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.

  • 24 Sep 2020 11:51 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The FIGT Annual Members Meeting went virtual for the first time ever, on 14 September 2020. President Dawn Bryan presented her annual report and future plans for FIGT.

    Blog title: Annual members meeting 2020, Looking back, Looking forward

    On 14 September 2020, FIGT held its first ever virtual Annual Members Meeting via Zoom. Normally, the annual meeting is held during the FIGT Conference but given the circumstances this year, the FIGT Board decided to take it virtual. 

    With 50 attendees joining in from 11 different time zones spanning the globe, the meeting—perhaps even unexpectedly—succeeded in recreating that familiar feeling of reunion FIGT members enjoy at the annual Conference. A special thank you to those who met us at 4 a.m. (Pacific Daylight Savings Time) and 11 p.m. (New Zealand Standard Time)! 

    In opening the meeting, FIGT President Dawn Bryan welcomed everyone and presented her Annual Report.

    [The following are the text from the slides. You can download the whole PDF here.]

    Summary of FIGT activities from March 2019 to today

    • First conference in Asia

    • Commitment by our Communications Team to make the conference last all year long. Since April 2019...

      • 11 Themes from “Coping with Difficult Times,” to “TCKs,” and “Hellos & Goodbyes, to Kindness”

      • Webinars, Interviews, Panel Talks, Blogs to go along with each theme

      • 40 pieces of content, more than 60 speakers

      • 8 Coffee and Connects

      • 2 Conversations for Change

    Growth of the online FIGT community

    • Facebook audience increased 30% to 5,743

    • LinkedIn audience increased 116% to 1,049

    • Newsletter list increased 5% to 2,497

    • Twitter audience has 6,029 followers

    Awards won

    • EMMAS: Highly Commended for Best Employee Benefits & Family Support

    • Think Relocate: Winner of Excellence in Employee or Family Support—the trophy is global, just like us! It has been travelling the world among FIGT members.

    World map and photos of the Think Relocate award being passed from location to location

    Conversations for Change

    Flyer of Conversations for Change on 14 July 2020, with LaShell Tinder and Ezinee Kwubiri

    (Read the report from the Conversations for Change with Ezinne and LaShell.)

    Flyer of Conversations for Change held on 29 July 2020 with Trisha Carter and Danau Tanu

    (Read the report from the Conversations for Change with Danau and Trisha.)

    Dawn acknowledged all those who keep FIGT going:

    Our Valued Sponsors

    List of FIGT sponsors: Summertime Publishing and Springtime Books, Cross Border Living, American Psychologist, Cross Border Financial Planning, Senia International

    • Platinum Sponsor Summertime Publishing and Springtime Books

    • Gold Sponsor CrossBorder Living

    • Silver Sponsors American Psychologist, Cross Border Financial Planning, and Senia International 

    • Plus Patron Sponsors

    Our Amazing Affiliates

    Map of the world with marks on locations where there are FIGT Affililates

    (The clouds are the shared-interest groups.)

    Our Valued Volunteers

    Whose activities include:

    • Board Members

    • Board Committee Members

    • Social Media

    • Blog Editing

    • Newsletter

    • Marketing

    • App

    • Affiliate Leaders

    • RFP Readers

    • Compliance

    • Emcees

    • Keynote Speakers

    • Presenters

    • Bookstore

    • Webinars

    • Website

    Our Valued Members: YOU!!!

    Our Board Directors

    • Dawn Bryan, President

    • Jodi Harris, Vice President

    • Trisha Carter, Secretary

    • LaShell Tinder, Treasurer

    • Vivian Chiona,* Affiliates

    • Anne Lessle,* Communications

    • Ginny Philps,* Communications

    • Tanya Crossman, Logistics

    • Mariam Ottimofiore, Membership

    • Megan Norton, Nominations

    • Valérie Besanceney,* Program

    • Anastasia Lijadi, Research and Education

    • Matilda Criel-Ewoldt, Scholarship

    • Linda Janssen,* Sponsorship

    Dawn personally thanked each of the five whom we are about to farewell from the Board (with * next to their names) and welcomed the following to take up their new terms in October:

    • Stephen Toole, Program

    • Flor Breton-Garcia, Communications

    • Petra Shellis, Communications

    • Emily Rogers, Affiliates

    • Sonja Lopez Arnak, Sponsorship

    A retirement on the horizon

    A heartfelt thanks also to Judy Rickatson, Board Administrator, as she nears her retirement. Judy has been the backbone of FIGT operations for many years in her current position and as a volunteer before that, and we wish her the very best.

    Looking Forward

    FIGT will continue to be powered by volunteers
    • New opportunities to volunteer
    • Opportunities for people to become members
    • Board Admin/Operations Role is open

    Treasurer LaShell Tinder then shared the organization’s fiscal report.

    Fiscal Outlook

    Revenue levers

    • Conference attendance: 2020 no conference; 2021 plan for virtual

    • Financial Support of Membership

      • 2019: 127 new members compared to 56 YTD in 2020; 

      • 2019: increase of 11% Jan - August; 2020 decrease of 11% Jan - August; 

      • Membership Drive early October to boost membership with a minimum goal of hitting 40 new members

    • Investment by Sponsors: 2020 70% of prior year’s $20K


    • Operating costs yearly: ~$27K comprised primarily of 1 staff member, data management, and professional services for financial reporting and compliance. Conference expenses covered by attendance fees.

    • Current holdings: ~$96,000 split into both checking and savings; financial health secured during successful conference in Thailand 2019

    • Risk areas: COVID-19 cancellation of 2020 conference; impact on membership and sponsorship with further impact expected for 2021 due to global recession

    Looking ahead

    • Virtual conference planned for 2021

    • Membership drive and expanding reach of the community

    • Sponsorship expanded offerings to include Rhodium and Palladium with continued focus on relationship building

    Further updates were shared about the Affiliates, the upcoming Membership drive, and Sponsorship.

    FIGT Affiliates

    The growth of the Affiliates over the past year and their activities has strengthened our presence throughout the world, both in location-based and virtual interest-based groups. These provide opportunities to extend our reach and offer support to a wider global community around the world, while welcoming more people into Membership.

    Opportunities to increase participation

    • First annual virtual meeting of Affiliate Leaders held on a regional basis due to no conference offering

    • Encourage all Affiliate supporters to become members of FIGT

    • Offering various virtual connection opportunities

    • Collegial based options with shared interest

    • Great opportunity to volunteer

    Membership Drive

    FIGT will be holding a Membership drive in the coming months.

    Key activities

    • Collaboration with communications for social media campaign

    • Current member engagement to share social media posts to extend reach

    • Video vignettes of Sponsors to showcase partnership with FIGT

    • Video vignettes of Members - “What is your reason for being a member?”

    • Highlight various levels and benefits to members

    • Friendly competition to encourage new memberships among Affiliates

    • What Does it Mean to be a FIGT Member?


    FIGT contributes to the globally mobile community in many ways, all of which make FIGT a worthwhile organization to support.


    • Connecting with others across the world who are members of the globally mobile tribe

    • Staying relevant with new virtual connections via Coffee & Connect, FIGT Focus, and Conversations for Change

    • Contributions by members to FIGT monthly Newsletter, Focus of the month, and social media

    • Connect locally through Affiliates or based on professional shared interest

    Knowledge Sharing

    • Volunteerism on FIGT committees and the board

    • Peruse past conference materials and access to a plethora of content

    • Contribute to the newsletter and blog (based on membership level)

    • Suggest new offerings through our online bookstore

    Financial Support and Investment to Sustain FIGT

    • Partner with and share in the story of FIGT’s ongoing success and growth

    • Be part of the change - support important issues that influence cultures

    • Building bridges through a shared commitment to broader cultural understanding and agility

    • Relationships built on trust and mutual benefit with a significant, growing quantifiable word of mouth reach

    The meeting concluded with reminders to sign up for the next Conversation for Change, while looking forward to the virtual conference in March 2021.

    Dawn thanked Ruth Van Reken, FIGT Founder, for joining us. Ruth thanked all of us in the FIGT community around the world for continuing the work she began 23 years ago, expressing her heartfelt gratitude for us as we feel for her and her work.


    • Download the presentation slides (PDF, 39MB)

    • If you would like to get a copy of the Financial Report, please contact LaShell (treasurer@figt.org).

    If you’re not yet an FIGT member, we would love you to join us and be a part of our supportive, learning community of globally minded individuals around the world. Find out more at Membership.

    And please join us on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter and sign up to our newsletter to get updates!

  • 21 Sep 2020 6:52 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    It's that time of year where we say farewell to some of our FIGT Board Directors. Thank you, Valérie Besanceney, Vivian Chiona, Linda Janssen, Dr Anne Lessle, and Ginny Philps, for your leadership.

    Blog title

    No matter what happens on its surface, our blue planet has made its journey around the sun once again and it’s time for the FIGT community to welcome new members to its Board and farewell those who are moving on.

    We asked the five departing Board members to reflect on their experiences on the Board and briefly introduce those who will be taking their place for the next two-year term.

    (The incoming Directors will be sharing more about themselves in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.)


    Affiliates Director

    Profile pic of Vivian ChionaVivian Chiona has served as Affiliates Director for the last two years, during which time FIGT’s Affiliate network has expanded considerably, including the new International Education Affiliate, and regional affiliates in Japan, Melbourne, and Germany.

    She recalls several proud moments as Director over the course of her two years in office. One of the most memorable was when she met other Affiliate leaders at FIGT 2019 “with hugs and thankful words.” She could feel that bond with the people she had worked so hard with for a whole year. “You could see their eyes sparkle.”

    She’s also proud to have achieved her goal to have 20 Affiliates. 

    “There are currently 17 and three others are in the pipeline. So I am going to step down knowing that, although there are not officially 20 yet, we are almost there. Beyond [the] numbers, what matters is that they are active Affiliates with a structure [that] ensures their sustainability in the long- term.”

    Vivian plans to continue being a part of the FIGT family and to contribute where she can. And she will continue to support expats through Expat Nest, the counselling service she founded some years ago that provides services in English, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Arabic...and more languages coming soon.

    Profile pic of Emily RogersEmily Rogers will step up as Affiliates Director. She’s a human-resources professional passionate about capability development and supporting people to become the best version of themselves. Emily is the founder of Expat Parenting Abroad, which supports parents in transition and finding their way while living abroad.


    Communications Co-Directors

    Profile pic of Dr. Anne LessleProfile pic of Ginny PhilpsDr. Anne Lessle and Ginny Philps have been Communications Co-Directors for the last two years. Under their leadership, FIGT has expanded its communications activity to include its monthly Focus series, bringing the type of content and exchange of ideas found at an FIGT conference to a wider audience and throughout the year.

    The most memorable moment for Anne during her tenure was when she travelled to London to “humbly receive the Think Relocate Award for FIGT in the category ‘best family support.’”

    After stepping down from the FIGT Director role, she’ll be busy following her passion as an equestrian coach in Australia.

    Ginny recalls her the most memorable/proudest moment as Director as helping to 

    “deliver a great conference in Bangkok in 2019 and seeing the caliber of the presenters, attendees, and content—and knowing that we are part of an incredible organization that is groundbreaking, generous, honest, and determined to widen the tent, to invite more diversity, more voices to the table.

    Recently having relocated to Rio de Janeiro, she’ll be working on building her profile and client base as a sustainability communications consultant while making the most of every minute living in the wonder of Rio!

    Pic of Flor Breton-Garcia The new Communications Co-Directors are Flor Breton-Garcia and Petra Shellis.

    Flor is an intercultural communication and language trainer who values working with different customs, standards, and social mores. She has experience as an expat, lawyer, educator, business director and entrepreneur. 

    Pic of Petra ShellisPetra is passionate about different cultures, personal development, and professional development and has experience in finance, branding, promotion, networking, and developing marketing strategies. She has been awarded a Commemorative Gold Coin for improving the relationships between foreigners and Chinese living in China. 


    Program Director

    Profile pic of Valérie Besanceney Valérie Besanceney has served as Program Director for the past two years, which included the unprecedented conference cancellation this year. Valerie will be remaining as Program Co-Director as we plan our virtual 2021 conference, a testament to her passion for and commitment to the FIGT community.

    Her proudest moment came as she observed the audience at FIGT2019 in Bangkok.

    “The tears, the smiles of resonance, the nodding, the laughter were all constant reminders of people feeling validated in the stories being shared. [It] reminded me that we were all connected by common threads, even though each of our stories was so incredibly unique.

    “When I first went to FIGT in 2015, I knew I had found my tribe. Today, I feel such a sense of pride in knowing that, together with an amazing group of Board members and other volunteers, I had the privilege of creating a conference that brought that experience of ‘feeling home’ to others.” 

    She also feels proud of

    “how resilient our Board proved to be when we had to cancel FIGT2020.... Not only did everybody help each other process this moment of loss, but I was also in awe of the creative, hands-on, and considerate responses from our community as we looked for alternative solutions.”

    As for the future, Valérie is on the board of Safe Passage Across of Networks, another organization she holds close to her heart as an educator and an ATCK, and she is excited to see where it is going. She and her husband have just started a small business teaching after-school activities in English in the Swiss Alps, where they live with their two young daughters. 

    Pic of Stephen TooleThe new Program Director is Stephen Toole, a career educator who has been teaching throughout the world for over 20 years. He first presented at FIGT in 2018 and has volunteered on the program committee for the past three years.

    Sponsorship Director

    Profile pic of Linda JanssenLinda Janssen served three years as the Sponsorship Director and was on the FIGT Board of Directors for five of the past six years. She is passionate about the work of the Board, which she calls “FIGT’s heart and soul.” 

    “The Board—individually and collectively—juggles the enormous tasks of updating the organization's purpose and mission in an ever-changing world, ensuring its financial foundation and fiscal health, and fueling growth to better reach, reflect, and serve our ever-expanding, globally mobile, cross-cultural community.

    “I've enjoyed the camaraderie and spirit of working with people who strive to improve the organization in every way. My primary focus has been enhancing sponsorship to seek partners who not only align with our mission, values, and service, but are also proud to invest in FIGT and grow in relationship with us. Beyond that, I'm probably most proud of pitching in and contributing whenever and wherever circumstances have required.

    “What's next? I look forward to expanding my resilience-focused coaching and training and finishing my second novel. But I'll definitely continue supporting FIGT through membership, participating in conference and other community events, and volunteering.”

    Pic of Dr. Sonja Lopez Arnak Dr. Sonja Lopez Arnak will be stepping up as the new Sponsorship Director. She teaches at a university in San Diego as well as Teach-Now in Washington, DC, and has worked as a teacher and administrator in schools in multiple countries. For the past ten years, Sonja has been working with online education, including course design, pedagogy and faculty training. 

    Thank you once again, Vivian, Anne, Ginny, Valérie, and Linda, for all that you’ve given to the FIGT community. The organization would not be where it is without your time, enthusiasm, skills, and experiences. Best wishes for your next endeavors! And welcome on board to those of you who’ve committed to lead us for the next two years!

    The new Directors will be sharing more about themselves in upcoming posts. Please join us on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter and sign up to our newsletter to get updates!

  • 17 Sep 2020 6:09 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT Patron Sponsors Globally Grounded and Resilient Global Transitions recently renewed as Patron Sponsors, while Porch joined us this past year.

    Title of blog, Thanking more Patron Sponsors

    Families in Global Transition is deeply appreciative of all of its sponsors. Two Patron Sponsors who recently renewed their digital sponsorship tell us a little bit about themselves, and why they choose to support FIGT and its global community. 

    Globally Grounded logoGlobally Grounded is a consultancy company dedicated to equipping students crossing cultures, their families, and those who educate them to effectively navigate the triumphs and trials associated with living and learning amidst diverse domestic and international cultures.

    Through its three priorities of schools (international and local, day and boarding), families, and research, Globally Grounded is driven to improving the emotional, social, and educational outcomes for cross-cultural learners so that living and learning between and among cultures is not an inhibitor but an enhancer of learning for all. 

    “I travelled across 9 time zones to attend my first FIGT conference and walked into a room where I knew not a single soul. Within three days I had found a home where I could be authentic, understood, valued and allowed to grow. Over the past four years, it’s where I’ve made lifelong friends and professional partnerships beyond my wildest imagination.

    “Sponsoring FIGT is my way of saying ‘thank you’ and ensuring that the community, organisation and its mission continue to flourish.”

    — Jane Barron, Founder of Globally Grounded

     Resilient Global Transitions

    Linda A. Janssen is a Resilience, Cross-Cultural & Transformative Leadership coach, trainer, and consultant whose business Resilient Global Transitions focuses primarily on resilience, intercultural communication, transitions, identity, and change.

    Linda has spent most of her internationally-focused career working with global, transnational, and cross-cultural issues across four sectors: public, private, non-profit and entrepreneurial.

    She employs her own resilience-enhancing framework of tools, tactics, and best practices to help her clients ‒ Fortune 500 businesses, global mobility companies, international executives and their families ‒ meet the challenges of professional and personal transition while dealing with cross-cultural complexity, challenge and change.

    She is the author of The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures.


    FIGT is uniquely situated to bring together in conversation, connection, and community an amazing tribe of current, past, and aspiring global nomads interested in the latest topics, trends, and research to support and enhance cross-cultural life. I’m proud to invest as a digital sponsor in FIGT and its continued growth and ongoing success.”

    — Linda A. Janssen, Resilient Global Transitions, Janssen Consulting Group LLC


    Porch. Love your home. For moving and improving, and everything in between.

    From the time you move in, we are here for you. Any time, every project, each step of the way.

    Porch services is an easy and reliable way to get home projects done. Find nearly any type of home professional for home repair, maintenance, and improvement project. 

    FIGT is grateful to have incredible sponsors who understand the experiences and needs of the globally mobile community. For more information about sponsorship opportunities, please visit our sponsorship page.

  • 04 Sep 2020 2:14 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The FIGT Focus for September 2020 is kindness. Now, more than ever, we need to be kind to ourselves, before we can be kind to others.

    Title of the blog. FIGT Focus September 2020 Kindness

    This has been an extraordinary year. We know that many in our community and beyond are struggling and hurting. There are families who are separated; who are stuck geographically, emotionally, and psychologically as a result of the pandemic. There is uncertainty in our lives like never before.

    This year more than ever we also know that there are many who live with the daily impact of prejudice and bias. There are hard and difficult conversations that we all need to have.

    In the face of this, focusing on kindness might seem a little insignificant. Sometimes, kindness is perceived in the same way the word “nice” is in the English language—rather bland and wishy-washy.

    But kindness is more than that.

    Kindness is something active. Kindness brings change.

    It’s intentional, practiced, and heartfelt. It is driven by a care for and a desire to give to others, often before ourselves.

    In drawing on our resources to deal with everything this year has thrown at us so far, there’s a danger that our emotional reserves become so depleted that thinking of ways to be kind to others might seem beyond our reach.

    So this month, let's remember, as Cath Brew from Drawn to a Story points out:

    The 'i' in kindness isn't silent. You matter too.

    The “I” in kindness isn’t silent.

    When it comes to being kind, you matter too.

    Show yourself some generosity of spirit this month. Check on your own wellbeing, find a way to refuel. As travel has taught us, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first.

    Because if we want a kinder world for everyone, then the “I” in kindness cannot be silent.

    We need to have strength to be kind to others.

    Our voices need to be heard, in our family, in our community, our workplace. Because to be kind drives change, for you and those around you. You and your actions matter too.

    This month we will be sharing some practical ways to be kind to yourself, some thoughts on kindness within a family, and what it means to be kind in our community.

    We will also be talking about how we move forward as a community in terms of equity and inclusion in our next “Conversation for Change.”

    We hope you’ll join us.

    Upcoming conversations

    To access the content (other than the above two webinars, which are open to all):
    Please join us on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter. Video content will be available for the month and then archived to the members’ only section of this website.

    If you would like to add your voice to this conversation, please contact Sarah at social-lead@figt.org

  • 24 Aug 2020 5:39 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Children of Deaf adults (Codas) grow up between worlds just as traditional Third Culture Kids do. A FIGT Research Affiliate webinar on 24 July explored how, with Erin Mellett and Alexander Laferrière.

    Blog title: FIGT research network affiliate - Children of Deaf adults as third culture kids

    The FIGT Research Network (FRN) Affiliate held an online seminar on 24 July 2020 with Erin Mellett and Alexander Laferrière to discuss the similarities between hearing children of Deaf adults (Codas) and traditional, internationally-mobile Third Culture Kids (TCKs), and to examine how the Coda experience might expand and enrich our understanding of the “third culture.” Sarah Gonzales, Co-Chair of the FIGT Research Network, hosted the event.

    [NB: In general, “deaf” refers to the biological condition of not hearing while “Deaf” refers to a group of deaf people who share a culture. Please visit the link in Resources for more on this.]

    Codas and TCKs: Growing up among worlds

    Erin, a PhD candidate in anthropology, began by explaining that Codas—born to and raised by Deaf parents—grow up in the Deaf world, yet their ability to hear puts them in a unique position between the hearing and Deaf worlds. Through her 2016 master’s project at Boston University, Erin sought to understand Codas as inhabitants of both (or neither) the Deaf and hearing worlds (see Resources for a link to her thesis).

    Despite being biological relatives of Deaf people and being raised by them, Codas lack the biological feature (deafness) necessary to be considered completely part of the Deaf community. At the same time, Codas don’t feel as though they belong to the hearing world either—citing distinctly “Deaf” ways of being that don’t mesh with hearing culture.

    Robert Hoffmeister, professor of Deaf Studies at Boston University and himself a Coda, explains in Open Your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking (2007):

    ...all Codas grow up in two worlds, the Deaf world of their families and the Hearing world. Every Coda leads two lives: one as Codas and one as a hearing person. They may choose to only live one life, but all of them have two.

    Like traditional TCKs, Codas spend their childhoods “growing up among worlds.”

    In fact, it was Erin’s Coda research participants who introduced her to the concept of TCKs and who told her that they felt a sense of affinity to people like TCKs.

    A table comparing TCKs and Codas. For TCKS: “Raised in a neither/nor world. It is neither fully the world of their parents’ culture (or culture) nor fully the world of the other culture (or cultures) in which they were raised” (Pollock & Van Reken 2009, 4). “Sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background” (Pollock & Van Reken 2009, 13). For Codas: It is neither fully the world of their Deaf parents’ culture nor fully the world of the hearing culture that surrounds them. Codas have developed a sense of belonging to each other; and they have established and utilized Coda organizations as spaces of identity transformation and community construction.

    Both Codas and traditional TCKs have connections to multiple cultures while not fully claiming membership in any. Codas don’t fully belong to their Deaf parents’ culture nor the hearing culture that surrounds them.

    Both feel a sense of belonging with others who share a similar background. For example, Codas have built a community through organizations like CODA International, where they have the space to explore their identities. 

    Codas can be considered a type of cross-cultural kid (CCK), like children of immigrants or international adoptees, who don’t fit the classic definition of internationally-mobile TCKs. 

    Both Codas and traditional TCKs have connections to multiple cultures while not fully claiming membership in any.

    However, inspired by FRN’s seminar series (in particular, FRN Co-Chair Danau Tanu’s provocations), Erin suggested that instead of trying to determine whether or not Codas are TCKs or CCKs, it may be more useful to look at the third culture (or interstitial culture) as an analytical concept and to ask: how might Codas’ experience of the third culture be unique?

    Erin explained that for Codas, biology (i.e., whether one can hear or not) is integrally linked to cultural affiliation (i.e., Deaf versus hearing). As biological relatives, but not biologically deaf themselves, Codas do not feel as though they can truly claim their parents’ culture—no matter how intimately they know its language and customs. 

    This means that the space of the third culture—the community Codas create with each other—becomes even more important as Codas try to establish their sense of belonging.

    One Coda’s “me-search”

    Following Erin’s talk, Alexander Laferrière—a Coda—shared his experiences with CODA International and coming to understand his own identity as Coda.

    Finding this Coda identity helped him recognize that “there is value to my experience”

    Alex comes from a large Deaf family that includes parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who are Deaf; he grew up with sign language as his home language. But Alex didn’t realize that his experiences had a name until he was introduced as an adult—purely by chance—to the term “Coda.” 

    Finding this Coda identity helped him recognize that “there is value to my experience and if I could channel it or pursue it, it would be valuable for our community.”

    Now, he tells stories through film to define, refine, and spotlight the Coda culture. He is also passionate about promoting broader awareness and acceptance of sign language as an important medium for communication.

    As part of his “me-search,” Alex created a film asking other Codas what CODA International conferences mean to them (see the film under References). The way Codas describe CODA International conferences are strikingly similar to how traditional TCKs describe meeting each other in FIGT conferences.

    Other perspectives from the floor

    During the discussion session, Oya Ataman, a multilingual sign language interpreter, shared her perspective as a German Coda of Turkish descent. Oya was the first to alert Dr Ruth Van Reken about the need to include the experiences of Coda in Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds and is featured in the 3rd edition of the book.

    Oya urged us to take more time to consider the vast similarities between Codas and expat TCKs, immigrant children, and so on, to avoid the trap of feeling “terminally unique,” a sense of feeling that one is “so different no one else in the world can understand them” (from Third Culture Kids, 3rd ed.).

    She suggested that the experiences of Codas from culturally or ethnically diverse backgrounds may shed more light on the ways in which Codas are similar to other groups that experience that interstitial, third culture in childhood.

    Marilyn Gardner, a public health nurse and writer, asked a question that further highlighted the intersectionality of many of these third culture experiences. A Russian family known to Marilyn immigrated to the US several years ago. She asks: “The parents are deaf and the children are hearing, but the parents only understand Russian and Russian sign language. The children end up being their primary interpreters in social settings—how can we support them?”

    Clearly, there is more that we need to learn about new ways of living in the third culture.

    * Our thanks to Erin Mellett for funding the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for the seminar and to the Rhode Island Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (RICDHH) for providing the interpreters.



    Hoffmeister, Robert. 2008. “Border Crossings by Hearing Children of Deaf Parents: The Lost History of Codas” In Open Your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking, edited by H-Dirksen L. Bauman, 189-215. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

    Mellet, Erin. 2016. “Cochlear implants and codas: the impact of a technology on a community,” Boston University School of Medicine.

    Pollock, David C. and Ruth E. Van Reken. 2009. Third Culture Kids: The Experiences of Growing up among Worlds. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

    Preston, Paul. 1994. Mother Father Deaf: Living Between Sound and Silence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Preston, Paul. 1995. “Mother Father Deaf: The Heritage of Difference.” Social Science Med 40(11): 1461-1467.

    Preston, Paul. 1996. “Chameleon voices: Interpreting for deaf parents.” Social Science and Medicine 42(12): 1681–1690.


    Photo of Erin MellettErin Mellett, MS, is a PhD candidate in the Anthropology department at Brown University. She obtained a Master of Science in Medical Anthropology from Boston University School of Medicine in 2016. Erin's research interests include Deafness and the Deaf community, disability studies, language, and belonging. Erin's current and ongoing dissertation research with deaf immigrants in the United States sits at the intersection of a number of fields including medical anthropology, Deaf studies, disability studies, linguistic anthropology, and immigration studies.

    Photo of Alexander Laferrière Alexander Laferrière, MPA, is a third-generation American Sign Language user within a large Deaf family. Alexander’s background and passion have led him to work professionally with the global Deaf community in the intersection between government, policy, and media through CODA International. His expertise in interactive media, coupled with his master’s studies in Public Affairs has allowed him to create films and policy recommendations for various communities around the world, from Providence, Rhode Island, to Moyobamba, Peru.

    Photo of Sarah Gonzales Sarah Gonzales is Director of Graduate Programs at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) School of Law. She also serves at NAFSA: Association for International Educators, teaching Intercultural Communication in Practice, Admissions and Placement of International Students, and Assessment and Evaluation for International Educators. Sarah is currently pursuing doctoral research on the intersection of cultural intelligence and mediation skills of TCKs. She is Co-Chair of the FIGT Research Network.

    [Edited by Danau Tanu and Ema Naito]

  • 17 Aug 2020 12:45 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Globally mobile people experience privilege in myriad ways. Change agent Ezinne Kwubiri challenged us—at FIGT's first Conversation for Change—to face up to social injustices and to “keep the conversation going!”

    Blog title: global mobility and organizations

    On 14 July 2020, FIGT held the first of its Conversations for Change, with guest Ezinne Kwubiri, North America Inclusion and Diversity Manager at H&M, and hosted by FIGT Treasurer, LaShell Tinder, who is also a colleague of Ezinne’s and is the North America Global Mobility Manager.

    These Conversations are part of FIGT’s efforts to examine our privilege and to explore how our community might respond to racism, inequities, disparities, and discrimination around the world—particularly focusing on our globally mobile and cross-cultural community.

    Reflecting on our labels

    In our daily lives, we come across different words that point to people on the move. LaShell started by asking what we think of when we see/hear the following labels:

    • Refugee
    • Migrant
    • Immigrant
    • Expatriate

    Most likely, we make assumptions about each “type” of mobile person, such as by associating them with a particular socioeconomic status. For example, a refugee might conjure up an image of someone who is in need, often from a lower socioeconomic class.

    But we also recognize that those assumptions can be wrong. A refugee may have funds, be educated, have their networks. They may have been heads of companies or professors in their countries but because of their displacement, are working in low-skilled jobs for which they are overqualified.

    Terminology: definitions of a Refugee: someone who is unwilling to return to their home/passport country out of fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership of a particular social group or political group. Migrant: person who moves from place to place in search of better living conditions. Immigrant: person who moves to a foreign country to live there permanently. Expatriate: individual who lives outside their native or passport country

    [Note: Asylum seeker = someone who is seeking asylum. Refugee = an asylum seeker who the UNHCR has officially recognized as a refugee.]

    It’s not always easy to classify ourselves with just these four words. You may ask: “If I’m locally hired and not on a big expat package, am I still an ‘expat’?” “I’m a TCK but is that different from being an immigrant kid?”

    Other terms like “trailing spouse,” “accompanying spouse,” and “lovepat” reflect how terminology can convey different kinds of assumptions—and how the words we use can change.

    The realities are not as clear cut as the terminology may suggest. Ezinne and LaShell reminded us to think about what other references people are thinking about when using these words.

    “We may be creating social, racial distancing with the words we use,” says LaShell. Ezinne concurs: “We have to be cautious with our words, that we’re not excluding or idolizing particular groups.”

    Reflecting on privilege

    Privilege—or lack thereof—is an inherent part of our assumptions for these labels. Just think about the word “expats,” which many of us probably call ourselves. To be an expat hints at a relatively privileged economic status, even if we know individual circumstances can be quite diverse.

    Privilege: There are many faces of privilege – accessibility to opportunity is but one of them. English – predominate language directly influences economic opportunity Internet penetration and availability of technology – comparison of virtual learning classroom during COVID-19 for under-served school districts and way of life for children in underdeveloped nations

    Privilege doesn’t only refer to economic status. It may come from our ability to speak English fluently or from easy access to the Internet and technology. Having dual citizenship could be another form of privilege. Growing up in Nigeria as a white child could mean always having the soccer ball—a small but real form of privilege for a child. 

    The ability to choose or to exercise control over our circumstances, having the confidence that our voices will be heard—these are all forms of privilege. 

    Not having to think about our privilege is, in itself, a sign of privilege.

    Ezinne notes that even people from marginalized groups can have a sense of privilege. Ezinne immigrated to the US and she’s a black woman. So in these aspects—especially in corporate America—she’s part of the marginalized population. But she also went to an enabling university and has had great jobs, she’s able to travel around the world, and she’s in the position to advocate for other people. These are her privileges.

    What can we do with our privilege

    Ezinne explains: “Identifying one’s privilege is the core of breaking inequality and social injustice and shaping a space for diversity and inclusion. In order for you to support and advocate for others, you have to recognize how you are different from them and how you’re benefiting from that difference.”

    Having someone suggest that we are privileged can be uncomfortable. This is why FIGT hopes these Conversations for Change will help bring people along to step out of our comfort zones and to go on this journey together.

    Once we acknowledge our own privilege, we can then think about what we are doing with the privilege that we have. We can then ask, as LaShell did, “If we are in the privileged group, how can we be part of the change?”

    As an example, Ezinne refers to the reopening of schools under the COVID-19 pandemic. Some families may have the choice to keep their children home. But for other families, that’s not a viable option: the parents may need to work full time and cannot pay for childcare at home; some children may count on school for meals.

    The response then needs to take into account all these differences, with an awareness of what privileges we may be taking for granted, and come up with a model that supports the underprivileged.

    If you want to use your privilege to educate others, Ezinne suggests that we continue:

    1. Having courageous conversations

    2. Sharing our stories. Give clear examples because people can relate to those stories better.

    Other thoughts: Gender and freedom of mobility agility

    LaShell leaves us with two more aspects of mobility and privilege to ponder.

    Privilege: There are many faces of privilege – accessibility to opportunity is but one of them. English – predominate language directly influences economic opportunity Internet penetration and availability of technology – comparison of virtual learning classroom during COVID-19 for under-served school districts and way of life for children in underdeveloped nations

    Gender equality and mobility

    How often do we pull ourselves back, as women? Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to take a chance and let everyone support us.

    Freedom of mobility agility: How do we think about equity of employment and the freedom of mobility agility – whether it is staying in one’s home, working remotely, or being a frontline worker?

    Freedom of mobility agility

    How do we think about equity of employment and the freedom of mobility agility—whether it is staying in one’s home, working remotely, or being a frontline worker?


    We conclude with some words from Ezinne:

    “We need to call [social injustices] out and face the change. If we don’t talk about it, we won’t feel like there’s anything to be done. Let’s keep the conversation going!”


    [The video of the discussion will be posted at a later time. Please join us on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter to receive updates.]


    Photo of Ezinne KwubiriEzinne Kwubiri is a change agent, diversity leader, innovator, and ally. Her career began in the financial services industry and quickly moved to media and entertainment, including 11 years at Viacom Media Networks (MTV), where she worked on change management, diversity and inclusion, and employee engagement.

    She is now North America Inclusion and Diversity Manager at H&M, the first in this role. As a board member of the organization She’s the First and a volunteer for other non-profit organizations that serve underrepresented communities, Ezinne uses her influence to empower these groups.

    Her world view is one that upholds the values that mandate equality, access, and opportunity for all humanity. Ezinne was scheduled to be a Keynote Speaker at FIGT2020.

    Photo of LaShell TinderLaShell Tinder has both personal and professional experience in relocation that spans three decades. As an accompanying spouse for 11 years, LaShell raised three TCKs who were born in the US, Belgium, and Venezuela.

    She began her work in mobility helping accompanying spouses/partners as a career/transition coach before moving into relocation management for relocation management companies and corporations.

    LaShell lived in Sweden for 8 months while on a short-term assignment. This experience gave her new insight into saying “yes” as a woman to promote one’s own career.

    Currently, she is the North America Global Mobility Manager at H&M. LaShell has served on the FIGT Board as Treasurer since October 2019.


    “Conversations for Change” is a short series of virtual discussions, open to all in our community. Each meeting will begin with a short presentation to stimulate our thinking and will then open for conversation. Our goal is for each discussion to be a starting point for individuals with a heart to work towards change.

    [Written and edited by Ema Naito with Sarah Black]

  • 14 Aug 2020 1:50 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT Patron Sponsors Insured Nomads, International Therapist Directory, and SundaeBean tell us why they choose to support FIGT and its community.

    Blog title: Thank you, renewing Patron Sponsors!

    Families in Global Transition is deeply appreciative of all of its sponsors. We asked Patron Sponsors who recently renewed their digital sponsorship to tell us a little bit about themselves, and why they choose to support FIGT and its global community.

    Insured Nomads

    Insured Nomads is the first insurtech in global benefits. They are empowering the international assignee, family, and traveler through the powerful insurance they need combined with the technology, informatics, people, and service that restore the confidence and efficiency called for in international insurance plans. 

    As a social impact venture, they generously fund the work of Not For Sale in combatting human trafficking around the world. 

    Together, they can protect the traveler and the most vulnerable. Bring your group into Insured Nomads.


    “We support Families in Global Transition because we firmly believe in the work the organization does in the chapters around the world, the webinars, and the annual conference. The voice and generational impact of the subject matter experts in this tribe are essential for the new nomad community that has formed in this world in transition. Thank you FIGT for the great work you do!” 

    —Andrew Jernigan, CEO & Co-Founder of Insured Nomads (2015 Pollock Scholar)


    International Therapist Directory

    The International Therapist Directory is an online global listing of professional therapists, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists interested in providing culturally sensitive cross-cultural treatment and care for today’s international TCK and expatriate community. 

    Over 250 therapists in at least 40 countries are listed. The directory is intended to be a resource for internationally minded people looking for a culturally sensitive therapist and for therapists themselves to identify and connect with one another for peer support and professional development. 

    Most therapists listed speak English. For a nominal annual membership fee, therapists may list their practice in the directory and access a private ITD Listserv to build relationships.

    The FIGT community is a brilliant example of internationally minded people cooperating between sectors as it has been providing rich opportunities for connection, listening, and learning from one another for over two decades. My experience with FIGT over the years has been deeply encouraging. I am so pleased to be a sponsor of this thoughtful and engaging organization.

    —Josh Sandoz, Founder & Curator, International Therapist Directory



    SundaeBean is a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist who specializes in minimizing time to adapt and maximizing satisfaction and success abroad. 

    Sundae helps individuals adapt as quickly (and painlessly!) as possible to the ever-changing circumstances of international life. Her expertise is sought out by clients ranging from European multi-national organizations to international NGOs, from West and East African country directors to seasoned expat spouses. 

    She is the founder of Expat Coach Coalition and Facebook community Expats on Purpose. Her podcast Expat Happy Hour has been rated number one in Places and Travel on iTunes. 

    “If you live a globally mobile life, being part of Families in Global Transition feels like coming home. The caliber of the professional expertise in the group, coupled with the members’ openness to learning, collaborating, laughing and connecting is unparalleled.”

    —Sundae Schneider-Bean, CEO & Founder, SundaeBean


    FIGT is grateful to have incredible sponsors who understand the experiences and needs of the globally mobile community. For more information about sponsorship opportunities, please visit our sponsorship page.

  • 24 Jul 2020 3:44 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    As we all try to better address inequities in our mobile world, a group of FIGT Members who founded the public forum “TCKs of Asia” had a frank conversation on privilege and diversity. 

    Title: TCKs of Asia on privilege and diversity

    For many Third Culture Kids (TCKs), having their experiences and commonalities named and described in Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds was life-changing and affirming.

    Now, as FIGT Founder Ruth Van Reken recently said, we are in the “next stage” of developing our understanding of TCK-hood, where we acknowledge the diversity of TCK experiences and how they are shaped by privilege (or lack thereof) in its myriad forms and manifestations.

    A group of FIGT Members who founded the public forum “TCKs of Asia” had a frank conversation on privilege and diversity as TCKs who (in this particular discussion) were ethnically East Asian. 

    The TCKs of Asia forum grew out of a gathering of adult TCKs and expats who connected at FIGT2019 in Bangkok and who shared “a passion for…draw[ing] out the hidden voices among TCKs” (from their website). Isabelle Min, one of the founders, says: “We wanted to explore how the culture of Asia impacts the TCK experience. That was the conversation that was missing.”

    Wanting to be inclusive, the founders decided to call the forum “TCKs of Asia,” instead of “from” or “in” Asia. “’Of’ means, you could have spent a short time in Asia and you could be of a totally different nationality and race and still be included,” says Isabelle.

    We asked four of the founders to talk about what “privilege” meant to them, how it relates to diversity, and how to keep the conversation going.

    [The following are highlights from a video call held in July 2020. It has been edited for clarity with the consent of and inputs from the participants.]

    What has “privilege” (or lack thereof) meant for you as a TCK? And how is talking about privilege related to diversity?

    Danau: I personally think about socioeconomic privilege because that’s what I have. Globally speaking, if we can afford to fly, then we are part of the 1% and there’s no denying that. 

    Jane: If your parents had the capability to work or study abroad, if their struggle and sacrifice provided a stronger financial starting point for you, that’s privilege. 

    Aiko: The FIGT [community] in general is privileged, we need to acknowledge that for sure. It’s not about race or where we were.

    Jane: Not to deny that as TCKs we have our own challenges. We know that. Just because we acknowledge our privilege, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have our challenges.

    Danau: We need to recognize our own privilege [before we can] talk about diversity. Acknowledging your privilege doesn’t make you a bad person.

    How do these play out in the context of TCKs of Asia?

    Danau: For example, all of us here [in this call] are ethnically East Asian. East Asia is economically more developed and that’s privilege right there. Southeast Asians, Africans, and others from the Global South may have an entirely different story.

    The fact that we all speak English fluently means we’re already part of the privileged group among TCKs of Asia. As Aiko often says, there are many TCKs who aren’t fluent in English.

    ...privilege can be in something as subtle as a sense of entitlement

    [Note added to elaborate: Privilege can come in many different forms. There are variations in privilege even among TCKs of Asia. For example, some have more “privileged” passports than others. Another form of privilege is fluency in English, though how much currency this carries after repatriation may differ from one context to another.]

    Jane: Asians educated abroad back in Asia are an immediate elite!

    Danau: Especially in developing countries!

    Aiko: Well, to some extent. In Japan, becoming an elite is not immediate. It's only when you can speak English AND Japanese, as well as meet the Japanese standard [of being “Japanese” enough], then you’re an elite.

    Just because we acknowledge our privilege, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have our challenges.

    Isabelle: I’ve been on both sides in many ways. I went to an American school in Brazil in the 70s and as an Asian from Korea, which was a poor country at the time, I felt very, very underprivileged and ashamed for not speaking English and for my race, for the disdain with which teachers would look at me.

    Ruth [Van Reken] pointed out to me recently that privilege can be in something as subtle as a sense of entitlement. Some people believe that if there is an injustice, they can talk to somebody and rectify it. I didn’t and don’t have that sense of entitlement in white spaces that I would be heard, that my voice matters—which is the epitome of “underprivileged” for me.

    Then I repatriated to a country where I’m very privileged in terms of class (as a diplomat kid), language (speaking English), manners (I knew how to eat properly in a Western restaurant)…. I would say something and people would listen the moment I spoke. 

    I felt so confused: if I was inferior at an American school for not being a native speaker of English but am now treated as “special” in Korea for speaking English at all, then does that mean Korea is inferior to the West? This did not sit right with me.

    Aiko: Within the TCKs of Asia group, I’m aware of the privilege I have by being Japanese. When I talk about my TCK experience, I try to be aware of what I say and how I say it because there are so many differences within the Asian context.

    Growing up as a Japanese expat child, I know I’ve been very privileged, even compared to Japanese TCKs growing up now, because Japan was in a bubble economy back then. And my experience of being a Japanese in the US [in the 80s] is different from what Isabelle experienced [as a Korean in an international school in the 70s]. I find that really interesting.

    [We should all] stick to talking about and acknowledging [our] own privilege

    Isabelle: Every country is different in terms of economic development and how they perceive and receive TCKs, what sort of challenges TCKs face going back home… Some Asian countries are more accepting; others are more resistant so TCKs have to almost hide their TCKness to fit in.

    [Through the TCKs of Asia forum,] we found so much diversity! We are acknowledging the privilege and the non-privilege. We are recognizing it the more we peel back the layers. We are realizing Asia is not one Asia, and to be mindful of that.

    How can we better understand where privilege comes from?

    Jane: Modern history matters. It’s because of our countries’ histories that some of our parents left at all, that’s part of the narrative. 

    Isabelle: When the conversation is geared towards TCKs of Asia as opposed to—say, Latin America or Europe—there’s a lot more tiptoeing around because we have a lot of countries within Asia that fought with each other and colonized each other. There’s a lot of pain there.

    Danau: It feels as though the reason we’re having difficulty having these conversations is that most people have gaping holes in their knowledge of history.

    ...we have to understand the history to understand the context [of privilege]

    Jane: Colonialism [as it relates to] why we are TCKs is another aspect that can be uncomfortable to talk about, but if we’re going to talk about TCKs of Asia, about diversity, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. It’s a sensitive topic, but colonialism is part of the context [why some of the diversity among] TCKs exist.

    Danau: Colonialism is seen as  bad, so there’s a strong desire to insert a historical break between that and the modern expat life but we need to acknowledge that the current global economy is  a legacy of colonialism. 

    It’s why there are so many immigrants from the Global South or the former colonies in countries like the US, while a lot of expats are from white settler countries and Western Europe. 

    And why are there more East Asian expats compared to Southeast Asian expats? Again we’ll need to look at history and its impact on the current global economic and political structures.

    Where do Asians fit in the conversation about Black Lives Matter (BLM)?

    Danau: In this group, we all recognize we’re privileged—we don’t have to worry about being shot when walking down the street. And as Asians, we experience racism but we participate in [perpetuating racism too]. Just because people are racist towards us, it doesn’t mean we’re automatically not racist or that we don’t have racist biases ourselves. Everyone contributes to structural racism.

    Aiko: The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in Japan has been so confusing for me. People say “we support Black lives!” but I feel like they say it because they think it’s cool. I've seen some public figures saying “I love Black hip hop” “I love Black fashion” and therefore “I support Black lives!”

    Jane: It’s complex because BLM is a slavery-induced issue in the US, specifically, though it has resonated worldwide. But we have to understand the [specific] history to understand the context [of privilege in that particular setting]. 

    So is it time to shut up and listen?

    Aiko: I think the safest way to have this conversation is to stick to talking about and acknowledging your own privilege. In the TCKs of Asia group, talking about the historical and economic contexts within Asia has helped me understand my own privilege that comes with being Japanese, because of our history of colonialism. It's hard to acknowledge your privilege if you don't start talking about it.

    About the TCKs of Asia

    photo of a group of mostly Asian TCKs at FIGT2019 conferenceTCKs of Asia is a group of adult Third Culture Kids and expats who met at FIGT2019 in April 2019 and discovered a shared passion for drawing out the hidden voices among TCKs. What began as casual online FIGT reunions turned into a series of online public forums, which was launched in August 2019 over six months with the support of Dr Ruth Van Reken.

    But given their TCK jitters about making long-term plans, they only committed to running three forums initially—the last of which was titled “Language & Power” and delved into the issues surrounding the privilege that comes with speaking English fluently. The group is hoping to launch another series later this year. If they do, it will be announced on their make-shift website and Facebook group.

    Participant bios

    Isabelle Min is CEO and Founder of Transition Catalyst Korea (TCK) Institute. She combines her TCK upbringing with 30 years' experience as a public broadcaster, adjunct professor, and intercultural trainer to coach, facilitate, and mediate individuals and teams. Isabelle has been leading FIGT Korea Affiliate since 2010.

    Aiko Minematsu is co-founder of FIGT Japan Affiliate and lecturer at the Center for Language Education and Research at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. She holds an MA in TESOL from Teachers College Columbia University and a secondary school teaching license for foreign language education in Japan.

    Danau Tanu, PhD, is author of Growing Up in Transit: The Politics of Belonging at an International School. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia and was recently awarded a Japan Foundation Fellowship for postdoctoral research at Waseda University for 2021. Danau is Co-Chair of the FIGT Research Network.

    Jane W. Wang is taking TCKs and CCKs on multicultural hero’s journeys, developing multicultural leaders with the expanded self-awareness, empathy, and resilience to realize their full power and purpose. Now living in San Francisco, she’s a TCK hailing from Taiwan and the US, with Japan being her third home.

    [Interviewed & edited by Ema Naito]

  • 10 Jul 2020 2:05 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The FIGT Research Affiliate held a virtual webinar with Dr. Mari Korpela on 26 June to reflect on how socioeconomic differences may impact the TCK experience.

    Speaker photos and event title: Do class differences matter for TCKs

    The FIGT Research Network (FRN) Affiliate held an online seminar on 26 June 2020 with Dr. Mari Korpela to reflect on the impact of socioeconomic differences on the Third Culture Kid (TCK) experience. Dr. Sachiko Horiguchi and Dr. Danau Tanu joined as discussants and Sarah Gonzales, Chair of the FIGT Research Network, hosted the event.

    The diversity among TCKs

    The prevailing image of TCKs and expat kids is of privileged, globe-trotting children who take pride in feeling at home in airports. While there is some emerging awareness of the diversity in the experiences of TCKs, much has been left unsaid about differences among TCKs. 

    In reality, some TCKs are not as privileged or well off as others. Many grow up under circumstances very different from those of the globe-trotting image, depending on their home or host countries and why and how their families move across borders.

    Mari, an anthropologist studying transnational mobility, had been working with the mobility literature throughout her career. She came across the term “TCK” when she was already conducting her research among “Western” children in India. 

    She pointed out that the widely used definition for “TCK” implies—but does not necessarily spell out—that the TCKs are relatively privileged. However, TCKs are a much more diverse group than is usually acknowledged, as she is finding through her research in India, and Finland.

    “Western” children in Goa, India

    Mari conducted ten months of ethnographic research among 4-12-year-old lifestyle migrant children in Goa, India (2011-2013). Lifestyle migrants are people who move abroad to find what they define as a better quality of life, namely, a more relaxed and more meaningful life (Benson & O’Reilly 2009). 

    These children fit well the definition of a TCK because they are spending a significant proportion of their developmental years in a culture other than their parents’ culture and they are relatively privileged. However, they are different from the “typical” TCK whose parents are career expatriates or representatives of their country or organization abroad.

    The children are privileged in having passports that enable them to easily cross international borders. The families can also afford a higher standard of living in Goa—an important reason why they prefer living there instead of in their passport countries. 

    At the same time, these families are vulnerable because their incomes based on the (informal) tourism industry are susceptible to circumstances, and their residence statuses are insecure as the families need to renew their visas frequently and can never be sure which kind of a visa will be given each time. 

    TCKs in Finland

    Since September 2019, Mari has been conducting ethnographic research on TCKs in Finland. Finnish companies recruit highly skilled professionals from abroad to work temporarily in the country and many are accompanied by their spouses and children. 

    Finland is unique in that many international schools are free municipal schools. These schools host a diverse student population: some children are from much more affluent families than others, and there are observable differences among TCKs in their economic and material circumstances. 

    The experiences of these TCKs can differ depending on the family’s situation, motivation and background. Some families invest money and resources in their lives in Finland; others view their stay in Finland as temporary and do not aim to have the same material standard of living in Finland as they did in their passport countries, to which they intend to return. 

    Differences in TCK families’ situations

    Mari pointed out that nowadays, many families move internationally as career expatriates but without luxurious expatriate packages from their employers. That is, they are skilled professionals who work in relatively well-paying jobs but whose employers do not pay for all, or any, of the families’ travel and living costs. 

    The situation of each expatriate family depends on many variables such as the parents’ work contracts and affiliated benefits, the privileges allowed in a particular country, and each family’s economic situation. Moreover, race, ethnicity, and nationality affect the expatriates’ position in complex ways, shaping the experiences of the TCKs.

    Mari stressed that we need to pay attention to such differences among TCKs and to examine what the position of assumed privilege means. One can be both privileged and restricted or marginalized at the same time. 

    Mari advised researchers to be careful to avoid making a priori assumptions on the TCKs’ status and position when formulating interview questions or questionnaires. 

    She also emphasized the importance of long-term ethnographic research; only with time can one gain insights into the subtle differences among TCKs. 

    Mari ended her presentation by noting that it is important to include young children in TCK studies. They may not be able to reflect on their identities in the same way as teenagers or young adults do but there is much more to the TCK experience than identity issues. Young TCKs are living as TCKs here and now, and therefore, their views and experiences on their international lives are highly valuable. 


    Benson M and O’Reilly K (2009). Migration and the search for a better way of life: A critical exploration of lifestyle migration. Sociological Review 57(4): 608–625.

    Speaker bios

    profile pic of Dr Mari KorpelaMari Korpela, PhD, is a social anthropologist and an Academy Research Fellow at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Tampere University, Finland. She has extensive research experience among lifestyle migrants and expatriates. Mari is also the President of the Finnish Anthropological Society and the Director of the Lifestyle Migration Hub hosted by Tampere University (research.tuni.fi/lifestyle/). Her current research project is titled, Expatriate Childhood: Children's Experiences of Temporary Migration.

    profile pic of Dr Sachiko Horiguchi, discussantSachiko Horiguchi, PhD, is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Temple University Japan Campus. She obtained a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor Roger Goodman, a leading scholar on the kikokushijo (a Japanese term for returnee children). Sachiko’s research interests lie in social and medical anthropology, focusing on youth mental health issues, education, and emerging multiculturalism in contemporary Japan.

    profile pic of Dr Danau TanuDanau Tanu, PhD, is the author of Growing Up in Transit: The Politics of Belonging at an International School and an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Social Sciences of the University of Western Australia. She has published ethnographic studies on Third Culture Kids and mixed-race identities and was recently awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at Waseda University by the Japan Foundation. Danau is a Co-Chair of the FIGT Research Network.

    profile pic of Sarah GonzalesSarah Gonzales is Director of Graduate Programs at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) School of Law. She also serves at NAFSA: Association for International Educators, teaching Intercultural Communication in Practice, Admissions and Placement of International Students, and Assessment and Evaluation for International Educators. Sarah is currently pursuing doctoral research on the intersection of cultural intelligence and mediation skills of TCKs. She is Chair of the FIGT Research Network.

    FIGT Research Network aims to bring together producers and consumers of research that promotes cross-sector connections to support the growth, success and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world. Its first 2020 webinar was on “‘Third Culture Kids’: The History & Future of the Term in Research.”

    If you would like to connect or join our future events, please visit our FRN webpage

  • 03 Jul 2020 11:02 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    FIGT outlines the steps we plan to take to explore how our community might respond to racism, inequities, disparities, and discrimination around the world. We start out with two ‘Conversations for Change.’

    FIGT: Talking about equity, image of many colorful people figures holding hands

    In the weeks since George Floyd’s death, many were spurred into protesting, listening, and learning about racism, not just in the United States but around the world. During this time, FIGT’s leadership has also been considering how we as a community might respond, not just to racism, but also to inequities, disparities, and discrimination—and the many ways they appear around the world. 

    Like all of you, we have been listening and learning. We are grateful to everyone who has shared their experiences and passion with us, and our community of members.

    At our most recent Board meeting, which was devoted to this topic, we agreed to the following steps. We believe that these are in line with our commitment to being an opening and welcoming forum for all, and supporting the growth, success, and well-being of the globally mobile community.

    We will:

    • Form a small task force of FIGT Members who would like to help us think strategically and longer-term about disparity, and our response as the FIGT global community.

    • Host two virtual meetings on these issues, open to all in our community to attend.

    • Include a Focus theme on expat privilege & equality in October.

    • Share resources from a wider range of racially diverse voices on our social media platforms and run regular checks on the diversity of voices reflected in our blogs and other content.

    • Gather data regarding the racial and ethnic diversity of the expatriate community.

    ‘Conversations for Change’

    ‘Conversations for Change’ will be a short series of virtual discussions, open to all in our community. Each meeting will begin with a short presentation to stimulate our thinking and will then be open for conversation.

    Our goal is that each discussion will be a starting point for gathering together individuals with a heart to work towards change. 

    Introducing Conversations for Change - a message from FIGT President, Dawn Bryan

    Events details and registration

    Flyer of event with Ezinne Kwubiri

    Working for Equity – Global Mobility and Organisations

    July 14th at 9.30 am New York / 4.30 pm Athens / 8:30 pm Bangkok

    To find the time for your location, click here.

    Conversation Host LaShell Tinder with Ezinne Kwubiri.

    As well as being Treasurer for FIGT, LaShell is the Head of Global Mobility for North America at H&M. Her colleague Ezinne is the Head of Diversity and Inclusion and was scheduled to be one of the keynote speakers at FIGT2020.


    Flyer for virtual event with Danau Tanu

    Working for Equity – International Schools and Education

    July 29th at 8:00 am Perth / 7:00 am Bangkok / 8:00 pm New York (July 28th)

    To find the time for your location, click here.

    Conversation Host Trisha Carter and Danau Tanu.

    Trisha is the Executive Secretary for FIGT and an Organisational Psychologist, Danau is an Anthropologist who has written the book, Growing up in Transit - The Politics of Belonging at an International School. Danau was scheduled to be our opening keynote speaker at FIGT2020.


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