Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Potato wisdom for raising kids abroad

It's good to start at something with some kind of idea what the end result will be. You should have a picture in mind. A vision. A dream. When I planted potatoes in our garden in the Netherlands I hoped the result would be that we would eat home grown potatoes. Just the idea of it filled me with pride. I could see our family around our table eating something I had produced. Then again it was the first time I was planting potatoes so I just never quite know whether it would be successful. I went to a garden centre to buy the potatoes. Luckily they did have several brands to choose from. There was my first challenge: which brand should I pick? Let me be wise and ask for help. The shop assistant politely let me know that he had no knowledge of potatoes and potato brands. That in itself is not a great problem had he been able to refer me to someone who could have given me advice. There I was all alone with my unanswered question. I checked the internet on my cell phone hoping to find the answer, it took lots of time and in the end I still didn't know what to do. So I took a lucky guess and choose one of the brands.
My potato plants copyright DrieCulturen

It's a little like raising kids abroad. Most of us do it for the first time in our lives. We have a picture of the end result. We want to raise strong, independent, healthy, multicultural, mature adults. The only thing is you are never quite sure what the end result will be like. Will we be successful?

What could we do to help ourselves when preparing to raise kids abroad?
  1. Ask a professional and hope they know about third culture kids and can give good advice or that they can refer you to someone who can help you.
  2. Check the internet on information about third culture kids and about moving internationally with kids. There's a recent article in the Telegraph by Helen Maffini: Top tips for emigrating with children. Another helpful article is Top 10 ways to cope with any transition by Julia Simens. Libby Stephens has a list of third culture kid resources that are worth checking. Here's my list of websites and blogs that are worth having a look st.
  3. Read some good books on the topic.
  4. Keep the image of your end result in mind. Don't let go of that dream.


Here's my harvest. Just to let you know: we did eat potatoes and it felt so good! I want to cherish moments like this. It makes life exciting. It was worth starting on this new adventure. Do you have advice for parents preparing to raise kids abroad?

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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Are you raising messed up kids?

The internet and twitter are very useful tools for finding new information. Today I was searching the web and I arrived on a blog written by a third culture kid. The words I read stayed with me all day and I just have to share them with you. I have written about my 10 disadvantages of growing up abroad and I have written a blog on the downside of growing up abroad as a third culture kid.  You know it's true, children are flexible and they can easily adapt to transitions but there is a cost we pay. Please parents do think ahead and consider what effect multiple moves will have on kids. Here are the words I read:

"Dear everyone who has kids: If you want to mess up their heads and damn them to loneliness, raise them in a place radically foreign from what you know and love.  It works every time.

Growing up, I was the poster child for third culture kids.  I didn't fit in anywhere.  Even when I was well liked, I didn't really fit in anywhere."


There are real challenges for third culture kids, children growing up in multiple countries, continents, and communities. There is an "identity issue". Where do I belong? Where's home? Who am I? Where do I fit in? I have written about cultural identity confusion and third culture kids before. When I was growing up in Africa I cannot really remember having any real identity issues. During primary school I attended an International school so there were kids from many different nationalities. We were all different, there was no problem there. The community was constantly changing. We were saying "hello" and "goodbye" regularly. It was a way of life. To me it was a normal way of life. During secondary school in Zimbabwe I remember being called "the foreigner", but even that I could accept.

The identity issue became a real issue when I went to university in the Netherlands (my passport country).  My whole life I had said that I was Dutch. I spoke Dutch, I had a Dutch passport, nearly all my family lived in the Netherlands and yet suddenly I did not feel Dutch. I discovered that there were many things about normal Dutch life that I did not know. It is so hard to explain, it is not only about knowing things but also about feeling different.

Through twitter I came across a blog post written by Julia Munroe Martin. She was a third culture kid (TCK). She grew up in France, Belize, Kenya and Uganda. She writes about "always feeling and being different in every culture, never fitting in anywhere..."

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Image thanks to Jusben Morguefile

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Twitter update week 19: all about kids growing up in other cultures

Photo thanks: Chilombiano Morgue File
A great article about trilingual family & benefits of living abroad  

Having a Baby Abroad -Global Differences Series: BRAZIL

Found this today "Africa stays with me" words by a third culture kid who grew up in Africa. Read about the experience

Need some fun things to with your kids? 101 kids craft ideas

Wow, look at these exotic pets in this multicultural third culture kids family in ADVENTURE  

Book Review “Home Keeps Moving” by raisingTCKs

Ever been to Ghent? You should, here's why: 5 Reasons Why I Fell in Love with Ghent -

New research about Facebook addiction

Here's an expat mum in discovering that her kids are third culture kids, and wondering..  

"Home to me is where I feel understood, accepted & comfortable with my life choices." Words by adult TCK

Want to know what the differences are between having a baby in GERMANY or BELGIUM? Check here  

Netherlands ranks in Top 10 Best Places to be a Mother.

"Returning to Canada after 4 years in Peru was quite the challenge as an 18 yr old" words by a tck

4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle: "Change the Tone".  

If you have an interesting blog or website you know of about third culture kids please add your link. Thanks. I hope you have a good week.

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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Yes, I won an award!

It's a good tradition to celebrate achievements. So let's celebrate the fact that I have been nominated for the "Versatile Blogger" award. I have to confess I have actually been nominated twice. I was nominated by Wordgeyser first and then by a fellow third culture kid Expat Alien. Thanks to you both!

Of course there are Versatile Blogger rules. I may nominate new bloggers and I must tell 7 things about myself.

First I will tell 7 things about myself:
  1. I failed my drivers license test more than 3 times, I did get it in the end. I did the tests in Zimbabwe and I actually had to use hand signals too. I must confess that was ages ago. Lesson learned: never give up.
  2. I was born on a mission station in the Zambian bush. My parents received a chicken as a present when I was born. Lesson learned: good things can happen where ever you live.
  3. I just adore ripe juicy tropical fruits, it's a heritage of growing up in Africa. You know the mango's, passion fruits, gooseberries, papayas, bananas just don't taste the same here in Europe. Lesson learned: eat the local fruits and enjoy them to the full. 
  4. I was a school prefect at high school, most Dutch people have no idea what a prefect is or does. Lesson learned: a as third culture kid I often have to explain things to other people.
  5. I love ice skating even though I was about thirteen when I went ice skating for the first time in my life. Recently I wrote about ice skating fever here in the Netherlands. Lesson learned: You're never too old to learn something new!
  6. I have been writing on this blog for less than a year and I really enjoy it. Third culture kids love exciting new things. Lesson learned: I love new adventures and challenges.
  7. One of my favourite drinks is: Tjendol (or Cendol), in good Indonesian restaurants you can get it here in the Netherlands. It's just divine. It's with coconut milk and palm sugar. Lesson learned: you're never too old to taste something new. 
    Tjendol
   Now for nominating the new bloggers:
  1. Mummy in Provence: I enjoy her global differences series about having a baby abroad.
  2. Expat Life with a double buggy: I like Amanada's posts because she write about being an expat mum here in the Netherlands.
  3. Tales from Windmill fields: Having lived most of her life in Spain Rosalind is now raising a trilingual daughter here in the Netherlands. Her blogs are about her new adventure here.
  4. Raising third culture kids She is married to a German TCK and writes about here "fusion family".
  5. Julia Simens is author of the book "Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child" and she is educator. Her words of wisdom and experience are worth reading.
  6. Libby Stephens is a Third Culture Kid consultant and writes about children growing up in other cultures and everything that has to do with it.
  7. Third Culture Kid Life by James R. Mitchener. I like the writing style and the topics too!

    Congratulations to all the above mentioned bloggers. Thank you for who you are and for your blog.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Meet Rebecca, an expat raising trilingual kids in the Netherlands

By chance I met Rebecca. Well actually we met through Marktplaats. It's a website on which one can buy and sell things. I was the buyer. Rebecca comes from Texas, lives in the Netherlands and together with her German-Italian husband she is raising two trilingual daughters here (16 and 14 years old). I would say that her girls are real cross cultural kids. I was interested in her experience. Rebecca writes a blog: http://signalsminusnoise.blogspot.com/

Twenty four years ago Rebecca moved to the Netherlands with her husband. Both her daughters were born here. 

Where’s home for your daughters? This question comes up a lot. They have done “Home country” projects at school. When my youngest daughter had to make a map of her home country city, she did a map about Dusseldorf, where her grandparents live. When it was a project on the climate of your home country showing rivers etc she choose to do  a map of Texas (so that’s a home too). There is no one answer for kids that are brought up this way. Home ends up being something you carry in yourself, both girls are at home in Texas, where their cousins, granny, and the lake house are. The Netherlands is home too. Germany is where the German grandparents and other paternal relatives are so it is home too. We were there every Christmas, Easter and part of every summer. The basement at their grandparents' home was their playground.

The downside of it is that they don’t have a fixed home, they don’t have deep cultural ties, they don't have the deep roots to any of these places, but they do have a connection. My home is Texas. They will not miss their house in the Netherlands like I miss mine in Texas. If we went to Portugal that would be a home for them too. In some ways they miss some of that. They will never have that patriotic aspect. They will never get tears in their eyes with any national anthem. My husband has a tie to the Germanic culture, it gives him pride in his country. The girls don't have any of that kind of connection or loyalty, but instead they have flexibility and a less judgmental attitude.

What languages do you speak in the home?
I spoke only English to the children, my husband spoke only German, they were raised in a Dutch creche from 7 months of age. Until the age of 5 the children had full choice about which language they wanted to answer, it was usually Dutch. Then they were encouraged to speak English back to me, German to to their dad, usually they communicated Dutch to each other. They were trilingual from the beginning.

They both changed from a Dutch school to an international school when the oldest was 10 years of age. She was furious. Her thought processes were in Dutch. Understanding English was no problem, input was fine but she had to think about it in Dutch and translate it to English to answer. It slowly switched over. It's harder for me to switch from one language to the other I make more mistakes.

Do you have some concluding words? 
The most important thing to deal with about third culture kids or cross cultural kids is that there is nothing that you can do that can make their experience like yours. Be flexible, see what fits your kids, adapt to what comes a long. For example our daughters celebrated the Indian Diwali festival in the international school. You may not be able to understand some of the things they are going through but there are compensations in lots of different ways.

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Thank you Rebecca for sharing your experience. You had so much to tell me so this is just part one and part two will follow soon. We will compare growing up in Texas with growing up in the Netherlands next time. 

What's your experience? Where's home for you or for your kids? Do you have experience with raising trilingual kids? Or with raising cross cultural kids? Please share your stories with us.

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