MK & TCK Book Club discussion

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds
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The "Third Culture Kids" Book > Chapter 17: Coming "Home": Reentry

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message 1: by mkPLANET (last edited Aug 08, 2015 12:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

mkPLANET | 85 comments Mod
Tina Quick
Tina Quick, author of The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition is a cross-cultural trainer, writer and international speaker. She is a well-seasoned traveler and mother of three young adult daughters. She is an adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK) and has raised her own TCKs across four cultures and continents. She has served as Program Chair on the Board of Directors of Families in Global Transition (FIGT) . She is a member of the Advisory Board for TCKid . She is a member of the Overseas Association of College Admissions Counseling and the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors . Tina works closely with colleges and universities, domestic and international schools.

message 2: by Tina (new)

Tina Quick | 9 comments Greetings Everyone. I'm very excited to be facilitating this topic of reentry as it is one that I am particularly passionate about. If you or your family has experienced reentry, I am certain you will have much to add to this discussion and I'm very much looking forward to reading what you have to share.

In their book, Pollock and VanReken say, "Oddly enough, for many TCKs this is one of the most difficult transitions they go through no matter how many other moves they have already made."

Today I would like to hear your thoughts on the following:
1) Why do you think reentry is so difficult for TCKs?
2) If you, as a TCK, or your child/ren experienced a difficult reentry, what do you think could have helped make it smoother?
3) Can you relate to any of the 'reentry stresses' the authors talk about - expectations of sameness and reverse culture shock?

On Thursday I would like to pose some questions to you concerning any lessons you feel you have learned from the reentry experience. Looking forward to hearing from you!

message 3: by Sharon (new)

Sharon | 4 comments I think reentry was so difficult because I went to Indonesia at the age of one, and I THINK (still do 50 years later...) like an Indonesian. I think differently than most people in the US. God has helped me to find a few friends who put up with my "uniqueness" and as I realize that I think like an Indonesian I am making a conscious effort to change my thinking...

message 4: by Tina (new)

Tina Quick | 9 comments Sharon, just to clarify, how long did you live in Indonesia?

Susan Evans | 6 comments Having grown up in Guatemala for 14 years, I moved to the States for college at age 18. I felt like the United States was sort of like heaven. I never belonged to Guatemala until after I left. Then I realized that I didn't belong in the U.S. at all--that most people were loud, rude, and trivial. I missed the depth of conversations I used to have with everyday people.

I also felt that because everybody spoke English here, I would feel more like I belonged, but it was the opposite. It's when I hear Spanish that I finally feel like I'm home.

message 6: by Sharon (new)

Sharon | 4 comments Sharon wrote: "I think reentry was so difficult because I went to Indonesia at the age of one, and I THINK (still do 50 years later...) like an Indonesian. I think differently than most people in the US. God has..."I lived in Indonesia for over 18 years

message 7: by Tina (new)

Tina Quick | 9 comments So Susan, it sounds as though you were maybe expecting some "sameness" with your peers when you came back to the US. Isn't it interesting how we often feel more like we belonged in the place we just left once we are actually back "home?" Why do you think that is?
Is there anything that you, Sharon and Susan, feel would have helped you make the transition back?

message 8: by Sharon (new)

Sharon | 4 comments One thing that helped immensely was that the nurse from gradeschool boarding school returned Stateside and was "only" four hours away. Was able to visit her several times. Possibly if Mom and Dad had come home with me - I don't know. I had just as much trouble "trying to be American" as I did just being "Indonesian".

message 9: by Tina (new)

Tina Quick | 9 comments Sharon, it sounds like this nurse was a kind of mentor to you in your reentry. This is definitely something Pollock and VanReken talk about being useful, especially in the "Entering Stage" of transition. It goes both directions - going abroad as well as returning home.
My middle daughter found a peer mentor at her high school. His name was Paul and we began to refer to him at the house as St. Paul because when she was particularly lost or confused, he always seemed to show up to point her in the right direction or give advice! Although he wasn't a TCK, she began to feel comfortable with him and felt she could ask all her 'silly' questions without being ridiculed.

message 10: by Heylane (new)

Heylane | 8 comments Because I was older when I went abroad and obviously also when I returned (total of 6 years in 3 countries)I think I was able to realise what was causing my "uprooted" feeling when I came 'home' again.
Also the fact that I started out in a new place helped me. There were little or no expectations to be 'as I was before I left'. My family adapted quickly and accepted my different-ness.
I struggled with the different way of forming relationships and the self-centred attitude of people.
Whenever I am with TCKs (I meet a lot of teenagers during our camps) and talk about what they find most difficult about re-entry they mention these same things.
Another interesting one they often bring up is that they dont know the people their parents work with now they are in Holland.
Also they miss real relationships with "older" people. (That s where my grey hairs come in useful ;) )
I havent so much had those last two issues personally, but a lot of our teenagers mention them.
Anyone recognise those issues?

message 11: by Tina (new)

Tina Quick | 9 comments Thank you for bringing up these interesting issues, Heylane. In particular I liked your comment about missing real relationships with "older" people. Have any of you noticed that families tend to hang out together more in the expat world than in your passport country? I think one result of spending so much more time with adults is our children appear to be more mature than their home-country peers. Have you found upon repatriation that you or your children were mistaken to be older than they actually were?

mkPLANET | 85 comments Mod
Tina wrote: "Have you found upon repatriation that you or your children were mistaken to be older than they actually were?"

I was a proud 11-year-old when I got my first complement about being 'mature' for my age. It happened one day when my parents' colleague came over for a visit. He was early, so I kept him company until my parents returned after running an errand. He told my parents afterwards about his impressions of me, and they happily passed on the complement.

I don't know how widespread it is for TCKs to make this impression, but I imagine it's common! :)

message 13: by Melissa (last edited Aug 12, 2015 04:40PM) (new)

Melissa Gatlin | 1 comments I had a horrible time adjusting both times to coming to the States. The first time I don't know what my parents could of done to help .. I was coming from France where I had spent my first 5 years, didn't speak english as we lived on the economy in Toul and I had gone to the French pre-school system from age 3, we were military which was integrated, and France was integrated .. so when we got transferred to Anniston Alabama in '58 I had to learn english, adjust to living on a Post, adjust not only to american culture but Jim Crow and Segregation while off the post but at the same time live on Post, which has it's own rules and culture, where we were totally integrated and no one cared what religion you belonged to or if you didn't belong to any. The civilians treated us like "trash" and a lot of the civilian kids were told not to have anything to do with us. Me, with about a 50 word english vocabulary and a heavy french accent had to deal with the civilians (adults) yelling at me (as most americans seem to think yelling makes english more understandable .. LOL!) while I was also trying to navigate all the intricacies of Segregation in the South and Jim Crow of the MidWest were my mom grew up. When we left 2 years later I was thrilled .. even though we did not wind up back in Europe but in Central America instead. No problem adjusting to Panama .. family developed a lot of ex-pat friends while there as well.

After 4 years in Panama we came back to the states just in time for Civil Rights .. and I still could not understand the american viewpoints on this. Three cross burnings by the Klan and 4 years of threats everyday on the school bus did nothing to improve my view of the US and it's citizens or make me feel like this was my home.

So yes I had a hard time adjusting and I still do not think of myself as an American even though I have now spent 50 years here .. no matter what my passport says.

My older sister who had spent her first 5 years in the states had much less problem with it.

message 14: by Tina (new)

Tina Quick | 9 comments Thank you for sharing your incredible story, Melissa. It's interesting how different our experiences, even within the same family, can be depending on any number of factors such as age at which one goes abroad, amount of time spent in the host country, and even things such as events or politics going on in our country during our absence.

This may be a good segue into the discussion I wanted to start today. In their book, Pollock and VanReken say, "While many TCKs look back on their reentry period as one of the more stressful parts of their TCK experience, they still wouldn't have missed much of what they learned from the process." Can you think of any lessons you have taken away from your own reentry experience?

Looking forward to hearing your insights.

message 15: by Tina (last edited Aug 14, 2015 05:40AM) (new)

Tina Quick | 9 comments Since no one has commented on this question, I'll start it off. I felt my own TCKness more when I came back from living abroad for 15 years straight as an adult. I've come to understand (and it took quite a while) that despite feeling like I couldn't find my place here, couldn't quite fit in, there was nothing wrong with me. I wasn't a social misfit. I wasn't weird. My husband actually pointed out to me something I already knew but couldn't quite articulate.

I was complaining to him one day that I just didn't have any close friends in our town despite having lived here for many years. That had never happened to me before. I have best friends all over the world. Here, I had a lot of women who I would get together with sporadically, but was not a consistent part of their lives or connected in their circles and I couldn't understand why I couldn't get close to them. He said to me, "Tina, that's because you have no shared history with them." It hit me like a bullet between the eyes. These women had been pregnant together, taken their kids to the same schools and had "shared experience" for years. There I was on the outside trying to break in - once again.

I have since come to accept who I am because of the experiences I've had and can now embrace them whole heartedly.

Do you have a story to share?

mkPLANET | 85 comments Mod
I'm sure a good number of TCKs can relate to your experience, Tina! I certainly can. One of my biggest hurdles in finding friends is that I have no shared history with them. I guess the real problem is when those circles feel so 'complete' they're unwilling to welcome new members into their groups. What's your advice for TCKs who are having trouble breaking into established groups of friends? And how did your story end––were you able to find a group of friends?

message 17: by Tina (last edited Aug 14, 2015 11:30AM) (new)

Tina Quick | 9 comments Thanks for your question, Dana. Your statement that "those circles feel so 'complete' they're unwilling to welcome new members into their group," is so spot on. It takes a lot of work to build relationships. I love how in Chapter 10 of Pollock and VanReken's TCK book they talk about TCKs jumping into those deeper levels of conversation more quickly than most others do in the hope of building their relationships quickly. But that's not what people who grow up in one culture all their lives do. They have time to watch and wait and see if a relationship will develop. Historically, TCKs don't have that luxury of waiting and watching. They never know when they are going to lose their best friend and will be looking for another one. So I often advise TCKs to do the following:

1) Don't rush it. Take your time with relationships. It may seem like you are spending an enormous amount of time in those superficial levels of communication but you are building trust and getting to know each other.

2) Be sure to ask lots of questions of your home-country peers. Everyone has interesting stories to tell, not just the TCK because he has been to so many exciting places and done so many interesting things. Once you start to ask questions of them, they will begin to want to know more about the real you and you can begin to unveil the many layers of yourself and your experiences.

3) Think about what it takes to be a good friend to someone and do those things!

message 18: by Bethany (new)

Bethany P | 14 comments 1) Why do you think reentry is so difficult for TCKs?

Reentry is a change, transition, uprooting, and I think that those things are hard for anyone actually, not just TCKs. Moving just in general, even if it is simply across town, is stressful and complicated for the average person; the stress and complications just magnify when the move is across the world.

2) If you, as a TCK, or your child/ren experienced a difficult reentry, what do you think could have helped make it smoother?

The first thing would be that my family would have moved for positive reasons instead of negative reasons. My parents weren't doing well together (and that's putting it lightly) til the situation blew up and there was no other choice but to leave the mission field. So they were a mess, moving was a mess, and there wasn't much support or empathy left for their 8 kids unfortunately. They went to marriage counseling; looking back I wish we had had some family counseling, not only because of my parent's issues but for issues relating to the move and transition.

3) Can you relate to any of the 'reentry stresses' the authors talk about - expectations of sameness and reverse culture shock?

I still feel culture shock in ways that I don't expect. This is a minor example, but a friend was telling me about her home-service nurse who is Filipino and my friend asked me if there were any cultural issues that she should be aware of to be able to better interact with her nurse. I said I couldn't think of any, but then my friend listed 4 different situations in which she has misunderstood or disagreed with the nurse and I was able to point all of them back to cultural issues or personality issues that are common in the Philippines but are very different from the USA. When she gave me blank slate I was unable to think of anything that could go on it, but when she gave me fill in the blanks, I knew all the answers and was able to help her understand her nurse's reactions and responses better (I hope!).

message 19: by Jared (new)

Jared (jaredf79) | 27 comments 1) Why do you think reentry is so difficult for TCKs?

I think a big part depends on age. At 8 years old, there were definitely some challenges, but I can imagine it being much worse as a teenager…social development, wanting peer approval, and all that.

2) If you, as a TCK, or your child/ren experienced a difficult reentry, what do you think could have helped make it smoother?

It was actually years later in high school and university that the awkwardness and difficulties emerged. Knowing what possibly could happen ahead of time might help, but until you’re in the moment, it’s hard really to connect the dots. Even then, a mentor who knows about TCK issues would have helped. Think is, I wouldn’t even have known to seek out such help since I didn’t even know what was going on.

Maybe an initial chat with someone about what I could face and then a yearly check-in to see where I’m at. It would certainly be a long-term type mentoring, but it is about child/adult development. :)

3) Can you relate to any of the 'reentry stresses' the authors talk about - expectations of sameness and reverse culture shock?

A bit. Like I said in question 1, at 8, the language was a bit of an issue, but I never felt terribly out of place until later. At that point, the differences were more about my interests than not being aware of the culture so much…although there were still a few things about culture I wasn’t very in tune with.

message 20: by Jared (last edited Aug 14, 2015 06:51PM) (new)

Jared (jaredf79) | 27 comments Tina wrote: "He said to me, "Tina, that's because you have no shared history with them." It hit me like a bullet between the eyes. These women had been pregnant together, taken their kids to the same schools and had "shared experience" for years. There I was on the outside trying to break in - once again."

That's so true and something that hits me every time I go to a wedding and hear about the best man or maid of honour. You know the saying, "Always a bride's maid, never a bride." Well, switch it for a best man, but I can't even say that it seems.

No shared history seems like a huge obstacle--insurmountable many times. Even when I try to develop history now, I'm just too far behind.

I'm lucky for friends that I have at least some longevity with, so I tend to gravitate towards them. It's hard to try from scratch every time I move. Sometimes I try to be laissez–faire and laid back, but that's not always the best approach. Sometimes you just have to take risks and live with the disappointments. No easy answers, I think.

message 21: by Gill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gill | 31 comments Lovely to read everyones posts on this and so reassuring to. I returned to the UK from Malaysia aged 5. I relate to every single one of the stresses described and it's just so fantastic to read those things in black and white in a book - 47 years later! When I first read the book I particuarly related to fears around loss of identity and being disloyal to the past. I think as a child with only a childs tool s to deal with these I retreated inside myself to save these things and basically stayed there, with another emotion less depressive robot dealing with life.

Everything about it was hideous. I had no notion of nations or what another country or nation or nationality was. I think if I thought anythingI I thought being British was the ex pat lifestyle and the remnants of colonial Britain still in Malaysia. So returning to the insular 1960's suburbs was a total shock. I had no concept of the place and liked nothing about it.

I was recently reading a book written about a TCK life and I read a part in it where she described the support network that went with many ex pat lifestyles then and then the nothing ... youre on my own.

Whilst my mother said she "just got on with it" when we got back I suspect this was not the case.

Why was it so bad? loss of lifestyle, friends, amahs,climate, language, routines, dailly life, just the why and how of being in a different country. My sister and I were bullied relentlessy at school by suburban children jealous or fearful. They riduculed, questioned the reality of our statements and excluded us. My parents were ill equipped to support emotional issues either theirs or their childrens and basically the whole family was at sea. My mother had not had to carry out the childcare or domestic duties and was suddenly faced with all that again, combined with the loss of income and lifestyle. My parents hadnt wanted to leave. I asked her about it once and she said - "there we had a life, here we had no life" And then just as friendships started to develop we moved again (within the UK).

What would have made it better? Emotional support and reassurance, getting "into the UK" and trying to make it fun. Maybe moving to a more supportive school ? ( I know my mother spoke to the teachers but when this was raised in class it just made things worse), more sensitive teachers or appraoches to dealing with the issues?, definately not moving house again so soon, some role in the move back to the uk and the second move, more information about the uk, pictures maybe? (and not of london buses and the houses of parliament!), not being put in the nursery on the boat home, support for my parents in the transition, support from the sponsoring organisation, external professional emotional support, making space for the emotional response, being allowed to grieve, ways of contacting my amah with a card or letter maybe, being allowed to carry more toys home, and a trip back .... just those things :-) gill

message 22: by Tina (new)

Tina Quick | 9 comments Thank you all for this extremely rich discussion and for sharing from the very core of your being. You have all touched my heart and flamed the passion I have for trying to help TCKs/CCKs, their families, schools and sponsoring organizations. A lot has been done in terms of providing support but from reading these conversations, we are reminded that so much more can and should be done to help transitioning families.

Thanks to Pollock and VanReken and their foundational book, we are now able to do more than, as Gill said of her mother, "just {get} on with it." We can talk about it as we are doing here and perhaps even feel led to do something for future TCKs. Thank you Dana from mk PLANET for initiating this book discussion.

Just to let you know, another great place to participate in conversations like this and more take place regularly on Join your favorite affinity groups and hop in on the conversations.

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