Expat is short for expatriate. Which is a person residing outside their country of citizenship.
Third Culture Kids (TCKs), are children raised in a culture other than their parents during their formative years.
Now that we got that out-of-the-way. What does expat really mean?
You may have learned from my bio, I’m Canadian as is my husband. Our children spent the majority of their primary years comfortably in the Bahamas.
In 2014, we upset their apple cart and moved to Spain. Initially, we decided on Barcelona. Why not, right?! Seemed logical. After living in a coconut republic for over a decade, why not move to a flashy Euro City?
All seemed great on paper as we packed up our life in a flurry, rented our home, sold some stuff and gave the rest away. With a suitcase each – we were ready for our Spanish Adventure!
Long story short, BCN was not a good fit. Our feral little Island beys (bey is Bahamian slang for boy), did not adapt well to living in an urban flat. We immersed them in a trilingual school (Barcelona requires all students to study Catalan – a Spanish dialect that is a mix of Spanish, French and Portuguese), needless to say, confusing as hell, and not our best move.
The kids were miserable and so homesick! The local kids were not accepting of them and for the first time in their lives – they knew how it felt to be ostracized for being different. Shitty lesson to learn at such a young age, but also the reason TCKs are tolerant of diversity. They get it, because they know how it feels to be on the outside looking in.
We tortured the kids for a few months, determined to make it all work. But it didn’t. Mainly because of the school, but also our orangutans craved space and the freedom to run.
By January, we withdrew them and homeschooled until we could make the move to Andalusia that April.
(FYI, homeschooling is a road I never want to travel again….took bloody years of my life! But, that’s another story).
As an expatriate your survival kills sharpen and you do what you need to do. Adaptability is essential. Especially, when your youngest forgets how to read in English!
So, we ended up in the sunny south south of Spain at a great International school and immediately our familial claustrophobia was lifted. However, the adjustment problems were far from over. The kids were starting their second school in less than 7 months. There was loads of anxiety and floods of tears.
Our eldest had the hardest time and I swear at times he wanted to swim back to the Bahamas. There were many miserable hiccups in our journey and as a parent, nothing is more heartbreaking then watching your kids struggle through feelings of isolation.
But, you know what? They got through it and found their way. They improved upon their social skills and became more self-aware. Their confidence returned and they learned how to thrive in their current environment.
I’m so pleased to tell you – my tribe is HAPPY. And there is nothing better than Shalom in the Home. Expat life is full of ups and downs and many different adventures. Not all of them are fun but everyone is interesting. It’s a choice we’ve made and I think our boys will be thankful in the future.
The most notable TCK is probably Barack Obama, I would say he qualifies as a pretty decent TCK success story.