Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Give me a minute while I blow the dust off my blog. It has been over a month since I have written a post, and I have no valid excuse. I was visiting family, traveling, and writing University essays. In my month of absence I did however gain a lot of inspiration, so keep a look out for some exciting posts coming up!

For today, just a quick post about something that intrigued me. The other day, I was looking through my University library for some books for my essay, and I came across a book titled: "Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among World" by David C. Pollock and Ruth van Reken. It stopped me in my tracks, and I couldn't help but have a quick look through. I was a book filled with information about Third Culture Kids, talking about the effects being a TCK has on the person, talking about how we are different from other kids, and it uses real life examples.

This might sound strange, but the book really surprised me. Not it's content, but the fact that the book exists at all. And after a quick Google search, I found out this is not the only book on Third Culture Kids; it is one of many. To me, being a TCK is just part of who I am, it is how I was brought up, and how a majority of my friends were brought up. I always knew it was not exactly normal to be a TCK, but I never thought someone, or several people, would write books about it which appear in University libraries. It makes me think that I am missing something important about my TCK-ness, that there is something about me that I don't know about yet.

Needless to say, I will be reading this book as soon as I get some free time. I might also write a detailed post about it once I've finished it, do people want to read that? Let me know!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

10 things I love about being a TCK.

1. Multiple 'homes'.

  • As a TCK, you don't feel at home in just one place. You have created 'homes' in numerous countries, and each of those countries holds a dear place in your heart. And even though you have had to leave those homes, you can always go back. And you know that when you go back, you will feel instantly at home again. 

2. Expat community.

  •  Wherever you go, there will be an expat community. A community of people that have, just like you, moved around multiple times. Usually, you have an instant connection with these people. You can compare the places you have lived (and see who has lived in the most exotic place!) and trade stories about culture shock. Getting involved with the expat community of a new place you have moved to is the easiest way to create new friendships and get advice on your new home.

3. Friends all around the world. 

  • Taking a trip somewhere? Surely you have a friend that lives there, and that will let you sleep on their couch. Maybe they'll even act as a your tour guide for a day. This is the good thing about friends you meet at International School constantly moving around, you have friends in the most unique places. Take note though; you will have to return the favour!

4. Travel opportunities. 

  • I have always associated being a TCK with traveling. I know this is not necessarily the case for all TCK's, but in the expat communities I grew up in, everyone seemed to be world travellers. My parents' logic was that if you lived in a new place, you needed to explore it and its neighbouring countries. Luckily for us, they always took my brother and I along, and some of my best memories are from traveling to new places! 

5. Adaptability.

  • As a TCK you have to learn to adapt. You have to adapt to a new culture, a new language, new people, and a new school. You quickly learn how to adapt fast and effectively. I have recently come to realize that this is not only a useful skill for moving around, but also for various other day-to-day things. As a TCK you learn this skill early on, and you will be eternally grateful for it. 

6. Close family bond. 

  • As I have mentioned before on this blog, the more you move around with your family, the closer you get. You go through hard times together, and that bring you close as a family. They become your primary support system, and you know they will also be there to lean on when needed.

7. Multilingual.

  • Most TCK's pick up the language of the country they live in whilst living there. Even better, TCK's are usually kids when they learn these languages, and they thus pick them up twice as fast and they are stored in their memory forever.

8. Thick skin. 

  • The whole process of leaving your friends and familiar environment behind to move somewhere new is hard. So when you have gone through this process multiple times by the age of 18, you develop a thick skin towards feelings of sadness, anger, and loneliness. This is not to say you don't feel these things at all anymore, but you certainly know how to deal with them better.

9. International schools. 

  •  If you look at my last blog post you will know; International Schools are pretty cool. Yes, they are over the top and ridiculously expensive, but the experience you gain from attending one is priceless. 

10. Unique.

  • Whether you like it or not, being a TCK is pretty unique. There are not too many of us, and often, people find us pretty interesting. This might not always feel like a good thing (personally, I don't like the attention) but you should not take it for granted. Embrace your TCK-ness!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

International schools.

Most TCK's will have had the experience of going to an international school. I went to one from the age of 7 till I graduated High School, so to me, it seemed fairly normal. The older I got I of course realized that the facilities my school had, the trips we took, the guest speakers we had were a bit out of the ordinary. But everyone in my environment went to an international school, so it really was not all that strange.

The other day, I was talking about school fees with one of my friends, and I decided to check how much the annual fee was for one of the international schools I attended. I always knew it was expensive, but I had never really looked properly. It was more than 22,000 USD. This is excluding school transport, sport competition trips, and other add-ons. This is more then double the university fees that I am paying now.

I think it is fair to point out that you don't have too much choice as an expat regarding your child's education; usually there is a minimal number of international schools (all asking the same ridiculous fees), and sending your child to a public school is not always a option, especially when they do not speak the local language. Fortunately for my parents, and I know this was the case for numerous peers, their expat contract included their child's education fee, and thus they did not have to pay from their own pockets. 

So, is it worth it? This is hard to say. I had some amazing experiences in my school years. Week long school trips to places all over China and Vietnam. Football trips to Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia. Inspirational guest speakers like Ban Ki Moon and Joan Baez. My school in Beijing was an Olympic Educational Model School, and so we had Olympic athletes use the school facilities to train and I got to seem Paralympic events with my class. I had numerous opportunities to work for some amazing charities through school.

This is not meant to come off as bragging. I am trying to point out that you do get an amazing education for the high price you pay. But this is not to say that people who do not pay such high fees get a bad education. I think it is hard to compare the education I had to the education my friends in public schools had. In an expat community, attending a international school is the norm. In a normal environment, attending a public school is the norm. For some reason, the norm in an expat community is of a much higher, some might say ridiculous, level. Would I have benefited from going to a public school? Yes, I think that by going to a public school, I would have had a more realistic outlook on how the world functions at a younger age. I would have realized that not all people have a lot of money, not all people can go on numerous vacations a year, and not all people live in fancy compounds. While my parents always made sure that I realized how lucky I was with the life I was given, I was still always around people who were equally as lucky.

Having said all this, I am very grateful that I was able to attend an international school. I think the type of education it provided taught me many valuable lessons, and while it might have been unrealistic at times, I am now fully aware of how lucky I was, and still am. Did you attend an international school, or do your kids attend one? If so, let me know what your thoughts are.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Too far away.

I have talked before about how a downside of being a TCK is being away for family events in your home country. This blog post deals with this issue, but with a more serious example.

My grandmother was admitted to hospital over 5 weeks ago, and just got to go back home. During the 5 weeks, I was not able to visit her in the hospital, I was not able to comfort her in the way I wish I could have. I called her, and we got reports on her health from family members.

My mother went on a short weekend trip to The Netherlands, after my grandmother had been in the hospital for more than 2 weeks. It was a 12 hour flight there, and 2 days later, a 12 hour flight back to Singapore. It was however exactly what was needed; for both my grandmother and my mother. For my grandmother is was the emotional support she needed, and for my mother it was able to show that no matter how far away she lives, family always comes first.

It saddened me when I heard that my cousins saw my grandmother in the hospital on a regular basis; they had coffee with her, made small talk, made her feel comfortable. While I would have loved to visit my grandmother in the hospital, it was not feasible on my part. Of course, if the medical situation would have worsened to a critical point, I would have jumped on the first plane to Amsterdam. Luckily, it did not get to this point, but it is nice to know that I have to opportunity to do so.

One of the things you give up as a expat/TCK is being close to family. It will be harder to lend a helping hand when they need you, harder to comfort them when they are going through a rough time. Luckily, there are ways to get around these difficulties. You can have long Skype chats to lend emotional support; you might not be able to give them a hug, but you can still be there for them. And if you really need to be there in person, there are airplanes. So don't lose hope, because for every problem there is a solution; the solution might just be a bit more complicated for a TCK.

Monday, February 3, 2014


This is my first post again in a long time, mainly because of hectic University exam times and before that, the holidays. But I am back, and will be posting regularly again!

I have started a new module for my Journalism course this semester, and it is called "Global Journalism". In today's seminar, we were talking about whether we feel like a global citizen, and whether we live in a global society. Stemming from this discussion, one of my classmates asked me if I identified as a global citizen, or as Dutch. For most people in my class, such a question was easy to answer. They felt British, or Welsh, or English. For me however, it got me thinking, and I wasn't able to give a clear answer.

When people ask me where I am from, I say that I am Dutch. This is because I hold a Dutch passport, I was born in The Netherlands, and I have family living in The Netherlands. However, when I think about it, I don't know how Dutch I really feel. Sure, on Dutch national day I feel very patriotic, and when the Dutch team reached the last FIFA World Cup final, I was proudly cheering for them. However, I am not invested in Dutch politics, my knowledge of Dutch history is not up to par, and my Dutch language isn't the best. Do these things make me less Dutch?

I think a large aspect of feeling Dutch would be if I were to call The Netherlands home, which I do not. I talked about this in a previous post. I lived in China for the same length of time that I lived in The Netherlands, and thus have a deep connection to that country. I went through an intense High School diploma program in Vietnam (Hanoi), and graduated from there, and thus feel a part of that country as well. And right now my family lives in Singapore, and I call that my home now as well, and so that is yet another country that I feel a part of.

So do I feel Dutch? No, not really. I suppose you could say that I feel like a "global citizen", but that would imply that I feel like I belong to all countries of the world, and I don't really feel like that. So what do I feel like? I feel Dutch/Chinese/Vietnamese/Singaporean. These countries all have a very dear place in my heart, and they have all had influences on the person that I am today. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013


When you live abroad, something that you miss out on a lot are the big family events. The life events. The birthdays, graduations, anniversaries. You won't be able to attend your aunt's birthday party, your cousin's graduation, your grandparents 48th anniversary party; because you are on the other side of the world. It is hard. You feel left out, left out of your own family. They are having fun, catching up, creating memories, whilst you are in a foreign country.

My parents used to always say; "we'll catch on everything when we see them again". But how do you catch up on a years worth of events in one day? The moment has passed, you won't get it back. Still, those "special" days when we did see family and caught up on all these events were always fun. We did something special, and created memories that way. It's not the same, but it's something.

You need to let your family know you care. Some people can misinterpret not being there with not caring. I know that personally, I have family members that are offended when we do not attend their life events. They know that we live far away, that getting a flight for one party is simply not doable. But still, they make us feel guilty. This is something that you have to deal with (or, if you have the perfect family, maybe you don't). So instead of being there in person, make sure you give them a call on the day. Send them flowers, a card. Make them remember that you do care, and that you wish that you could be there.

Today is my Dad's birthday. My family is in Singapore while I am here. It was hard today, because I would have done anything to be there. I know they had a great day, and that tomorrow I will have to hear about how great it was. I know that they all wish I was there, and that my Dad knows I really want to be there. And as I told him this morning in my birthday email to him; “we'll catch up on it when I see you!”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bad day.

Everyone has bad days. Maybe something happens in school, at work, with friends, with family. Maybe you just wake up in a bad mood. Yesterday, I had a bad day. It started off with something small, but quickly turned into a vicious cycle causing me to be homesick. For most of my friends, if they are homesick, they can catch the first train back home and be there in 2 hours or less. I envy this sometimes. Yesterday, all I wanted was to talk to my mom in person, for her to hug me, for her to take care of me so I felt a bit better. As a TCK, when you go to University, this is a big struggle. You need to learn to comfort yourself, or to trust others to help you through a bad day.

I feel much better today, and so thought about how I felt yesterday, and how I handled it. I felt sorry for myself, felt like my life was so unfair compared to that of my fellow University peers. I didn't see the point of being at University so far away from home. Now, with a clearer mind, I can see that I was of course overreacting. In fact, what I am learning through these bad days is a valuable life lesson. I am learning to take care of myself, to be by myself. By this, I don't mean that I am preparing myself for a life of always being alone, because I do not have that intention. What I mean is, I am learning to fend for myself, to cater to my emotions myself. I am also learning to trust the right people to talk to when I have a bad day. You need to find friends that you trust to talk to, that make you feel a bit better. For me, these friends are like a family away from home, they mean a lot to me. Without them, I really would be completely alone.

I know that not only TCK's go through this homesickness at University (or at any point in life, for that matter). Many people suffer from homesickness, the difference is, what one can do about it. Like I said, there is no possibility for me to go home right now, and so I have to suck it up and get through it. It is not fun, but it gets easier, and I know that it is preparing me to be a strong person. If you are a fellow TCK going through this, just know that there are many of us out there. And keep in mind, feeling sorry for yourself and crying about it is not bad once in a while; just don't let it take over your life. Because while being a TCK has some downsides like this, there are many more upsides.