culture Kid !


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Feeling different

I have to say that I have never felt more normal. As a Third Culture Kid, having lived in different countries growing up, I always felt different. And the reason for that? People liked to remind me: “You sound American. Oh um, I’m not. Oh, then what? How? Why? Who are you?”. I’d pull out the story to respond to their question: born here, lived here, here and here, and yet parents are from here. And International Schools throughout, hence the American accent.

The response? Wow, that’s crazy! Or another scenario that will make you feel so different as a TCK:  I went out for drinks with some friends who are all from one place. They’re all chatting away. And you couldn’t feel more different. Anything you say just rings strange.  You feel odd. And not like yourself.  You keep trying, but it just doesn’t fit.  Could it be that it’s not you whose abnormal?  Just that your mind doesn’t work in the same way theirs does?

The reason I say I’ve felt more normal in my mid twenties is because I’ve found people who are globally aware. I’ve found people who are adventurous. I’ve found people who are curious about different cultures. I’ve met people who have travelled and therefore welcome differences. We don’t necessarily have the same upbringing or religion. But we have that openness. And a real respect for differences. Who are these people? My friends. They all come from a different country. So that’s not where the similarity lies. It’s an acceptance and an openness to what may seem different or unusual.  Around them, I couldn’t feel more normal. It’s beautiful, and that is why I am grateful for them.
And it’s also a small reminder to those TCKs who are maybe still in school or at university that feel that people don’t get them. You will sometimes feel you’re not being understood and meeting people who are all from the same place will sometimes feel tedious. And you’ll feel out of place and like you have nothing in common with them in terms of the way you think, behave, and react. But this is a reminder to you that it’s not you. It can also be them. There will be people out there who make you feel like you’re the most normal person in the world. Wait for those people to make a decision about yourself. Look for them. They’re the ones who are open-minded. Who are open to cultures, customs, religions, color of skin, differences, languages, behaviours and reactions. You’ll see. I promise they exist.

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Shaking it up!

Have you ever tried to narrow down when you become restless?  As someone who’s moved around a lot growing up, I got used to having a pretty intense change every couple of years as a kid.  The thing is, as an adult, if you have settled somewhere, you often have quite a static lifestyle (there are exceptions, of course!).

If you think about it, most humans are creatures of habit so we try and keep some sense of stability. Very often people have one job that they go to every day. I know there are exceptions and that some have a very varied lifestyle. But often, it’s that nine-to-five or shift job that you go to every day.  It can start feeling quite repetitive and monotone as the weeks, months, years roll by in that same way.  If you then look at the friends that you meet with and the social events you go to, you might start realising you’ve been going to the same place again and again. You’re being loyal to one local pub or a fantastic little restaurant around the corner! Or so you tell yourself. Every other Friday evening, you realise you’re on the same street again. Eating at that asian noodle place. It’s easy. You know it will be great quality and service. So you don’t change it up.  You go to the gym and do your ‘routine’, you know what I’m talking about? The one you haven’t changed up in ages? Cardio for 25-35 minutes, a bit of stretching, and maybe some weights (if you’re feeling adventurous).

What I mean is that you can very quickly get yourself stuck in a rut by simply following a very human trait of wanting stability and routine.  But, for those of us, who can very easily get restless and antsy (me), this sort of behaviour is bad news! You slowly start feeling like you need to run off to another country. Take a 3-month trip in South America. Quit your job!

So that’s why, especially in the winter, when it’s cold, grey and rainy (at least here in London!), I need to remind myself to shake it up.  Every time I’m leaning towards going to that same bar I’ve been to a million times, I have to force myself out of it and think what’s new, what area have I never been to before?  When I want to do the same old work-out, I have to stop myself. Why don’t I watch a fun youtube video to get some fresh inspiration instead?  If I keep picking up the same newspaper, I force myself to pick up a different one.  If I’m walking to the station, I tell myself to take a different route.  I sign up to a rock-climbing session, a street dance class, anything different that will get me out of my comfort zone! It doesn’t cost me anything (or hardly anything), and it means that I won’t get to that what feels inevitable point in time where I want to pack all my bags and move countries!

Do you ever feel like you’re in a bit of a rut?  What are the signs? And what are your ways of shaking out of it?


This is me shaking things up by going to Wilderness Festival in August and swimming in a (very cold) lake!

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I Am an Adult Third Culture Kid

Jenna Strahm outlines what it’s like to be an adult Third Culture Kid. Even if you’re not moving anymore, and have finally settled down as an adult, the fact that you did grow up as a Third Culture Kid means you will most likely always identify as a multicultural and diverse individual. I’m sure these different aspects of being an ATCK will resonate with you if you have a similar background.

My Passport Says I Belong Here

During my growing up years, I was taught the term “Third Culture Kid” (TCK) to help define my identity as a child who was growing up in and among cultures that were different than my parents’ home culture and different than my “passport culture”. I learned how to be a TCK and have a somewhat cohesive answer to the question “Where are you from?”, but all along I kind of assumed that if someday I was no longer living with my parents and continent-hopping on a regular basis I would somehow have more of a normal identity. Then I discovered the term “Adult Third Culture Kid” (ATCK). This is someone who is a TCK because of experiences during their developmental years, but is now an adult. Whether or not this person still travels internationally or not, they never cease to be an ATCK.

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5 Facts about Third Culture Kids

If you’re anything like me, sometimes, you would just want more people to know what the term Third Culture Kid means.  It would be nice to just be able to say, I’m a TCK. And that’s it. No explanation necessary. People would just understand.  They would straight away know that we’ve often moved to different countries during our formative years. They would understand why kids grow up in that way from being a military kid to a missionary to a diplobrat (and the list goes on!). It’s just nice to be understood! So I’ve started making these videos on facts about Third Culture Kids. Here’s the very first one. More facts to come soon!  Please let me know in the comments which facts you’d like included in the next video.

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Purple People (I’m suddenly the mum of a TCK)

Mrs BigTopp has written a funny and relatable post about when she came to the realisation that she was the mum of Third Culture Kids! I can imagine my mom must have gone through the exact same thing when she was raising us (my siblings and I) in Tokyo, Dusseldorf, Joburg, Vienna and Hamburg! Through this post, you can see the real innocence of children, and how they have the ability to adapt so smoothly. I hope you like this post as much as I did!

Under the Big Topp

I apologise. I can’t describe the setting very accurately for you.
It was in the morning, like still morning-morning, when I still shuffle to the fridge for the UHT milk, return to the table and plonk myself down, head-resting-in-hand. All I remember is a fuzzy scene of breakfast and children.
Chatter. Chatter. Mum? Chatter. Spilled milk. Chatter. Argument. Chatter. Mum? , mmmm…. I need more coffee.

Somehow, for some reason, the conversation went in a direction where I needed to state for the record – that the most commonly used cutlery in Australia is actually the knife and fork. My fun-fact was met with 3 little voices muttering in disbelief and Roo’s not-really-sure-what’s-going-on-but-happy-to-be-included chuckle. (here it is commonly a spoon, for all meals.)

What if you are eating pasta?! – hmmm. Fork. I say.
Cue peals of laughter
What if you are eating rice!? – hmmhuh, still a fork.
No Way!

I mentioned…

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When, not if

I came across a show on TV that I didn’t think I would like: Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class. When I saw Alicia Keys talking, I stopped changing channels and thought I’d give the show a chance. I was glad I did.

It was this part in particular that I thought was really powerful. Alicia Keys describes a period in her life when she used to say ‘with my luck, I’ll never’ or ‘if it ever happens’ or ‘it probably won’t’.  When a friend turned to her and told her that if she continued using the terms ‘if’ and ‘probably won’t’, things would never turn around. How could things change if she kept saying that they wouldn’t? She realised then and there how much of an impact words can have on what you do and how you behave.

I agree with this. And it made me start thinking that I use the word ‘if’ a bit too often!  And I think it’s time I change it to when.  Even if you don’t fully believe that your dreams will come true or that you will reach your goals, changing your wording means you’re half way there. And if you keep repeating those phrases to your friends and your family then maybe, just maybe, you’ll start really believing it.

It made me think of a friend I recently saw who said “if I ever meet the right guy”. We get so tired of meeting the wrong people and of being single.  We try so hard to meet someone with whom we could consider sharing some time with.  And sometimes, for what feels like a really long time, we don’t meet anyone that is even remotely close to who we could fall in love with. So, of course, it’s normal that we can get a tad cynical and frustrated! But if we use the word ‘if’, we’ll be setting ourselves up for failure. Why not use when instead? By saying the word ‘when’, you’ll unconsciously be changing your thinking as well. You’ll start believing in success rather than a possibility for failure. Let’s change our wording. When I meet the right person.