Third culture kids are used to having to adapt to new places, new cultures and new people. We’re used to learning to settle in some place new and how to tackle the challenges associated with that. But ‘used to’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy, or something that we always manage to do quickly and with great ease. Some places are easier to adapt to than others, some cultures are more familiar than others, and some people are more welcoming than others. Also, we have good days and bad days, like anyone else. And the truth is, as stoic as we may seem on the outside, the inside is often in turmoil. It could just be my opinion, but I think we internalize a lot of the struggles. I think we do open up more around other TCKs, but even then, I don’t know how much we truly get into the nitty-gritty details about how we feel. We don’t necessarily share the emotions we felt at leaving a place we called home and all the chagrin that caused. We won’t particularly talk about what went through our minds when we arrived some place foreign, feeling completely lost, intimidated and often sad. We put on a brave face and try to pretend we know what we’re doing. We try to hold back any fears and any tears. Bringing them out in the open makes them too real, and often once they’re out, they’re very tough to box back in.

In my family, we were always lucky that our parents talked about the moves with us and we always had several months ‘warning’ before we would actually move. This at least allowed us time to let the news sink in and to let us enjoy the last months there as fully as we could. I also believe that as a third culture kid, you eventually develop a sixth sense that forewarns you that the moment you dread is approaching. The one time that stands out the clearest in my mind is when I found out the news that we would be moving from Sydney to Paris.

It was a sunny day and my last class must have been P.E., because I was in my sports uniform – navy blue shorts and a sunflower yellow polo – sitting in the car with my mom, on the way to the dentist after school. I remember my mom saying she had some bad news to tell me (did she say ‘bad’ or just ‘news’ and my brain registered ‘bad’?), and I just knew. Maybe it was something in her tone, which felt more gentle than usual, maybe it was a sixth sense…Whatever it was, I knew the news was that we were moving again. I didn’t worry that perhaps something had happened to a family member or that someone was sick, because I knew exactly what she was going to tell me. So I turned to her, already feeling the knot in my stomach, the tears in my eyes and hearing the crack in my voice…I must have said something along the lines of “please don’t tell me we’re moving”, but to be honest, I don’t quite remember. I just remember the confirmation and how I felt at that moment. I just asked why and probably pleaded for us to stay, as silent tears rolled down my cheeks. We were in my mom’s little red car, the afternoon sun was peeking through green leaves, and my world had just been turned upside down. All I could do was dry my tears and go see my dentist.

I doubt many people know this story, as it’s not something I’ve often shared. And to be honest, I don’t think I’ve heard many, if any, similar stories, yet I highly doubt that I’m the only TCK to have had moments and feelings like these. But how often do we actually share these stories? How often do any of us truly talk about the emotions we go through during the usual pattern of our TCK life? I happened to touch upon rather sad emotions in this post, but the truth is, I don’t think we talk about the happy moments either, and there are so many of those as well. The life of a third culture kid isn’t easy, and there are a lot of tough moments, but in the end the positive moments and the amazing experiences you gain outweigh the harder times. I know I’ve said that before, but it’s because I believe it so strongly. I also believe that it’s important to share these emotions and these experiences – both the good and the bad (and yes, also the ugly).

So here I am: I’m a third culture kid and I’m sharing my stories.

What’s your story?


10 thoughts on “Sharing

  1. Bravo to your parents for communicating with you so clearly and for giving you a good buffer of time to process what was going to happen. And to you, for your honesty and your story.
    I don’t qualify as TCK per se, but my family made several big moves when I was growing up. The earliest one I remember was when I was around 7 – my parents framed it as a new experience, and said we were all in it together, as a family. They didn’t talk about the downsides, the unhappy days to come. I was young enough not to realize what challenges were inherent in such changes and what my parents took care of without me even knowing. Looking back on the years since and connecting my experiences with those of others I’ve met, I often think about the conscious decision my parents made in the way they talked about our move with me & my siblings.
    If I have to put it into words, those experiences taught me that there’s opportunity in any change, but also it took me some years to be able to articulate the larger lesson: that there’s no change I can’t handle, since my parents did so many times without my even knowing. That part I had to figure out on my own, in the some-days-totally-suck-but-I’ll-live way, but the upside is that I’d internalized the lesson years before. For that, I’m grateful.
    Thanks for a thought-provoking and beautifully written post!


    1. Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your experiences and what you learned from them. I felt like what you wrote is exactly the thoughts and feelings I’ve had over the years. I’ve also often though about everything my parents must have done throughout all these moves, without us realizing it and how many challenges they must have overcome in the process. It takes time to find the lessons in these experiences, and hindsight is truly a wonderful thing to help with that! Like you said, experiences like these definitely teach you that there’s opportunity in change, and also that there is no change you can’t handle – sometimes it’s easier/harder than others, but in the end you always figure it out.

      I’m really happy that you enjoyed this post and I hope to hear from you again! Thanks again for such a wonderful comment and for sharing part of your story 🙂


  2. I think it’s great that your opening up. It can’t be easy. I had some struggles moving from the US to England and the cultures are pretty similar so I can only imagine going completely out of your comfort zone. Thanks for sharing and I hope we hear more stories.


    1. I find that it’s not so hard to open up, because I have a much clearer view of my experiences now than I did while I was living them. I always appreciated the different places and cultures we got to live in, but the emotions were always so raw (good and bad) that you didn’t necessarily see the big picture. As an adult I realize just how much that way of life made me who I am and is such a part of me, and I love that. I wouldn’t change that for anything, and the memories I made – both the wonderful ones and the tougher ones – are very special to me. I also know that I’m not done with that lifestyle, so I’m extremely grateful for what I’ve learned throughout the journey so far and for whatever future experiences come my way.

      I can definitely understand that you had some struggles moving to England – as similar as the cultures may be, there are still such huge differences and it’s such an upheaval to what you’re used to, that it definitely takes some time to adapt. But from what we see on your wonderful blog, you seem to have adapted quite well and settled in nicely 🙂 Sometimes being out of your comfort zone makes you learn a lot about yourself and is a very worthwhile experience…

      Sorry for such a long-winded reply – I hope it won’t stop you from commenting again in the future! 😉


  3. And we’re all listening, Dounia. Does your mom read your blog? It would be interesting to get her take on this. My story is very different from yours but many of your comments could apply to me: “We won’t particularly talk about what went through our minds when we arrived some place foreign, feeling completely lost, intimidated and often sad. We put on a brave face and try to pretend we know what we’re doing. We try to hold back any fears and any tears. Bringing them out in the open makes them too real, and often once they’re out, they’re very tough to box back in.” I was a young widow and it was a completely foreign country that I’ve still not found my way out of. But you’re right – it makes us stronger, it makes us who we are, and “sometimes being out of your comfort zone makes you learn a lot about yourself..” While I don’t wish this on anyone, I HAVE learned a lot. And I’m always amazed at how different we all are, and yet we all seem to have similar experiences. We all have to adapt. It’s nice to find someone to share with. Keep writing.


    1. Sorry it’s taken so long to reply, but I wanted to have enough time to reply properly and not just throw anything out there, because your comments come from the heart and they reach my heart in turn.

      My mom usually does read my blog, although I don’t think she’s read this post yet. Sometimes she leaves a comment on my blog, sometimes she talks to me directly about what I’ve written. My family’s been very supportive about my blog and they love reading it, which is wonderful for me.

      I can’t even begin to imagine what you must have gone through. That is far more difficult and heart-wrenching than anything I’ve ever been through. It’s easier when they foreign country is physical – it’s much easier to navigate actual roads and obstacles than to overcome the ones in our minds and hearts. I admire the incredible strength you must have had, and must still have to cope with such a loss. I’m so pleased that my little stories mean something to you and that you find things you can relate to in what I write. That means much more to me than you can imagine.

      I agree that it’s nice to find someone to share with. I’ll definitely keep writing; I just hope you’ll keep commenting.


      1. If you keep writing, I’ll keep reading. It’s so interesting to read about someone else’s experiences and find that you can relate it to your own life. I think all of us aren’t all that different. We do what we have to do.

        Also, thank you so much for the blogger award … I really appreciate it! And I’m not even a TCK! 🙂


        1. I definitely agree that we’re all more similar than we might think…

          And you’re very welcome for the blogger award; I always love your blog posts and your comments, so I was very happy to pass it on to you! 🙂


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