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!
* * *

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.

Tips for Road Trips and Travel with Children


Road Trips with Kids

How does one safely make the journey, while also retaining sanity?

Some of our tried and true tips for road trips with kiddos:


  • CELL PHONE CHARGER!  Too often I make the organizational mistake of packing this in my luggage that I don’t have easy access to.  Huge bummer when you have a cell phone with a dead battery! 
  • Bottle brush that makes cleaning out sippy cups a BREEZE when you’re on the go with no access to a dishwasher.
  • Boxed milk that requires no refrigeration. If your kiddos can’t live without milk, this reduces the need for a cooler in the car!
  • Ziploc bags of all sizes — perfect for trash bags (when you need to contain smelly trash, or to ensure that random french fries from the last drive-thru lunch stay put instead of all over the car).
  • Diapers that your little one has outgrown — maybe a strange tip, but they make for a really fun game of hot potato without fear of breaking or hurting anyone!
  • Dryer sheets to place underneath carseats — another strange tip, but it helps keep the car smelling … well … spring fresh!
  • Ziploc Big Bags!!  Pack one in your overnight bag for dirty clothes.  The size holds your entire family’s dirty laundry AND zips shut to keep the odor-ifious-ness contained.  
  • Travel size of Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo.  This works for bathtime, sink-cleaning laundry if needed, washing out sippy cups, etc.
  • Nightlight.  Nothing is worse than an unfamiliar bedroom (whether hotel or with family) than a dark bedroom.

PACK AND PLAN AHEAD. If you are staying in a hotel or with friends along your way, pack what EVERY member of the family needs into ONE bag.

  • change of clothes for the next morning
  • pjs
  • swimsuits
  • toiletries
  • Ziploc big bag

When you arrive at your first night’s destination, it is so nice to only have to remove ONE bag for the night instead of pulling all sorts of random bags into the lobby, WITH your tired and cranky kiddos.

A TWIST ON ‘Breakfast in Bed’. 
If you are staying at a hotel, ask the front desk attendant when you check in to allow you to raid their continental breakfast room/fridge for some milk cartons (put them on ice with your bucket) and boxed cereal. 

Throw in some fruit, and you’ve got your own bedside breakfast ready in the morning without forcing you to get dressed and wrangle the littles into clothes first thing.


Use a small cookie sheet that magically transforms into a lap desk.  The benefits to this are numerous:

  • Magnets STICK!
  • Colors are contained within the outer lip
  • Snacks are easily kept at bay (imagine goldfish flying all over the car when you hit a bump?)
  • They easily slide underneath the seats for storage

We find our trips go the best when I’ve pulled aside some toys several weeks prior to our trip, so that the toys become “new” to them.

The dollar bin at Target, or your local dollar store also makes for great “new toys” for in the car.  Don’t go overboard, but pick up some cheap things and your kids will be thrilled!

We also intentionally swap out toys every 30-45 minutes … even if they’re not “done” playing with them.  Instead of waiting until frustration levels are high and they’re beyond playing with the toys, refresh their scenery and swap out on a regular basis.

Ziploc or grocery-store bag each GROUPING of toys.  Explain to your kids that they need to keep all like items together and you’ll all save yourself some much needed energy.

If you have room between carseats, throw in a plastic crate, which will serve numerous purposes along the way.  (For the kids to keep their juiceboxes, snacks, toys in their reach, etc.)

Pack each kiddo a backpack of their own special things. Include in their backpack their OWN bag of colors, kid-friendly scissors and … a roll of tape.  No joke here … that roll of tape can keep them busy for H.O.U.R.S!

Create a BINGO game of sorts (afix it to their cookie sheet lap tray for ease).  Identify several things that the kids will be likely to see along your journey and let them color in the squares when they spot each one. 

CREATE A MAP of your journey with your starting location, your final destination and pinpoint several landmarks or locations along the way.  Provide stickers just for this map and help your children identify and understand a bit more the process of the journey.  It cuts down a bit on the “Are we there yet?” question.

CLEAN OUT THE CAR every time you stop for gas or potty breaks.  Take the extra 5 minutes to throw away that trash!

USE THE SEAT POUCHES for shoes and socks.  Designate the pouches on the back of the seats for the kids’ shoes and socks.  If they have special blankies or lovies, also use those pouches for those items.  Instead of having to search high and low for these things when they are rapidly needed, form a habit of always placing them in those pouches. 

DVD PLAYERS. I canNOT stress this enough.  Each child gets their own DVD player AND headphones.  Saves from fighting over which movie to play, whose player is louder, etc. 

 * * *

With a little bit of planning, a lot of patience and some organization, you can make your summer road trips bearable! 

I’m sure there are SO many more travel tips.  Share your favorites!



Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah Georgia

Bonaventure Cemetery is a public cemetery located in Savannah, Georgia. We visited it last December and it was a gorgeous way to spend an afternoon.

Featured in the movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, it occupies over 160 acresIn 1867 John Muir began a Thousand Mile Walk to Florida and the Gulf. In October he stayed for six days and nights in the Bonaventure cemetery, sleeping on graves overnight (cheap accommodation). As he found the cemetery to be beautiful and inspiring, he wrote “Camping in the Tombs.”

“Part of the grounds was cultivated and planted with live-oak about a hundred years ago, by a wealthy gentleman who had his country residence here But much the greater part is undisturbed. Even those spots which are disordered by art, Nature is ever at work to reclaim, and to make them look as if the foot of man had never known them. Only a small plot of ground is occupied with graves and the old mansion is in ruins.

The most conspicuous glory of Bonaventure is its noble avenue of live-oaks. They are the most magnificent planted trees I have ever seen, about fifty feet high and perhaps three or four feet in diameter, with broad spreading leafy heads. The main branches reach out horizontally until they come together over the driveway, embowering it throughout its entire length, while each branch is adorned like a garden with ferns, flowers, grasses, and dwarf palmettos.

But of all the plants of these curious tree-gardens the most striking and characteristic is the so-called Long Moss. It drapes all the branches from top to bottom, hanging in long silvery-gray skeins, reaching a length of not less than eight or ten feet, and when slowly waving in the wind they produce a solemn funereal effect singularly impressive.

There are also thousands of smaller trees and clustered bushes, covered almost from sight in the glorious brightness of their own light. The place is half surrounded by the salt marshes and islands of the river, their reeds and sedges making a delightful fringe. Many bald eagles roost among the trees along the side of the marsh. Their screams are heard every morning, joined with the noise of crows and the songs of countless warblers, hidden deep in their dwellings of leafy bowers. Large flocks of butterflies, flies, all kinds of happy insects, seem to be in a perfect fever of joy and sportive gladness. The whole place seems like a center of life. The dead do not reign there alone.

– “Camping in the Tombs,” from A Thousand Mile Walk

The cemetery is open to the public daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is no admission fee.


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Aren’t the stones cool? I first saw stones on gravestones while at the Jewish Cemetery in Singapore. Generally, rocks on tombstones are a representation that a visitor has been there for remembrance of the loved one. It sounds as though it is also a symbol of reminder that others are also missing and remembering the loved on, by seeing the other stones that have been left.


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