A showcase of FIGT Members' written work, focusing on the issues we study, the best practices we share, and the strategies we provide to support expatriates and cross cultural individuals and their families. Contributions are a privilege for Small Business and Corporate membership levels only and you can submit up to 3 posts per year. Please use our online form below to submit a blog for consideration or contact blogeditor@figt.org.

  • 10 Feb 2017 4:35 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    This year's FIGT annual conference “Building on the Basics: Creating Your Tribe on the Move” will be held in The Hague on 23-25 March 2017. It is the second conference outside the U.S. and Families in Global Transition (FIGT) couldn’t be more thrilled at its continued success. Join us and share this excitement and enlightening experience!

    As we are more aware of the need to assess the quality of life for the entire family to support a successful international assignment, FIGT is boldly assuming the leadership mantle in this area. FIGT offers resources of support, mentorship, and scholarship, as well as a global conference to reinforce its commitment to the holistic well-being of families on global assignments.

    Whether in an established or in a new market, companies that invest require relocating employees into other countries to build capacity or meet a need. And with those employees often come their families. It is reported that many international assignments fail due to the lack of support of the household. In 2017, the FIGT annual conference is expanding European ties and building on its worldwide focus.

    FIGT is reaching out to companies, organizations, and individuals that are involved with the global expat community. FIGT is asking you to contribute to the success of international assignments, support its mission and give your organization a platform by attending this unique conference of like-minded individuals. The goal is to be a profound resource for families, build a global network of support and develop leadership in current and future generations.

    The 2017 conference will feature 66 renowned speakers representing all aspects of the expat experience. During the three days, it will revisit the basics: “What is the definition of an expat? A Third Culture Kid? A foreign assignment? High mobility? A global family?” The FIGT network of researchers, educators, counselors, relocation specialists, artists, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, students, and parents will unpack the terms and frameworks that help make sense of global mobility’s impact on identity, career and community development. Through discussion about updating definitions, it will advance the understanding of cross-cultural and globally mobile communities in an age of profound cultural, economic and political complexity. If a universal basic need for our diverse communities is a sense of belonging, what are then the practical steps to finding your “tribe” and how can we help others do the same?

    Please visit the FIGT website www.FIGT.org and see just what FIGT can offer you. It is almost guaranteed: once you register and attend the conference, your global reality will never be the same!

    The FIGT team looks forward to seeing you in the Hague!

  • 29 Jan 2017 3:28 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT Program Director, Daniela Tomer, writes about finding her tribe on the move.

    We tend to hear stories shared when the cycle is completed: The story teller, usually looking back, is able to identify the dramatic moments of challenge, fear, anger, sadness, but he is here now, to tell the story and inspire how to overcome and complete the journey to reach a successful end.

    When you live a mobile life you are constantly breaking this cycle many times. Before you completed overcoming all the challenges of a new country, new language, new culture, new friends, new career, before you could proudly look back and see how much you have grown, you are thrown again to your next unexpected challenge.

    I am writing today in the middle of the storm; this Boston chapter of my story began less than five months ago. The transition is in process.

    My personal story begins in Buenos Aires. I am the second generation born in Argentina, to a family that was forced to immigrate from Eastern Europe. My grandparents were poor immigrants hoping for a better life, my parents were the generation that was assigned to fulfill their dreams. And they did. I was born to educated, hard working parents that proudly adopted the local culture and felt safe until again history pushed them to become refugees, traveling all over Europe in order to find a welcoming place, until we settled in Israel.

    Israel, an amazing melting pot of cultures and origins, welcomed us in a way that I will always be grateful for. In my current nomad life, I often look back and appreciate the warmth and the power of the Israeli community.

    This was my first international experience: Israel as a nation was my first international education environment, there were others like me, coming from other places, there were other accents, there were other parents not as fluent in Hebrew, it was a place that wanted to hug you fast and make you “local” in no time. So I did. I became Israeli, adopting not only the language but the culture, lifestyle and values. I served two years in the IDF, studied at the University and became a clinical psychologist. I married my wonderful Israeli husband, had my four kids. It could have been the end of the story. I found my home, and as an immigrant manage to build a strong enough local identity to feel at home and belong.

    Opportunity and Challenge are many times two sides of the same coin. My husband was working for a few years in an international company, we were offered many times to move abroad. He was excited. He had studied abroad in his past, it was an amazing opportunity for his career, it was his dream. Not mine.

    We took a chance and followed his dream.

    A new chapter: Belgium. I had my personal experience of transitioning, I knew what it can take, but this time it was different. It was not immigrating, it was transitioning to an expat community, a community of nomads. As an immigrant you are expected to assimilate with the local community, but in such a diverse community where do you belong?

    This is where the importance of your tribe becomes so valuable. In the expat world, the country of origin tends to be your first aid tribe. It can be a blessing and a curse, again the same two sides of just another coin. Within your country-of-origin tribe you can instantly feel at home, everything is familiar and easy.

    But what about the advantages of opening up to other languages, cultures, people? Well, this is the curse side — if it is too comfortable why would you challenge your comfort zone?

    Indeed, many of the non-native, English-speaking communities unintentionally tend to close themselves to others. I was lucky to have the support of the Israeli community but was also invited to be part of the Latin American community, my Argentinian identity that had been pushed aside while adopting the Israeli identity was given a chance to flourish.

    That was my second supportive tribe, still a challenge, after all even though Spanish is my mother tongue, I’d been living most of my life in Hebrew! Luckily this group was the most welcoming, non-judgmental tribe, encouraging and inclusive.

    So with two supportive tribes someone can assume that it will be an easy transition, right?

    Well, when you live your life in a place that operates in French or Flemish, your kids are going to an English-speaking school, a language that at that point they didn't speak, your support groups are in Hebrew and Spanish, and your profession relies on language abilities, it can be complicated….

    There was not much of a choice — I had to learn French. Again, you have to be at the end of the cycle to enjoy it, but the journey can be painful. None of these three languages would really give access to the heart of the expat community that I then realized, was the community that we were invited to join.

    So how can you find your way into a community that communicates in what sounds to you like perfect English, when all you have is the English as a second language you learned at school, which for you is actually your third language, while you are trying to acquire a fourth language to communicate with the locals? How can you feel comfortable enough, to believe that you can actually make friends, work and sound yourself in another language?

    This is where the common language of sports became the bridge to the English-speaking community in Brussels.

    Sports had been part of my life since I was young, when we first  arrived in Israel it was my way to feel confident in a new reality where for the first time I lost my ability to communicate. A ball was just a ball, you pass, you throw, you score, you don’t have to say a word. Without many words you can belong to a team, feel included and enjoying some sense of familiarity.

    I am not a sporty person, I am a social sporty person. I used to run with my Saturday morning running group only for the coffee after. I applied the same philosophy when we moved: I joined a women's basketball team that later on became my best friends and many times the motivation was the beer afterwards.

    Knowing so well how it relaxed me, I was looking for the same for my kids. The Brussels Sports Association is a volunteer-based organization that offers team sports for the English-speaking community in Brussels. Every skill level is welcome and the coaches are parent volunteers.

    I was asked to help with coaching, once again intimidated by many coaches that seemed to know much more about sport and English than me. My first reaction was: I can’t. It ended up being: “You either do it or your son can’t play.”

    One thing is very clear when you are on the move, the wellbeing of your kids is extremely important. So encouraged by my English-speaking women’s basketball tribe I took the chance. My first “job” in English was as an assistant soccer coach for a U8 team.

    It was an opportunity for my kids to join a very inclusive, welcoming and open environment, where they could run and play and feel less disadvantaged by their lack of knowledge of the language because the way to express yourself is by playing. At the same time I was given the opportunity to lead, plan, communicate and rebuild my confidence in a foreign language. BSA became my English-speaking tribe and the bridge to what led me into a wonderful journey of reinventing myself.

    I am very grateful to all my supporting tribes along the way, so for this reason I am looking forward to reconnecting with the FIGT tribe at the 2017 Families in Global Transition Conference  in Den Haag.

    Daniela Tomer has an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Tel Aviv University, she is a Mediator, Coach and Trainer. She has lived in Latin America, Israel, Europe and since August 2016, Boston USA. She is fluent in English, Spanish and Hebrew and speaks basic French. Daniela has worked professionally as a Clinical Psychologist, in the field of Psychotherapy and Psychological Evaluation and in the past 8 years dedicated most of her time to work with families and organizations in global transition. She is currently serving on the Board of FIGT as Program Director.

  • 15 Jan 2017 1:42 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    For years I followed the Families in Global Transition conferences at a distance. I checked their participants, programs, events, tried to grasp the atmosphere. Having been an expat for more than half of my life, this event looked unique to me: nowhere else before had I come across something so structured and stimulating for mobile individuals and families

    Unfortunately, the venues of the conferences were always in the States. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that the 2016 conference was going to be in Amsterdam instead, a destination I could finally reach. 

    I booked my place to be just part of the public, but my colleagues pushed me to present Expatclic.com, the website I created years ago and that is an intrinsic part of my experience abroad. I was then flattered and moved when Colleen Reichrath-Smith invited me to speak in a session on Growing a Global Business with a Community. Participating in a FIGT conference was already a dream come true, but being part of such a panel brought me absolutely to the sky. 

    The conference was great, for many reasons: It was the perfect way to meet like-minded people and the atmosphere was inclusive and warm; it gave me a lot of inspiration for my future; it introduced me to many interesting people, books and initiatives; it gave me space to stop and reflect about my personal and professional life; it gave me ideas to develop.

    However, three are the things that really made the difference for me:

    1.   For three consecutive days I was able to walk around and talk to complete strangers without having to explain anything at all: mobile life, its richness, pain, implications and nuances, was the real protagonist of the conference. Knowing that no words were needed to explain the complexity of my life as an expat was an immense relief;

    2.   For years I have been working online, and virtually met loads of interesting people. Thanks to the amazing variety of public it can reach, this conference gave me the chance to meet many of them in person. I could hug the first woman who ever asked me to write about my experience abroad and see face-to-face lots of women with whom I had corresponded or worked through the years. This has been an enormous plus. It shows that this conference is not only a place where you can intellectually recharge your batteries or find useful material and contacts, but it also offers a huge and warm human capital;  

    3.   Mostly and foremost, though, what I took away from FIGT16NL was a seed planted by Christopher O’Shaughnessy during his keynote speech. While all speeches and presentations were interesting, Chris’ one touched the audience profoundly and let us go with a renewed sense of purpose in our expat experience. In a few words Chris made us shift the perspective to give us awareness of how deeply meaningful the expat experience can be, and how it can be constructively used to actively participate in making the world a better place.

    After the conference a colleague of mine who was also in attendance, wrote a beautiful piece entitled What Expats Co Do: bringing hope to the world about the feelings Chris’ speech provoked. We talked about it a lot. We exchanged impressions, compared our experiences abroad under a new light. We felt this invigorating turmoil needed and could be channelled into something constructive and good. Something that, while helping ourselves to live our life in contact with different cultures more deeply, could also stimulate others to reflect on the treasures mobile life gives us, and how to use them.

    This is how What Expats Can Do was born. 

    The main goal of the project is to encourage expats to stop and think of how they can use their experience abroad in a more meaningful and creative way to contribute to the stock of empathy and hope of this world, which, as Chris says, is running dangerously low nowadays.

    It is a big challenge, because its practical implications touch such a wide spectrum of life situations that it gets sometimes difficult to explain. We launched the website of the project in October and since then we have been collecting positive initiatives that we believe show how expats can spread empathy and hope in their communities.  We would like to grow this project as a collector of information, contacts, ideas, initiatives and whatever is related to empathy, and turn it into a reference point for expats who want to challenge themselves in the difficult task of giving their hope contribution to the society.

    What place would be better to present What Expats Can Do than the one where its seed was planted? This is why we are going to talk about it at 2017 FIGT conference, where we once more have the honor to speak, and this year’s theme, “Building on the Basics: Creating Your Tribe on the Move” is a perfect match.

    A tribe on the move needs a sense of belonging: Sharing the common purpose of using our experience abroad to make the world a better place seems to us the best way to find one.

    Claudia Landini is a cross-cultural trainer and mobile career coach. She has lived in nine countries over five continents. Twelve years ago she created Expatclic.com, and since then she has been writing about her life abroad and helping expat women in many ways. She is also the creator of Expatwomen at work, a community platform for professional expat women, co-creator of Expatbooks.org, a virtual library of books written by and for expats, and Expatatable, a cultural/culinary portal on gastronomies all over the world. She currently lives in Jakarta, Indonesia.  

  • 10 Jan 2017 1:57 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
    FIGT17NL is proud to present “Spotlight on our Speakers Series.” We will be showcasing our network of researchers, educators, counselors, relocation specialists, artists, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, students and parents that will be speaking at our annual conference.  

    To get us started, we’re delighted to welcome Kristin Duncombe, who is a strong supporter of Families in Global Transition and one of the first to sign up to attend. We asked her what makes the FIGT conference so special and in answer, she beautifully explores the role and importance of sharing both in her life and her work.


    As a practicing psychotherapist AND the author of two memoirs, I am accustomed to people asking, “how do you deal with exposing all that personal information, for all to see – including your clients?!”

    I did think about this a lot before my first book, Trailing, came out, and though I could not know for sure how it would feel to throw open the windows on my life, I did know one thing for sure:  My need to publish the book was greater than my need to protect my privacy.  And so I launched the book, with a note to readers in the back that explained, among other things, that I was “compelled to tell my story…because of the way the personal and professional are ultimately woven together. A therapist is, before anything else, just another human being with his or her unique history. My firsthand understanding of some of the issues described in this book, such as trauma, depression, anxiety, and relational struggles informs the work I do with clients today.”

    Since taking that risk, and then doing it all over again by releasing a second book that was equally personal, I can unequivocally say that exposing my life experiences has not only not hurt my therapy practice, but has helped it.  I am convinced that the psychoanalytic model of therapist as an anonymous blank slate upon which patients project their fantasies is passé, and that increasingly, what people seek, in addition to insight, is the knowledge that they are not alone, that there are universal experiences that bind us human beings together through the understanding of shared experience. Although my books are never the focus in the therapy sessions I conduct, my clients will sometimes say, “I know you really do understand what I mean by X,Y, or Z, as you wrote about that in your book.”

    Being understood.  Being recognized.  These are particularly poignant and necessary elements for those of us that comprise the TCK global family. So many of the adaptation crises that arise for us global nomads springs from the sense of not belonging.  Although there are always exceptions to the rule, what if we all flung our windows open more frequently?  I believe in so doing we would optimize our chances to find ourselves in others, and what could be greater than that?

    Kristin Duncombe is an American writer and psychotherapist who has lived in Europe since 2001. She has based her career on working with international and expatriate families following her own experience of growing up overseas as the child of a US diplomat, and having lived internationally most of her adult life.

    She is the author of Trailing: A Memoir and Five Flights Up, both memoirs that address, among other things, the specific challenges and idiosyncracies of the expat existence.

  • 25 Nov 2016 5:25 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Interview by Catarina Queiroz

    Michael Pollock. Son of Third Culture Kid (TCK) pioneer David Pollock. Middle child. Teacher. School head. Coach, trainer and presenter. Also father of three, husband and Adult TCK. Describing himself as an introvert but undoubtedly a great networker, Michael was born in Long Island, New York. Before he was eight he lived in three different states and by the time he turned nine Africa was his home. He knew early on he wanted to do something that meant using his cross-cultural skills to connect with people. Teaching felt like the best option. “I also thought it would be a very flexible profession regarding where I would end up on the globe,” he elaborates. After getting married in 1990, he took a teaching position in Baltimore and from there the whole family moved to China for nine years. He repatriated in 2012 and now lives in Michigan, US working as Director of Daraja, providing transition support and leadership formation to cross-cultural young adults.

    ‘Place of the Wind’

    Michael recalls fondly the part of his childhood spent in Kijabe, Kenya. Meaning ‘place of the wind’ in Maasai, Kijabe is a town on the edge of the Great Rift Valley at an altitude of 2200 m. With a lot of coves to explore, wild animals to chase and general beauty to admire, Michael describes it as “a great place to be a kid”. He lived at a mission station and attended an international school, so there was no shortage of children to play with. His father taught at a Bible college and put a lot of work into the Kenyan church, while his mother – Betty Lou – worked at a nursing school. They were supposed to be there six years, but their stay was shortened to three due to changes in his father’s work. “This was one of my disappointments,” Michael confesses. He did have a chance to revisit Kenya on and off throughout the years, however, and is still in touch with friends there.

    One trip in particular, part of his senior college year, brings back vivid memories. He went to live in a Maasai village for a month, to benefit from a cross-cultural experience. What did he do there? one might wonder, at a remote African village, cut off from the world. “I just did whatever they were doing!” he exclaims. “I helped herd cattle. I roasted meat. I attended two weddings,” he explains, before concluding: “They really embraced me!”

    His eyes are dreamy as he recalls one particular incident: “We walked home one night through the lion country and realized the lions were hunting. I was worried and asked ‘what will we do?’ They replied: ‘We’re just going to pray and walk!’ It was an 18 km walk. There was a full moon and when the zebra ran the dust was flying up,” he describes, painting an image with his words. “We made it!” After this “very formative” experience he went back to the US with a full heart and ready to dive into his teaching work.  

    Life in China

    Michael's move to China practically coincided with his father’s death, in the spring of 2004. For the next couple of years, he did presentations on TCKs. “I was sharing his legacy and of others like Ruth van Reken, Ruth Useem and Norma McCaig,” he says. His role as an educator also shifted from elementary education teaching, curriculum development and school directing to supervising a project that linked international schools together: The Odyssey ISC.

    The goals of this project were twofold:

    1.     Bring together what the schools were doing independently, and

    2.     Build character, develop leaders and serve the community.

    Michael had a double role of advocacy and planning at Odyssey because he was responsible for communicating with the board of directors and planning the projects that united the schools. He trained people on different campuses to create community programs. For example, one of the Chinese schools began a relationship with a Philippine school and from there they developed common goals. As always in the case of International Schools, the biggest challenge was continuity because of the high mobility turnover. The experience Michael gained from Odyssey was invaluable and later applied to his Families in Global Transition (FIGT) and Daraja work.

    China was also the place where the family grew. After two years living there, everyone spoke a bit of Chinese and felt more or less adjusted. His kids, Abigail and Steffen, attended the International School and Michael’s wife, Kristen volunteered at a local orphanage. There she found an amazing little girl they all fell in love with. Through a truly miraculous process involving a lot of bureaucracy and goodwill they managed to officially adopt RoAnna Mei – Mei for ‘beautiful’. Several happy years went by after that. In 2012, however, things began to change. The two older kids were looking into college, some health issues came up for Michael, his wife wanted to consider new work options and both were faced with the issue of ageing parents. It felt as if the circumstances were pulling them in only one direction and they decided it was time to repatriate.

    FIGT: Exposure, Advocacy & Connection

    Historically, Michael’s collaboration with FIGT started in 2012, when he returned from China. He was invited by Ruth van Reken to go to the conference in the fall, but was unsure about it. Nowadays Michael feels a debt of gratitude towards Ruth for pursuing him. “I am deeply grateful for the open welcome of FIGT, for the chance of meeting so many wonderfully gifted individuals that want to help globally mobile people,” he says.

    Michael sums up FIGT’s mission in three core concepts:

    1. Exposure: FIGT is about sharing the questions we have and the research that still needs to be done. It’s important to reflect on how this can be achieved: “Where can those be shared and drawn together for the greater good of the globally mobile everywhere, in such a way that this replicates within the global community?” he asks.
    2. Advocacy: Transition care and tools are key. “My role in FIGT was also the advocacy for care,” he states, recalling how dear this concept was to his father and others involved in global mobility support. We should set aside time to consider the flow of care in global transition: “How can we care well for mobile people? What do they need?” are some of the questions we should be bringing forward.
    3. Connection: “FIGT is a nexus organization,” Michael explains, emphasizing the Latin word for ‘binding together’. “Who do we bind? What can we accomplish together better than on our own?” he questions, pointing out Doug Ota’s Safe Passage project as a good example of a ‘nexus’ initiative. It’s also good to ask “who’s missing from the FIGT table?” For example, are immigrants and refugees represented?

    Repatriation Completed

    Michael ended up settling in Michigan, next to the lake, strategically close to his wife’s parents and his mother. He was surprised to find out there is a good number of TCKs in the surrounding area, all the way up to Chicago, only four hours away by car. Back in his home country, he felt the urge to start working on an additional vision, caring for young TCKs who recently graduated from high school and are thinking about the next steps. This turned out to be a real need because nothing similar was being done in the US.

    The big challenge this project brought up was finding ways to partner up with organizations in the passport country to help students through this very specific transition phase. So after a year of reflection and planning, Daraja was born, providing services like one-to-one transition coaching for students and organizing events for TCKs like re-entry retreats and seminars, among other initiatives. After a pilot run, the organization of a bridge semester is currently being considered and tested. For Michael, Daraja is the natural culmination of his life story and work and what he wants to dedicate himself to at the moment.

    Advice for TCKs

    Using the 3D glasses metaphor, Michael gives TCKs some valuable advice: “Don’t ever let someone put you into a box that’s only challenges and needs! There is also wonderful potential and gifts.”

    It’s important to be three dimensional when you analyse your mobile life story. Seeing things in a flat 2D perspective will leave you stuck and maybe even bitter. In Michael’s words, “we must catch a glimpse of the whole picture to bring depth to our experiences and future. Look into the challenges and into the gifts – ‘and’ is the binding element!”

    Michael finishes the interview with an anecdote: “Recently I had an offer to move to another city and work at a university.” This opportunity made him realize he doesn’t feel like going mobile again at this stage of his life. “I turned it down and ended up coining the term ‘transition fatigue’,” he says. “Transition fatigue…” he repeats with an enigmatic smile. “I’ve seen the expression turn up in a couple of blogs since I first used it! It’s not that I’m tired of moving, I’m just tired of the transition process in itself,” he explains. And that’s ok – some people need to grow roots in order to help others who are still floating around!



    For more information on Daraja www.daraja.us

    Ruth Van Reken’s website www.crossculturalkid.org

    Families in Global Transition website www.figt.org


    Doug Ota’s website www.dougota.nl


    Letters Never Sent: A Global Nomad’s Journey from Hurt to Healing, Ruth Van Reken, Summertime Publishing, 2013

    Safe Passage: How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should do About it, Douglas W. Ota, Summertime Publishing, 2014

    Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Ruth E. Van Reken & David C. Pollock, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2001

    Catarina Queiroz was born in Portugal but spent her childhood in South Africa and Botswana. She was in her early teens when her family returned to Portugal, where she went on to major in Philosophy, becoming a trained high school teacher. After getting married and having her daughter she traded teaching for freelance writing, translating and coaching, and joined her husband for a two-year adventure in the Netherlands. She is now back in Portugal, enjoying reverse cultural shock yet again, writing on her blog and working as an Expat Partner Consultant. In her free time, she loves reading and travelling. www.bycatarina.com

  • 23 Nov 2016 4:07 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    How Stories can Serve Your Long Term Personal and Organizational Goals

    This plenary panel was led by Julia Simens with Mary Bassey, Pamela Bos Kefi, Amy Clare Tasker, Eric Larsen and Adam Geller

    Article written by Ellen Beard

    Educator, speaker, consultant, and author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: Practical Tips and Storytelling Techniques That Will Strengthen the Global Family, Julia Simens led a panel on the power of storytelling. Each of this year’s Pollock Scholars shared, in story form, snippets of their experience and how storytelling fits into their lives and work.

    Mary Bassey, the Hidden TCK

    Born of a bi-ethnic marriage in the region of a third ethnicity, Mary immediately found herself living in a cross-cultural situation “before I even stepped foot outside Nigeria.” At age four she moved to Canada for her father’s post-doctoral work. “From there we went to south-central Kentucky, which is not like Canada.” She described a lighthearted story of her brother, after observing Americans using food as endearing terms, call his friend “tomato chicken.”

    But there were heavier struggles as well. “I learned I’m not only African, I’m also black.” She described her first encounters with racial identity through interactions with the KKK and other forms of social hierarchy in America. Because she appeared African American, she had to play to those scripts. “It was weird to come to terms with a history that wasn’t really mine,” she recalled. She described the many complex layers of her identity that looked different depending on the context. “To feel foreign in your own country is weird.”

    Finally, in a university cultural anthropology class she came across the term Third Culture Kid (TCK) for those who are given multiple different scripts. This revolutionized her identity and has led her on a path to embracing her whole self and using her experiences to open up regular conversation about race, gender, culture and social hierarchy. “I’m just living my truth and taking up space unapologetically,” rather than tailoring her conversations to the comfort level of others or what is socially expected of her. As both a writer and advocate, storytelling has become hugely important to Mary’s work.

    Pamela Bos Kefi, the Multi-Layered Cultural Explorer

    Pamela Bos Kefi told a snapshot version of her life story and how many different layers of cross-cultural experiences she has had. Growing up in the United States, her first cross-cultural experience was serving in the Peace Corps in Tunisia after graduating from university. From there, her life spiraled into a plethora of new cultural experiences. She began a bi-cultural marriage with her Arabic teacher there and they moved to the United States to raise bi-racial, bi-cultural children. “My personal and professional [lives] have helped inform each other over the years.”

    Observing the struggles of cross-cultural confusion within her own family and the outside environment, she became interested in helping those in cross-cultural transition. She began working with refugees and immigrant families, helping them to adjust to the United States. Another complex layer of culture was added when her family moved to work in Haiti. She is currently back in the US continuing to work with refugees, where storytelling is vital to training her staff and interacting with those they serve. “I have dipped my toe in many aspects of cross-cultural living. It’s a journey and I don’t know what’s happening next.”

    Amy Clare Tasker, the “Tennis-Match TCK”

    Amy told of her experiences growing up as a British girl back and forth between the UK and the United States and constantly struggling with the question of where she belonged. “I grew up in the States, and I have a very American way of thinking at times. And then at times in the States I have a very English way of thinking.” Although she noticed differences within herself, she said, “I hadn’t really considered myself a traditional TCK because I only speak English” and had only lived in two countries. Studying abroad in England during university, “I learned very quickly not to say I’m from Manchester” despite being born there. “But I’ve heard the phrase ‘TCK is a feeling’, and I have the feeling.” She has been using storytelling in the form of theater-making for both self-discovery and catharsis among other TCKs who struggle with the question “where is home?” She concluded, “really, we’re all trying to find where we belong” so we should expand the tent for the term TCK to include those who might not be aware they could belong with TCKs.

    Eric Larsen and the Red Chameleon

    Eric began with the image of his pet chameleon from growing up in Kenya and Australia as a missionary kid from the US. He would try and get the chameleon to change colors, just as a TCK adapts to new environments. However, trying to make the chameleon change to the unnatural color of red was impossible and would cause it great distress, just as a TCK often undergoes during times of transition and cultural confusion. He compared changing unnatural colors to suppressing the feelings of struggle and moving on rather than naturally processing grief.

    In the process of moving back from Australia to the US for university, he described his familiar experience of “being still, being silent, boxing everything up, and changing colors. And it was killing me.” However, the story continues to joyful resolution later in life. He received a call for a short job back in Australia “so now all of a sudden, 15 years later, the boxes get unpacked.” He finished his story discussing the beauty of meta-narratives. “It was a divine conspiracy, to get me back there to unpack the boxes.” Even though his story growing up overseas seemed to be finished and packed away at age 18, he found wonderful closure later on in life. C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien are his favorite authors because they beautifully express smaller stories within larger meta-narratives of hope and redemption just as in the whole of life.

    Adam Geller on Unity in Diversity

    Through academia, Adam has been exploring literature in addition to personal experiences to “unpack the very complicated manifestations of third culture.” He is in the process of demonstrating in the skeptical academic world that people can both discuss their differences and disagreements as well as temporarily set them aside to simply enjoy a peaceful meal together. He tells the story of his house growing up in Australia full of immigrants from many different cultures, ethnicities and religions that were able to form remarkable bonds of an “international family.” He believes this phenomenon works in smaller scales, like specific homes, but also larger scales like the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference. With intentional action, this environment can be replicated at even larger global scales.



    Julia Simens’ website www.jsimens.com

    Amy Clare Tasker’s reflection of FIGT www.amyclaretasker.com/2016/03/families-in-global-transition-conference-2016/

    Mary Bassey’s website www.verilymerrilymary.com

    Adam Geller’s co-authored blog post www.thirdcultureliterature.blogspot.com

    Pamela’s website for Jewish Family Service www.jfsbuffalo.org


    Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: Practical Tips and Storytelling Techniques That Will Strengthen the Global Family, Julia Simens, Summertime Publishing, 2011

    Read Mary’s poem ‘Tales of a Black Third Culture Kid’ published in The Worlds Within – An Anthology of TCK Art and Writing: Young Global and Between Cultures, Edited by Jo Parfitt and Eva Laszlo-Herbert, Summertime Publishing, 2014

    Ellen Beard grew up in multifaceted Osh, Kyrgyzstan and flourishing Hanoi, Vietnam, and now studies psychology, interdisciplinary art, and humanities for her bachelor's degree at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. As an American-Asian artist, her diverse background, eclectic experiences and challenging education have developed in her a passion for learning, harmony, and all things international. Currently working in various research assistant positions and TCK student leadership roles, she aspires to use her growing skills in the areas of psychology and the arts to pursue harmony among people of all conditions of mental health, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

  • 11 Nov 2016 3:43 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The Digital Living Forum was led by Elizabeth Douet, director of Global Training Specialists

    Article by Sam Parfitt

    Elizabeth Douet runs Global Training Specialists, an intercultural training, coaching and consultancy company, based in Dublin, Ireland. She has many years of experience in the field and also works as a journalist. Elizabeth claims technology has put an end to ‘trailing’ status, a problematic term employed in the early days of thinking and writing about expat culture. ‘Trailing’ status refers to the often unfortunate circumstances the spouses of expats often find themselves in abroad. However, apps, online platforms and other communication technologies have changed all that and today you need never be without the resources at your disposal to sell what you have to buyers from around the world.

    The Early Bird Catches the Worm

    The Early Bird Forums cater to those of us eager enough to have gotten up out of bed and hopped on the tram – or perhaps our bikes – and made our way to the conference center to connect with others we might learn from. The early bird almost certainly catches the worm, for the audience was filled with people who had their own stories to tell about the ways they had benefitted from an informed use of the web, letting the rest of us in on this or that great website we couldn’t believe we didn’t already know about.

    Some of us were even promoting innovations of our own. David Hodson, for example, of the International Family Law Group, had been working on an app that will help inform expats on any legal issues they might face when moving abroad. “People feel insecure because they don’t know,” David contends. His app hopes to provide movers with the information they might need to make the most of their move and to feel empowered and on top of things.

    The App Revolution

    Unless you’ve only recently come out of a decade long hibernation, you’re probably already familiar with websites like eBay or Amazon, or with applications like Skype and Whatsapp. Websites and applications like these enable most of us to get books and movies in the languages we want anywhere we might be in the world at the moment, and also to send presents to loved ones when apart. Skype, of course, needs no introduction, having saved us hundreds, if not thousands on phone bills. Most of us also use the web now to bank, book holidays and even to search for a house. In fact, in addition to looking for a house, one can even, with some agents, sign the contract remotely, before even having set foot in the country! Again, another hurdle many expats face that has been significantly lowered thanks to the web.

    The following websites should put you in good stead to make the most out of being ex patria, both at work and at home:


    • Lloyd’s Pharmacy offer an online medical consultancy service where you can find advice of a standard and in a language you’re used to, useful if you’ve not yet had the chance to sort out health insurance yet.
    • Patients Like Me is a peer-generated ‘wiki’ or catalogue of health advice that can offer a less panic-inducing alternative to the unsupervised hypochondria of the chatrooms sometimes delivered by Google searches.


    • Currency Exchange offers ‘peer 2 peer’ currency exchange, meaning lower transaction costs for both parties wanting either to sell or buy foreign currency.

    Buy/ Sell

    • Airbnb is an example of sites providing the bridge between people wanting to sell and others wanting to buy form the majority of the recent wave of online household names. Airbnb allows you to let out your spare room or your whole apartment while you’re away so others can stay in oftentimes more comfortable surroundings while they make their city break in your hometown, and almost always at a lower cost.


    • Flexjobs can provide you with a job on the go, as can coaches like suitcase entrepreneur help you to find them through other channels.
    • Dropbox and Google Drive, both well-known file storing and sharing platforms, can be supplemented with little known sites like Spider Oak, which offers similar services but with increased privacy.

    The Cons

    Of course, the new wave of online platforms and websites has meant the end of many high street businesses. Travels agents, CD shops and even estate agents have been disappearing from our busiest shopping streets, meaning less employment at the local level. While apps like Uber enable people to make money as and when they want, making the most of their spare time, they also threaten career taxi drivers who can’t compete with the ease of use and competitive pricing of car sharing apps. Profits are taken out of the country and the power of the unions is threatened. Berlin, Germany, for example, has banned both Uber and the letting out of entire apartments on Airbnb, claiming the latter has driven hotels out of business and that Airbnb circumvents state regulation of accommodation standards.

    Elizabeth makes it clear that whether you are simply seeking to make a bit of cash on the side, maintain contact with your homeland, loved ones and friends, or hoping to start a fully-fledged online business, recent developments in online communication platforms, has made your life a whole lot easier for you. That is, if you’ve got the WiFi up and running yet!

    Resources: Websites, Apps














    International Family Law Group LLP www.iflg.uk.com

    Global Training Specialists www.globaltrainingspecialists.com

    Sam Parfitt is a trained anthropologist and freelance writer who has grown up in Dubai, Oman, Norway, England and the Netherlands. He has had articles published in local, national and international newspapers and has written arts reviews for music blogs and student journals. Berlin is his home away from home. London his center of gravity. He is now looking for full time work in the arts and museums and/or charity sectors while working on a book on the pioneers of Penang for Summertime Publishing.

  • 08 Nov 2016 6:34 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Sarah Bringhurst Familia, Public Relations officer at the Expatriate Archive Centre in The Hague, writes about her co-authorship to a chapter in the recently published book, Global Mobilities: Refugees, Exiles and Immigrants in Museums and Archives, edited by Amy K. Levin, Professor Emeritus at Northern Illinois University

    A year and a half ago, when I began working for the Expatriate Archive Centre (EAC) in The Hague, I inherited a half-written article on the history of the organisation. It was intended to be a chapter in a book written by an American scholar, and it fell to me to pull together portions written by different authors, hunt through the archive for source citations and supporting material, and synthesize the whole into a coherent narrative.

    During the course of my research, writing, and editing, I grew to feel acquainted with the founders of the archive, and fell progressively more in love with their creation—this place where the lives and stories of expats, especially expat women and their families, were preserved, cherished, and given their place in history.

    The roots of the EAC go back to the early 1990’s; a time when expat women were still often expected to unquestioningly fill the role of the ‘trailing spouse’, with everything the moniker implied. At the time, global oil giant Shell was preparing for a celebration commemorating its 100th anniversary. A few ‘Shell wives’, as they were then called, noticed that nowhere in the preparations was there any attention given to the contributions and sacrifices that had been made over the years by spouses (most of them women) and families of the Shell workers deployed around the globe.

    To rectify the oversight, these enterprising women formed what they called the ‘Shell Ladies Project,’ and began gathering the stories and experiences of Shell wives like themselves all over the world for publication in a book. The resulting publication, Life on the Move, was so well-received that they soon published a sequel. By this time they had amassed so many interesting documents that they decided the material they had gathered should be preserved not only for themselves and the Shell family, but also for academic researchers and the future. They decided to form an archive, and to open it not only to stories of Shell families, but to expats of all kinds from all over world. Today the EAC holds a diversity of individual, family, and organisational collections comprising primary source material such as letters, diaries, photographs, newsletters, blogs, etc., from expats in over 80 different countries.

    When the women of the Shell Ladies Project decided that stories like theirs were worth preserving in an archive, they expanded the boundaries of history, and of archiving. Although perhaps they would not have viewed themselves as feminist, they were creating a space in which the everyday stories of expats abroad, especially women, were considered as valuable for historical preservation and academic research, in a way they had not been valued before.

    I was fascinated to learn of their struggles and triumphs in the early years of the EAC, and honoured to have the chance to put them in writing for inclusion in Global Mobilities: Refugees, Exiles and Immigrants in Museums and Archives, a new book edited by Amy K. Levin, Professor Emeritus in Northern Illinois University’s English  Department. Levin does research in the areas of Women’s Studies and women’s literature, Museum Studies, Victorian literature, African-American literature.

    Global Mobilities looks at the role of museums and archives in the politics of integration and cultural diversity and their efforts to further the inclusion of racial and ethnic minority populations. The chapter on the EAC which I co-authored is Chapter 16: Expanding the Boundaries of History: The Expatriate Archive Centre. Other chapters explore different institutions and their approaches to migration history, as well as contextualising the ideas and providing interesting case studies.

    Global Mobilities would be an excellent addition to the library of any scholar, archive, university, or private individual with an interest in migration studies, museums, and how the two have interacted. Please feel free to download the flyer below (which affords you a 20% discount on the book) and pass it on to anyone else who might be interested!

    For more about the book, please see:  www.xpatarchive.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Global-Mobilities-FLYER.pdf
  • 03 Nov 2016 4:30 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The Research Forum was led by Families in Global Transition Research Network Director Sarah Gonzales and Co-Founder Ann Baker-Cottrell

    Article by Meghali Pandey

    The Research Forum was led by the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Research Network. The FIGT Research Network is an interdisciplinary community of international professionals seeking to advance the knowledge base and understanding of individuals and families living across cultures and in global transition.

    This Early Bird Forum focused on showcasing some of the latest work being carried out in the aforementioned areas by researchers around the world, and the broader activities of the research network. Some of the things made possible through this network include:

    • Building relationships among/ between researchers, those that they study, as well as the consumers of their research.
    • Encouraging and assisting researchers by facilitating the sharing of solutions to methodological challenges.
    • Increasing awareness around emerging research.
    • Supporting and guiding research using best practices.
    • Promoting multidisciplinary research and literature.

    Torben Anderson

    Torben Anderson is a professor in the Department of Leadership and Corporate Strategy at the University of Southern Denmark, and a visiting professor at San Francisco State University and the University of Auckland. His research has mainly concentrated on the structural and strategic aspects of international human resource management.

    Torben explained how his research chiefly addresses the empirical field of engineers, which is 70-80% male in its makeup. Exploring the question of ‘How do modern families make decisions about expatriation?’, Torben has found widely diverging results within the Danish expat population alone. There are marked differences between families who live in expat bubbles or westernized ‘ghettos’ versus those who ‘go native’, engaging more fully with the host culture. There are also differences between male and female roles when expatriating as the accompanying spouse.

    Alix Carnot

    Alix Carnot is the head of International Careers Development at Expat Communication, and the author of Chéri(e), On s'Expatrie: Guide de Survie à l'Usage des Couples Aventuriers. Having moved eight times in 15 years with her husband and four sons, she has developed considerable expertise on expatriate couples’ issues and dual international careers.

    Through her research, Alix discovered that although 80% of French women wanted to continue working even after following their husbands for an international assignment, only 50% of this sample group actually achieved it. Most of these women indicated they wanted to work for fulfilment, and not merely money, often worrying about finding a job upon repatriation. In fact, many discovered they had regressed because of their expatriate experience.

    Anna Maria Moore

    Anna Maria Moore is a half-American, half-Swedish Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK) who lived on five continents before the age of 18. Her research began in 2010, and focuses on the specific sample group of lovepats – those who move to, or live in their partner’s country. The main question she posited as part of the FIGT Research Forum was ‘Is it something about living in your partner’s country that makes it more challenging?’

    Anna chiefly wants to research whether being an expatriate affects romantic and marital relationships. To date, she has surveyed people from 90 countries living in 74 countries, finding that 66% of those surveyed said it was “a sacrifice” to have had to move for their partner.

    Rachel Cason

    Rachel Cason is a missionary ATCK who grew up in West Africa, and now lives in England. Her doctoral research led her to launch Life Story, a therapeutic service that applies her research findings in a form suited to those with highly mobile childhoods.

    During her research, Rachel focused mainly on how Third Culture Kids (TCK) relate to other migration groups, surveying 61 TCKs from different organizational backgrounds. According to her, TCKs often represent an “imaginary diaspora,” which has led her to explore the concept of where exactly the “imagined homeland” of TCKs may be found.

    Rachel has discovered the rates for TCKs returning abroad from their ‘home’ countries fall between 50-90%, with strong links to cosmopolitanism, and consequently, feelings of rootlessness. There is also a degree of vagrancy in confusing and confounding more settled populations since TCKs who choose to return abroad make a choice of perpetual mobility. Finally, she indicates how her findings raise further pertinent questions regarding gender in the expat community, as well as the virtual communities that arise through highly mobile lifestyles.

    The forum ended with researchers discussing different psychological patterns and behaviors that affect expatriate lifestyles. These include the cognitive curve, the behavioral curve, and the affectionate curve. Places like the Expat Archive Centre at The Hague, and expat blogs online were also recommended as valuable venues to conduct research and meet like-minded individuals.

    Ann Baker Cottrell, the founder of the TCK Research Network, and one of the leading researchers on Third Culture Kids, ended the forum by highlighting further areas of research and the interesting questions they raised for the whole host of organizations and individuals attending FIGT. Often, she underlines, going back to one’s ‘home’ country is what raises issues for Third Culture Kids, whereas there is no reason to believe the host country has always been perfect and without flaws. What, then, does this tell us about the psychological patterns, cultural affiliations, and attachment behaviors of TCKs?



    Expat Communication www.expatcommunication.com

    Journal of Cross-Cultural Family Studies www.ojs.acu.edu/ojs/index.php/jccfs/announcement/view/2

    Worldwide Families www.worldwidefamilies.org

    Worldwide Writings www.worldwidewritings.com

    Life Story: Moving Towards a Settled Self www.explorelifestory.com 

    Roaming the World www.roamingtheworld.com

    International Therapist Directory www.internationaltherapistdirectory.com    

    Expat Archive Centre www.xpatarchive.com


    I Love You, But I Want to Leave, Anna Maria Moore, www.denizenmag.com/2011/05/i-love-you-but-i-want-to-leave/


    Chéri(e), On s'Expatrie! Guide de Survie à l'Usage des Couples Aventuriers, Alix Carnot, Groupe Eyrolles, 2016

    Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counselling the Globally Mobile,  Lois J. Bushong, Mango Tree Intercultural Services, 2013

    Writing Out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids, Edited by Gene H. Bell-Villada and Nina Sichel with Faith Eidse and Elaine Neil Orr, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011

    Meghali Pandey is an adult third culture kid (ATCK) who works in youth development and cultural diplomacy. She has written for Youth to End Sexual ViolenceOnpartu, and Use Your Difference magazine. She has worked with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK) on youth engagement with foreign policy, in international cultural exchange with the Cabinet Office of Japan, and on developing cross-cultural youth engagement during disaster and conflict. She is currently developing her writing as a means to explore identity and belonging as an ATCK. 

  • 28 Oct 2016 4:46 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The FIGT blog is a source of information, ideas and support for its members and the wider globally mobile community. It also provides an opportunity for members to showcase their work and communicate to a wider international audience. As such, we publish:

    ·      Original content written by members;

    ·      Interviews;

    ·      Descriptions of member blogs or highlights of specific posts by members (we do not re-publish entire posts);

    ·      Guest blogs by our sponsors

    ·      Guest blogs by others with experience or knowledge that can benefit members

    Members are encouraged to use the blog to reach a wide, international audience. Posts should not be promotional, but rather contribute original material to the wider debate on issues relevant to the FIGT community. (Promotional blogs are to be submitted to the ‘news’ section of the website for consideration.)

    Once published, blog posts are promoted on the website, the newsletter, the Facebook Page, the LinkedIn group and on Twitter. Contributors are encouraged to link to their post on their own social media outlets.

    To submit a proposal, please email the blog editor at blogeditor@figt.com

    Post should be between 500 to 700 words, include a bio of the author (100 words max) and be accompanied by a photograph or image (of yourself or something relevant to your post).

    Photographers (professional or hobby) are encouraged to provide photographs to the blog. Your contributions will be attributed to you and you can add publication on our blog to your portfolio. Images speak louder than words and we would love to share your vision of the globally mobile world.

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