You will never be the same

Adult Third Culture Kids

Ok so this isn’t your typical travelling post but it is a bit of an insight into why I’m so addicted to travelling and what gave me the travel bug in the first place.

The call came out from my favourite podcast a few months ago (Two Fat Expats in case you are looking for a new one to listen to): Are you an ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid)? Did you grow up in one or more countries that were not your ‘home country’ or your ‘passport country’? Are you aged 25-125? We want to hear from you!

They asked for the unique stories of ATCKs, questioning if the experience has made us a global nomad or if we wanted to put down roots forever; if we feel resilient and adaptable because of our backgrounds and how the future has turned our for us. They gave us 3 minutes for the answer and here is mine.

Hi I’m Emma, I’m British, I live in Doha.  I’m an ATCK even though I probably don’t identify as one but that is what I am. I lived in the States until I was 6, moved to England, moved to Australia when I was 10, moved back to England, moved to South America when I was 18, moved back to England, moved back to South America when I was 21 so…coming from all over really. It definitely gave me the travel bug since I’m on my second expat assignment. My husband’s also a third culture kid in a similar way to me so it was fairly inevitable that that was how it would all pan out especially when we both got jobs working for multinational companies and having a competition to see who could get moved first and…he won.

My childhood expat experiences have definitely shaped how I feel about roots vs nomadic existences. We are a bit nomadic, I suppose, but we do go back to the UK. From my children’s perspective, I think I always felt I didn’t know how I would feel if the cultural things that we take for granted were something they did not have or know or display or share with us? So we were quite open with our company about wanting to move around while the kids were still young but that we would want to move home when they were about 11 to start secondary school. We felt quite strongly about this – I think those tween and teen years can be quite critical in terms of development and needing stability and I have never really understood the decision to go down the boarding school route. I probably carried that feeling with me until we got here and I met more and more people with older kids, some of whom are in school in Doha and some who have gone to boarding school back at home. I’m not saying that it will definitely change our plans but it has definitely made me think about how we can be more flexible and open to the opportunities that become available at the time that we’re making the decisions.

I’d really like to think that this generation of third culture kids are growing up to be much more open to and accepting of differences between cultures and religions and just people, really, in general. I hope they are friendly to newcomers and outsiders and I hope we are giving them experiences that we could only have ever dreamed of and opening their eyes to all that is possible in the world and in their futures. I think as parents we are always focussed on the things that make us feel guilty, the things that we are doing to screw our kids up in this unstable and fluid lifestyle that we are giving them and I’m sure we all worry that they will never be able to have solid long lasting relationships because they’ve been scarred by all the goodbyes. A big lightbulb moment recently came when I read a really interesting article, which was a letter from an expat dad to his kids. It made me remember all the good sides of what expat life is offering them. The best thing though was how it made me realise that home isn’t bricks and mortar, it’s where the people you love are and stability doesn’t have to be geographical.

You will never be the same
You will never be the same

The podcast was actually a two part series and you can listen to them here and here. (I’m in the second one around minute 16). The article I reference was published on The Culture Blend and you can read it here.


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