Tag Archives: Family

Age appropriate chores for children

I’ve recently had an interesting conversation with some parents and despite our different cultural background and our different parenting styles, most of us agreed on the fact that children need to do some chores. Some parents realized that they would ask less involvement from their sons than their daughters and this was the topic of another discussion I then wrote a post about (Why dads need to wash dishes and mums need to fix the plug… ). We all tried to make a list of the chores we would consider appropriate for several age groups. Interestingly, the flandersfamily sat up a very similar list already:


Bildschirmfoto 2014-06-28 um 22.02.21

I may add some chores my children do regularly like making their beds, tidying up, loading the dishwasher, setting the table etc.. Some of the chores in this chart are not necessarily daily tasks. I would ask my children to do them occasionally and some of them would figure under “special” tasks – which, in our family are “rewarded” either with some extra pocket money or an extra activity in the weekend.


Which chores do you ask your children to do on a regular basis?

Do you ask your sons and daughters to do the same chores?

Are chores for children an issue in your multicultural (extended) family?



European TCKs vs Global TCKs

In most of the books and articles about TCKs I miss the comparative approach between globally living TCKs and continental living TCKs.

Most of the studies focus on children who spend a significant part of their developmental years outside their parents’ culture, i.e. overseas, mainly on different continents. But what about those who, like me, did “only” live in different countries on one continent?

During gatherings among TCKs and ATCKs in the last years here in Europe, I noticed that those who did lead a global life, having experienced life on different continents and those who did “only” live in different countries but on the same continent didn’t really have that much in common. Often those who didn’t live globally were intimidated by the exuberant and exotic life of the other group. – Many expat families raising TCKs here in Europe have a completely different lifestyle than the ones described in the mainly US literature about this topic.


Let’s start with the definition Pollock and Van Reken gave about this group and which forms the base for many studies about the topic:

“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background” (Pollock & Van Reken, 2009, p.13).

Pollock & Van Reken point out four main aspects which characterize Third Culture Kids:

a) their upgrowing outside of the parents’ culture

b) the fact that they build relationships to all of the cultures

c) the fact that this kind of children would “not have full ownership” in any of the cultures, “although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience” and, last but not least,

d) that “the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background”.

Relationship with all the cultures

I think this is the main aspect of the definition of Third Culture Kids: that we build relationships to all the cultures we grow up in.

This also is fundamental for every Third Culture Adult (cfr. someone who did start the global or international life after age 18, i.e. left his or her passport country in adult life): wherever they end up living, they’ll pick up something from their host-countries and take it with them on their international journey. They will adopt certain values and habits that will form their “third” culture.

Full ownership…

This is the part that intrigues me in the definition. How can you measure ownership in a culture? Does this mean that you know all (?!) about values, habits, language(s) with all the dialects, regional variants, the history etc. and that you can identify with everything (?) or most of the aspects related with that country, ethnicities if you grow up in your passport country? Honestly, I don’t think that anyone can say that he has “full ownership” of his culture. This is simply impossible. Even people who grew up in one country, in the same city their parents, grandparents etc. grew up in would not consider themselves having “full ownership” in their culture (i.e. of the region they grew up in).

The sense of belonging for a TCK

I strongly agree that TCKs and ATCKs (as much as global nomads, expats etc.) discover the sense of belonging when they encounter others of a similar background. It is a huge relief, when we realize that there are others that don’t want to know where we come from, which language we like the most or what kind of cuisine we consider “the best” or where “the weather/job/healthcare system is the best”. When we don’t have to explain every step of our journey and still feel comfortable in a conversation about our life and ourselves.

All these aspects mentioned in the definition do apply to all sorts of TCKs, no matter if their international journey is global or continental.


Why do some TCKs feel different?

Many expats here in Europe don’t consider themselves or their children who grow up abroad as Third Culture Kids. Even those who know the term and the concept behind it don’t feel that they “belong” to this group. Mostly due to the literature about this topic which is mainly from an American and strongly global point of view.

This made me realize that with this term people associate exclusively globally living families. I’ve heard comments like “I think I’m a TCK but I didn’t live in Africa or Asia… I only lived in Europe”. I did hesitate myself, when I first read about TCKs, saw infographics about this or tried to do tests called “You know you’re a TCK when…”.

Here are some typical questions of this kind of tests, which I consider really inaccurate (I only chose some of the assumptions, but there is a vaste number online about this topic):

“You know you’re a TCK when…” European TCKs Global (US) TCKs
You speak two (or more) languages but can’t spell in any of them No, usually we are proficient in several languages Yes?*
You flew before you could walk Yes, but more since the last few generations. Yes?
You have a passport, but no drivers’ license No (this is for young adults going to college: In Europe the age of these young adults coincides with the age they usually leave for college: and they don’t necessarily go to study abroad) Applies for young adults  repatriating to the US (abroad, the average age to get a d.l. is 18, in US 16)
You watch National Geographic specials and recognize someone No… Sometimes (depends on where you’ve lived)
You run into someone you know at every airport Not so often Yes?
Your life story uses the phrase “Then we went to…” five times (or six, or seven times…) Yes (maybe less times?) Yes?
You speak with authority on the quality of airline travel Yes (but the same about train travel, and viability by bike or car) Yes
National Geographic makes you homesick No Yes
You read the international section before the comics Yes Yes
You live at school, work in the tropics, go home for vacation No, no, yes Yes, yes/no, yes
You don’t know where home is Yes Yes
You sort your friends by continent No, by country Yes
You feel that multiple passports would be appropriate Yes (a European one would be handy!) Yes
You watch a movie set in a foreign country, and you know what the nationals are really saying into the camera Yes Yes
You automatically take off your shoes as soon as you get home Most times, yes. It depends on the country Yes
You have the urge to move to a new country every couple of years Yes Yes
Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you Yes Yes
You have best friends in 5 different countries Yes Yes
You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs Yes Yes
You know how to pack Yes Yes
You cruise the Internet looking for fonts that can support foreign alphabets Not necessarily Yes
You have frequent flyer accounts on multiple airlines Not necessarily Yes?
You consider a city 500 miles away very close Not always Yes
* I add a "?" when I'm not sure every globally living TCK would agree (or disagree).

Some assumptions are very country specific: “You know there is no such thing as an international language”: in most countries English is the international language. It depends very much on which countries you live in and in which context. If sent by an international company, the chances are big that you’ll stay in an international environment and English will be the main language. “Rain on a tile patio – or a corrugated metal roof – is one of the most wonderful sounds in the world”,  “You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price”, ” Your wardrobe can only handle two seasons: wet and dry” and “Your high school memories include those days that school was cancelled due to tear gas, riots” really only apply to very specific countries.

Many assumptions are very American: “You go to Taco Bell and have to put five packets of hot sauce on your taco”, “You go to Pizza Hut or Wendy’s and you wonder why there’s no chili sauce”, “You won’t eat Uncle Ben’s rice because it doesn’t stick together”: these are examples of food preferences from an American point of view, an European would not consider. “You know the geography of the rest of the world, but you don’t know the geography of your own country” depends from the school you’re attending abroad. If it is an International school, chances are high that you’ll know more about your own country. “You don’t know whether to write the date as day/month/year, month/day/year, or some variation thereof” is something very American. In Europe, this is much more unified. “You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball” this doesn’t seem strange to a European and we would never put this on this kind of list. There were also some assumptions which I don’t consider TCK specific, like “You wince when people mispronounce foreign words”, this is something every multilingual does (but you don’t necessarily need to be a TCK for this!), “You have a time zone map next to your telephone” and “Your dorm room/apartment/living room looks like a museum with all the “exotic” things you have around”. This last one can happen also to people who travel a lot.

What are the main differences between traditional TCKs and European TCKs?

First, European TCKs did not leave the continent. Their conception of the world is still “huge”, they travel a lot too, but they’re not really considering an airport their home. Why? Because European TCKs or expats often take other means of transportation: the train, the car, the boat. Of course, the plane is a great solution for fast travels (business or emergencies) from one city to another. But when travelling to a countryside, the car is often more convenient.

Also, many European TCKs are simply European citizens who change country because of relocation by a European company or because of a new job in another EU country. Their motivation to lead an international life is different from the one of traditional TCKs.

European TCKs are very aware of the differences between the European cultures, even though they mainly share the same history, Europeans have a very diverse background. Moving from Portugal to Sweden can have a similar culture-shock effect like moving from Rio de Janeiro to Montréal.

I’m writing a study about European TCKs or expats who never lived outside of Europe and am collecting data about personal experiences, therefore this is also an invitation to send me your European TCK or expat stories. I will soon publish another post about more specific characteristics of European TCKs and you’re kindly invited to let me know your thoughts about this in the comments.

English: Rectified map: Languages of Europe Fr...

English: Rectified map: Languages of Europe Français : Carte rectifiée des langues d’Europe (Anglais) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enhanced by Zemanta

What kind of memories will our TCK’s share with us?

I’ve got inspired by a post from MaDonna about what she calls the feout season, the „fear and doubt“ season, parents can have while raising children or TCK’s abroad.

The feout season is the season when we would like our children to experience those memorable moments we experienced in our childhood. When we visit the places we’ve lived in, we would like our children to understand how life was then, how we felt and what our experiences were.

I remember that my parents did the same with my sister and me: they showed us the places they used to live in Germany and Belgium and told us about their memories and experiences there, (before moving to Italy, where we grew up). Well, they were just “stories” for us. We couldn’t really picture them doing the things they told us and not really understand what they felt. – What I recall and really cherish today, are the things we did, we experienced together.

MaDonna mentions that sometimes she would like „to make up for all the losses (her children) have because of the decision (she) made years ago (…) to live overseas“, well, I understand this feeling. But I’m pretty sure that our children don’t feel the same way. How can you feel a loss of something you haven’t had?  – Maybe we, as parents do, but that’s our problem, not our childrens’. And I don’t really think that our children miss out something because they don’t have the opportunity to experience the same magic moments we experienced at some point of our life. They have their own magic moments and experiences and they will have other memories than ours, and that’s fine. And this doesn’t apply to TCK’s only, but also to children who grow up in the same country, maybe the same city or street, their parents did. It’s life.

When we raise TCK’s, we can only give our children the chance to experience some aspects of the cultures we used to live in and they don’t experience in their daily life by visiting those places or by celebrating festivities we cherish. By naturally integrating  part of these cultures into our daily life, we can build memories about what we would like our children to share with us. But we shouldn’t expect our children to like the same things we used to like.


I remember that my parents wanted me to appreciate some things in Germany, they really tried hard. Some things I still remember and can relate to, some others I disliked or forgot. For example, I still remember my grandma baking wonderful cakes (she was a baker), I remember the smell when I walked into her kitchen and I remember how she would spend hours and hours making jam, sirup etc. and telling me all about food. I remember how my German family used to celebrate the festivities and how different it was in Italy.

When I visit the places of my memories with my children, I tell them stories. It’s like describing a painting without seeing it. Everyone will picture another painting, with other colours, shapes etc.: this doesn’t matter. What matters is to share the moment.

When we raise our children in another country (or city) than we used to live or grew up, we have to realise that our children, one day, will have the same feelings toward the place(s) they grow up right now. Later, they will probably be telling their children what they used to do during their childhood or some other moment of their lives. Maybe they will remember the stories we told them while we walked down our memory lane, maybe they won’t. – By my own experience I know that they will be fine. I don’t think that TCK’s „survive their experience“, they live it. And as parents, we should help them to build memorable moments with us, here, right now, today.


Sick at Christmas…

Everything was ready for Christmas. Cards were sent, presents wrapped, house cleaned and everything packed, ready to go to meet family for Christmas.

But then everything changed within a few hours. First this silly wind that made my eyes cry, my nose tickle and then this nasty caught. Suddenly my temperature reached 39°C and I knew that I just had to surrender. The following day I texted family about us not coming on the expected date and just stayed in bed. Two days later I realized that we would probably have to cancel the whole trip as I had a bad flu and I wasn’t probably going to be better before the end of the week.

Being sick at Christmas isn’t really the best timing. But as I always try to find the good side in the bad things that happen to me, I found several reasons why being sick at Christmas wasn’t so bad after all. I had been very busy during the past few months and I was pushing myself very hard. My children had been sick several times, I had helped a few friends who’ve been sick themselves, I had worked a lot and then there were all these Christmas events that I didn’t want to miss this year. The last years I often had to cancel several of these get togethers before Christmas, but this year I managed to go to all of them. – But this made me weaker than I thought. My start into the Holiday Season wasn’t the best.

Now I was forced to rest. In the past 9 years I never stayed sick in bed for longer than 2 days. This time I stood 4 and it felt good! I ate healthy food. And lots of it! I was spoiled by my family. My girls did bring me fresh fruit and fresh fruit juice, my hubby prepared good meals for me, took great care of the children and the household and my son did provide an interesting entertaining programm, distracting me with board games etc. – I’m very grateful.

I didn’t have a “merry” Christmas but a very joyful one. I watched my children getting the best out of this situation. Even if they were sad not being able to celebrate like planned, they were grateful that we were together. I couldn’t be of any help for almost 5 days, so they all had to take care of everything and they did a brilliant job! Obviously, the dinner was everything but christmassy, but the candles on the table and the music in the background created the perfect atmosphere.

I spent most of the time thinking about my friends who are seriously sick during these days, those who are awaiting a diagnosis or have lost precious ones they most love. Then there are all those who spend Christmas alone, hungry, traumatized, grief-stricken. And those who don’t feel the mood to celebrate Christmas because it doesn’t feel right for them right now.

This is why my thoughts and prayers go to all those who didn’t celebrate Christmas this year in the way they were used to or the way they wanted to. Christmas is not about expectations, presents or about how grand the feast will be. It’s about the people we love and the gift that was given to us two thousand years ago: He was the gift to everyone.

Therefore I send a big hug to all those who share my same Christmas experience this year. I’m sure that if you try, you’ll find at least a little something in this Christmas that makes it special, unique.