India Unplugged by Aurelia Zoss

When you scour the bookstore or internet for books on India, you typically find either thick guidebooks, language assistance books or novels about the author’s path to spiritual enlightenment. Sometimes you will find a guidebook for women traveling alone to India and in a rare case, you might happen upon books that discuss culture differences and how to overcome them while traveling. Enter, India Unplugged by Aurelia Zoss

India Unplugged by Aurelia Zoss

I just read Aurelia Voss’ book titled, India Unplugged and it was a breath of fresh air, seeing as though Aurelia LIVED in India for three years! It is a glimpse into her life there while working and living in a country that is often misinterpreted and where few stories of a long-term assignment have been written down and shared with the masses. To get to know Aurelia a bit better, I asked Aurelia some questions about her time in India, as well as her thoughts on travel in general.

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What is an expat and TCK?

Because Todd had prior experience living overseas, the term “expat” was not new to me when we first discussed moving to India. I realized though that though that I adopted the term very rapidly, I’ve never really talked about what it means to BE an expat.

What is an expat?

To borrow from Wikipedia :

An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person’s upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latinex(out of) and patria(country, fatherland).

Easy enough, right?

But wait … then there’s the discussion on Third Culture Kids.

What is an Expat and TCk

My mom ordered the Third Culture Kids book by David Pollock for me to read about this subject, but I thought it might be interesting to discuss a bit here prior to my delving in future posts.

Third Culture Kids or Trans-Culture Kids (abbreviated TCKs and sometimes also called Global Nomad “refers to someone who [as a child] has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture”. 

Origins and Research

Sociologist Ruth Hill Useem coined the term “Third Culture Kids” after spending a year on two separate occasions in India with her three children, (Flopsi, Penny, and Dipsi) … [note: yes, those are apparently really their names and not their blogger pseudonyms!] 

… in the early ’50s. Initially the term “third culture” was used to refer to the process of learning how to relate to another culture; in time, the meaning of the term changed and children who accompany their parents into a different culture were referred to as “Third Culture Kids”. Useem used the term “Third Culture Kids” because TCKs integrate aspects of their birth culture (the first culture) and the new culture (the second culture), creating a unique “third culture”.


TCKs often come from highly successful, intact, educated families.When a group decides to send or bring somebody to a foreign country, they are making a significant investment. They want to send people who will represent the group the best and provide the most value for the investment.  “Almost all” TCK families are deployed to foreign countries as a result of the father’s profession, and very few families live in another country primarily due to the mother’s occupation.

Intercultural experiences

TCKs are often multilingual and highly accepting of other cultures. Moving from country to country often becomes an easy thing for these individuals.  Many TCKs take years to readjust to their passport countries. They often suffer a reverse culture shock upon their return, and are constantly homesick for their adopted country.

Many TCKs face an identity crisis: they don’t know where they come from. It would be typical for a TCK to say that he or she is a citizen of a country but with nothing beyond their passport to define that identification for them.

They usually find it difficult to answer the question, “Where are you from?” Compared to their peers who have lived their entire lives in a single culture, TCKs have a globalized culture. Others can have difficulty relating to them. It is hard for TCKs to present themselves as a single cultured person, which makes it hard for others who have not had similar experiences to accept them for who they are.

They know bits and pieces of at least two cultures, yet most of them have not fully experienced any one culture making them feel incomplete or left out by other children who have not lived overseas. They often build social networks among themselves and prefer to socialize with other TCKs.

Recently, blogs and social networks including Facebook and TCKID, have become a helpful way for TCKs to interact. In addition, chatting programs including Skype are often used so TCKs can keep in touch with each other. The unique experiences of TCKs among different cultures and various relationships at the formative stage of their development makes their view of the world different from others.

Notable TCKs

  • US President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii from an American mother and a Kenyan father and grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii.
  • Current NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, the Philadelphia-born son of professional basketball player Joe Bryant, lived in Italy from ages 6 to 13 while his father played in that country.
  • Former NBA star and current team executive Steve Kerr, son of American academic Malcolm Kerr, was born in Beirut and spent most of his childhood in various countries in the Arab world, only moving to the U.S. permanently in high school.
  • Zack Kim, Notable guitarist was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

If you made it to the end of this post, I’d love to hear your comments about TCKs.  Are you one?  Do you know one?    Is the thought of raising a TCK exciting or paralyzing?



Living in India

What do I like best about living in India

Written just after we arrived in Delhi, India for our three year stint. This photo is of my youngest … celebrating our family’s new favorite holiday EVER. Holi.


Kirsten from The Norwindians asks :

What do YOU like best about living in India?

I first drafted this blog post right away … sat down and started typing away.  Then it came time to actually answer the question and I got stuck.  I couldn’t find the answer to relay to you.  I was unable to narrow down my thoughts in a concise way, so as to smoothly explain what I like best about living in India.

First of all, I think that I need to do a better job of relegating my experiences to just Delhi.  I have seen SO little of INDIA, that my answer can only be in answer to the question, what do I like best about Delhi.

Husb travels extensively all over the country.  I admit that sometimes I slip and instead of referring to his trips as “business trips”, I mess up and say “Daddy’s on vacation.”  It’s anything but a vacation and he only sees the inside of hotels, airports and hangars. He gets to see Bangalore, Chennai, Hosur, Mumbai and more … but he doesn’t get close to experiencing Incredible India.

The kids and I thoroughly enjoyed Kerala …but our travels inside India stop there.  There is SO much of India left to be explored and I wish we had more on our list of sightseeing to add under the heading of “what I like best.”

Do you know how often times we forget to be tourists in our own home?  We still joke about the fact that while living in Cleveland, we never once went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
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I digress.  Sorry, Kirsten!

I like best the opportunity to have a houseful of staff so that I can DO things.  I can participate in tour groups of the area, spend real quality time with friends, have weekly date nights with my Husb.  Not have to worry about washing clothes, grocery shopping or mopping floors.

I have the huge opportunity to REALLY get to know myself better, get to know my Husb better, spend more time with the kids, etc.

Have I fully utilized that opportunity?  I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t.  I’ve been sloughing away too many of these days and can only hope to get better at taking full advantage in the coming weeks.

I also like best the ability to see some superbly amazing sites … just minutes from our doorstep.  Alot of people say that once you’ve seen a tomb, you’ve seen them all … but I think they are all beautiful.  Even if I can only soak up 5 minutes worth of history, I feel it’s important to keep seeing the sights. What’s really the coolest about it all is that even during your daily drives, you pass by some amazing things – just on your way to a market, for instance.

I happen to also REALLY like best some of the ways that Delhi can change me.  I’m not a patient person by nature, and I don’t happen to play well with others (read : control freak, hot tempered and quick to speak).  If I can marinate a bit longer in this environment, I could quite possibly come out of this a better person.

Maybe the BEST is the new friendships.  Becoming an expat doesn’t simply mean you relocate to a new address, live in funky places or accumulate alot of frequent flier miles.  It also means you have the opportunity to make some amazing friends.

You have the ability to meet people from all over the world, who have been to zillions of places and seen miraculous things.  You can learn so much just by asking your new friends “What did you do yesterday?” and could write a book with the answers you get from asking “What is the coolest thing you’ve seen?”

I’m adding another zip code (here it’s called a pin code) to add to my previous TEN on the “where I’ve lived” list … and adding so … so, much more.

I miss Delhi

I miss Delhi.

I miss the pride that was taken in one’s handicrafts. I miss the intricate attention to the cultural importance of dates, celebrations and festivals. I miss the welcoming in of those of us that were not native to their normal.

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Are you living somewhere other than your “home” ? What do you miss about the last place you live.  Are there things about a location many moves ago that you still miss?