Live Overseas for Years and You Won't Want to Talk About it.

Category: Third Culture Kids

IMG_1652“Live overseas for a month and you’ll want to write an article about it.  Live overseas for a year and you’ll want to write a book about it.  Live overseas for a few years and you won’t want to talk about it.”


Someone recently sent me this quote, wondering what I thought about it. Actually, I am very drawn to this quote. It has implications for the students we teach, our children, our husbands and wives, and our co-workers.  As I think about it, the quote resonates with me for several reasons:

Reason 1:  The quote follows the normal stages of transition

  • Stage 1 - When we are new to a place, we gather information through all of our senses at once and we do whatever we can to process it. We journal, talk out loud, ask lots of questions - all in an attempt to make sense of what we are experiencing and going through.
  • Stage 2 - I think once we begin to get a handle on things we pontificate for a time. It is almost cathartic. It provides an avenue to normalcy. At least a sense of normalcy!
  • Stage 3 - However, once we have experienced a place, person or situation for a long enough period of time there is little need to outwardly process. Processing occurs internally with little need to talk about it to others.
  • Stage 4 - Following that, when we have been in a place for a long enough time we begin to get our "normal" back. That doesn't necessarily mean we fit into the culture at all, but it does mean we have figured out a way of living there.


Reason 2:  Come on, nobody really cares about my story!

Another layer that adds to the validity of the statement to me is the generalization that most people are truly not interested in my way of life. This is by no means meant to be critical. It is just acknowledging the fact that if they have never had the experience of living internationally in China, Cameroon, Chile or wherever, they will not understand or want to understand my day to day living and how that experience has impacted my life. The frame of reference for understanding is just not there and many of us just get weary of trying to explain ourselves.


Reason 3:  I don’t want to “cast my pearls before swine”

On a much more personal level, our experiences as an international person are precious to us. Oh sure, we may tell a story on occasion if we don't think we will get the rolled eyes or the blank stare. But by in large, we keep the really personal, meaningful things to ourselves or share them sparingly and only with those who "get it". The lessons learned, the personal transformation, and all the pain that goes along with that are like pearls to us. We take these pearls out on occasion and enjoy them and may even let others see them, but they are ours, and they are priceless. And we cannot simply lay them out there for anyone to use or abuse.


Reason 4:  I want to belong, to be accepted

Sometimes we get so tired of trying to find those who understand. So we just give up. We hide behind the work we do in order not to face our craving for belonging. I think when that happens we have lost our ability (by choice to begin with, but later out of habit) to connect on a deeper, relational and/or spiritual level. It is ironic when I think about it: because our longing to be accepted and be understood is not being fulfilled, we pull away, therefore not allowing others to accept and understand us.

I know I just touched the surface of this quote. What do you think about it? Do you agree/disagree with it? TCKs, educators, counselors, expats, I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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