13 Reminders for the TCK’s “Trip Home”

I’m flying to the USA soon. By the time this gets published, I’ll probably be there already. We’re going back to visit friends and family, and I’m tremendously excited. 

But to be frank, going back to my passport country is nerve-wracking. Every single time. 

My passport says I’m American, but I don’t feel like it when I take a step off the plane. Not at all. 

For one thing, everyone is speaking English. Like, what on earth? Since when does everyone speak English?

Then they say “Welcome Home” at the gate. The thing is, I feel like a fish out of water. Because these people sound like me, they are presumably just like me, and they expect the same from me. You feel like a fraud for the first two hours. You feel like you’re holding some sort of secret identity on the inside. 

Because this continent-hopping maneuver stresses me out, I thought it’d be kind of helpful to put together a list of things to remember before you take the leap. You know, from one TCK to another. 

But then I had a brilliant idea. 

I asked my other TCK friends. 

Behold our magnificent list of 13 things to remember when you “go home” for the summer. 

  1.  Visits to your passport country can often be hectic. Make sure you create time to ground yourself in God’s word. It will change your interactions and experience entirely. 
  2. Strangers will come up to you, call you by name, and claim they’ve known you ever since you were little. Be prepared to update them on your family. Talk with them – do it with a smile.
  3. Remember that not every foreign language you hear is your country’s language 😉
  4. Sometimes it’s good to bring a couple of gifts for the friends you might meet. You never know when you might meet your new close friend.
  5. Be prepared for: “Say something in so-and-so language.” Some people prefer asking for a sentence to translate, whereas some people come prepared with a phrase. Do what works for you.
  6. Many people will say, “Welcome Home.” If it doesn’t feel like home for you, that’s ok – you’re not alone. Personally, it always feels a bit like a vacation. You can mention it or not – but however you react, be kind.
  7. Be gracious. You’re not better than people just because you know more about the world internationally. They know more than you about other things. Reach out – make a friend. 
  8. Be grateful when someone goes out of their way (and their comfort zone!) to show you around and be friendly. Make sure you thank them.
  9. Be curious and ask questions. Don’t feel stupid if you don’t understand something. Chances are, it might not even be a cultural thing – they might not get it either. If it is cultural – brush it off. You are prized by the King of Heaven, and you don’t need to feel insecure. 
  10. Don’t be so excited about the “commodities” that you forget about the people. 
  11. Remember, the trips to your passport country shouldn’t define your expectations of the country’s culture. These short trips don’t show you the true face of the country. Stay curious and open to learning. Don’t assume you know everything.
  12. Spend quality time with people and say good goodbyes. 
  13. Take that first step to say hello. I know what you’re thinking – because I’m thinking it too. I don’t know these people. They don’t understand me. If I say something, I’m going to mess up. 

Take that risk. Life’s most beautiful moments are found when we step outside of our comfort zones. What we often forget is that we TCKs are comfortable traveling the world and speaking foreign languages. Honestly, I’d rather talk to the immigrant elderly couple at church than the teens my age. And that’s good.

But my friend, we can’t live our lives like this. We pride ourselves on having a broad perspective and traveling the world, but sometimes we forget that people are people no matter where you go and that your home culture is just another culture waiting to be discovered. Sometimes we forget that although the Church is Christ’s international body, our home country’s church is a part of it. Sometimes we forget that the teen we are afraid of talking to is just as freaking scared to speak to us. 

So take that awkward first step. 

“There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask, “What if I fall?”

Oh, but my darling,

What if you fly?”

― Erin Hanson

Thank You to God & Friends: You’ve Helped Me Grow

When I started writing last summer, I had no idea what God had in store for me. I became a Rebelutionary, a writer, and a champion of my fellow Christian teens who’ve grown up among worlds. I’ve grown in ways that were unimaginable to me at the time.

One way God has grown me is in my passion for using my youth to the fullest. I want to do hard things while I am young. I don’t want to give in to society’s flow of doing absolutely nothing worthwhile during my youth. I want to use it entirely for the glory of God. That’s not to say I still don’t have endless bad days where I’m lazy and selfish. I do. But He’s stretching me and leading me, and for that, I am grateful. I’m also so thankful for the Rebelution team and Brett Harris, who God has used mightily in so many people’s lives.

He’s also grown me in capability. I’m learning to be more proactive and more of a leader. I’m learning to make decisions. I’m learning more about the kind of leader I am and where I need to grow even more.

He’s grown me in passion for my fellow teens who’ve grown up abroad. There is so much that I’ve learned and wish my fellow teens would know as well. I’ve moved from simply a peer to someone who wants to see her peers changed for the better, passionate about the glory of God and about the good they can do as citizens of heaven.

One of the tangible processes he used to grow me was the Truth4TCKs 2021 conference. He taught me to trust in Him, to trust in His work, but also the work of others. He taught me to show up, day after day, even when it was hard. He taught me to model his faithfulness. I never succeeded – none of us can. But in my failure, I was reminded of His faithfulness and sovereignty, and I leaned on Him.

God also gave me great relationships through this journey – and I’m so thankful.

I’m thankful to my sweet friend Sara, who mentored me through the organization process and motivated me to make this whole thing happen. If she could do it, so could I. Thank you, Sara, for being encouraging and just someone I can cry with and laugh with. You are a joy.

I’m also thankful to my team: Clarissa, Bethany, Minjin, Kristianne, and Sophia. They have been why I was even able to put the conference together. They each contributed in their own ways, and looking back, it was beautiful to behold.

I’m so grateful for Megan, who became an encourager and friend, as well as someone who graciously helped me enter the “TCK world” of sorts. You, Megan, have been such a blessing, and you had a massive role in this.

I’m thankful to all the speakers who took their time and effort to help out. This was voluntary. I didn’t promise anyone money. Yet everyone served abundantly, and it was beautiful. Thank you, Will, Megan, Chris, Ms. Kate, Ms. C.B., Melinda, Ify, Wendy & Luke, and Sam. You were amazing.

I’m amazed at the blessing that God has given me. My family. They are so loving, so encouraging. Dad, you are the one who motivates me, gives me perspective, and helps grow my vision for what could be. Mom, you are my friend and joy, and you keep me accountable. Thank you to my brothers as well, who have been so encouraging and supportive throughout this whole thing.

I’ve grown, but I still am growing. We all are. That’s life.

Lord, thank you for growing me. Please lead me in my next steps. Thank you for being so faithful to me.

Don’t Miss the Truth4TCKs Conference

“Mom, when we get back home, I’m gonna kiss the ground.”

Those were my words as an eight or nine year old, when we were leaving the US to go back overseas. My mother was delighted when I did not do that, but she understood quite clearly in that moment that I loved our new home, and that it belonged to me. I wasn’t going to end up American… at least not completely. 

Fast forward nine years, and I’m still in love with the metropolis I live in. My life has been a blessing, and I wouldn’t ever trade it off. 

The struggle I have with my “home” is that I’m still a stranger to its people. I will never be, completely, a local. I sound like a local, and some even say I look like one. But the fact remains that I’m the “American”. I’m the one who moved here. 

It’s hard sometimes. The life of a Third Culture Kid is a patchwork quilt, a tree with roots that span continents, a network of bridges. The quilt’s squares are added, but sometimes ripped off. The tree’s roots are deep in some soils and wide and shallow in others. The bridges burn and are built again.

Yet the complexity that we call life is ultimately beautiful and good.

Sometimes, the complex stories and losses and experiences feel like too much. We need people to come alongside us and tell us we aren’t the only ones. We are understood. We are seen and loved. 

That’s just one of the many reasons why I started Truth4TCKs. It’s an online conference for teenage and young adult Christian Third Culture Kids, whether Military Brats, Expat Kids, Business Kids, MKs, Diplomat Kids, etc. It’s happening in four days on the 22nd and 23rd of May 2021.

Truth4TCKs strives to bring biblical truth and encouragement regarding the cross-cultural and highly mobile life to TCKs – especially those that might not have easy access to it. 

I am so excited! This is for all types of TCKs. Our excellent speakers come from many backgrounds: military, business, diplomatic, ministry… Also, the conference is organized by teens and young adults, who have a passion to do hard things while they’re young and to serve their TCK peers. That’s pretty cool.

The 2021 Theme is Global Citizens of Heaven. Here’s what that means: TCKs often feel an identity crisis and a lack of a home. However, as Christians, we are given an unchanging identity in Christ and a home in Heaven. Once the TCK is grounded in their identity, they can go out to live their lives as global citizens, using their giftings to the glory of God and the good of others. 

You can find out more about Truth4TCKs on Instagram @truth4tcks, and at truth4tcks.org . You can register on the link on the website for $10 or for $17 (if you want the recordings of the sessions.)

Speakers include names like Kate Forbes (the Cabinet Secretary of Finance in Scotland), Megan Norton (Intercultural Trainer), Chris O’Shaughnessy (Author and Comedian), and more. We will also have a special message from Ruth Van Reken (the author of Third Culture Kids, she’s also known as the matriarch of TCKs).

This conference is totally worth it. It’s not on Zoom, but rather Airmeet, an interactive platform that offers a fresh experience for online events. So if you’re Zoom-weary, no worries. 

I have been working, along with my wonderful team, on this for the last five months. We’re so glad it’s almost here. We hope to see you there. 

Leave Your Side of the Diamond

The delicious pasta with melting cheese and bolognese sauce. The vanilla bean gelato with balsamic vinegar*. The cobblestone streets and squares. The weathered stone walls and arched windows, and low spires. Bologna, Italy.

Something is wondrous about travel. It reminds you of all the possibilities, all the diversity, all the beauty in this world. The wonder-awoken soul breathes in the past and future. There is a remarkable, multi-faceted, light-breaking, colorful prism of a vision God has for his people. One only begins to understand it once he leaves his side of the diamond. God didn’t just create a continent or a country; he created a world. His glory is seen through creation, and aren’t peoples and cultures a part of that?

Travel isn’t the only way to discover all these things, of course, but it’s a powerful way to remind us that there is so much outside of us and our comfort zones. The outside things aren’t to be feared but explored with awe like a toddler would explore a field of grass and flowers in the spring.

The more you are filled with awe and wonder, the more you change.

But I think there is also a conscious initiative you have to take when you visit a city or country. You need to be aware that if you visit a tourist attraction area, what you see isn’t the whole story. And if you are there for a longer time, it’s always a good idea to try to immerse yourself in a culture and learn as much as you can. It’s easy to stay in your comfort bubble, even in another country. There are often resorts and hotels that keep you safe and within boundaries.

Boundaries are acceptable – what’s important is being aware of them. Travel humbly. Seek to learn and grow and stretch and become more aware of the world God has created.

Hush, and listen to the lively chatter. Savor the satisfying sweetness of fresh fruit. Pay attention to every texture and touch and the way the wind twirls. See, look, fix your eyes on the details and patterns and colors and shadows… the patchwork and paintings of our God that are ever-moving. Breath in the spice, the nectar, the earthy rain-soaked air, and breath out a deep, reverent, slow sigh.

Friend, the world is too full of God’s glory to sit back and stay put.


*As gross as it sounds, the vanilla bean gelato with balsamic vinegar was absolutely amazing. Italians just know how to make good food. Here’s an example recipe for those foodie dare-devils who want to try it out.

https://todayscreativelife.com/sweet-balsamic-reduction-with-vanilla-ice-cream/


I haven’t been writing frequently, but that’s because I have been heading up the organization of the Truth4TCKs conference. It’s an online conference for Christian Third Culture Kids, specifically teens and young adults. We’re going live May 22nd and 23rd – check out truth4tcks.org for more.

I won’t be writing much until after that happens. Thanks for bearing with me friends! May the Lord fill you with wonder and grace.

Every Story is Part of His Plan: Interview with Adult TCK Liz Lovelace (part 4)

Breanne: Okay, next question. What biblical truths or wisdom were you able to cling to, which helped you make that transition – realizing you were different and that was okay?

Liz: Umm… I think I would have to say God’s sovereignty. I understood God’s sovereignty in my life and other’s lives. That helped me accept that God had this plan for me to grow up this way. Accepting that it was good for me. God’s plan for other people was to go to college with people who were born in Wisconsin, grew up in Wisconsin, and never left Wisconsin. You know? I’m sure you run into people like that who have always lived in the same place and have ever moved. Their view of the world is very different than your own. I think understanding that God has a plan for all of us and our formative years, whatever that may be, they shape you as a person, and that’s all part of God’s plan too. I think now, there are still things that I’m learning even now at 42.

Even now, sometimes I’m like, “Why do people think this way? Why are they being so narrow-minded.” But, I think it’s even just a daily thing of realizing, “Just because I think differently doesn’t mean it’s wrong.” Trying to be more open-minded. Especially in today’s climate with politics and the coronavirus, everyone is struggling to find their place in the world and figure things out. I’d say it’s a blessing that we were living in Mexico, and we could just up and move and come back to the USA. We had the freedom to do that. But it’s been interesting even now, having experienced the coronavirus in two different countries. That’s been interesting too. I can see the valid reactions all over the world. Some countries are shutting down, some aren’t. I don’t know if it’s the TCK experience, but I can look at all these different reactions and say, “You know, they’re doing the best they can.” That’s okay.

Breanne: Yeah.

Liz: To see other people’s reactions, here in the USA specifically, people are all up in arms, and so mad about their freedoms being trampled on and places closing, and they don’t like being told to wear a mask, and they don’t like being told they can’t go out to eat anymore. You know, while I understand that point of view, I get why they think that way, I can’t relate, and I don’t share that point of view.

Breanne: I think that’s kind of a common… I relate to that. Thinking about any situation, “I understand because I understand the clockwork of the culture, but I don’t think it’s the most reasonable reaction or the most beneficial… I can’t relate.” Something like that.

I just realized I have one last question. You are raising TCKs. How has being a TCK and an Adult TCK affected the way you parent TCKs? Approaching things differently than monocultural parents parenting TCKs?

Liz: Umm… Parenting is parenting. My husband wasn’t raised as a TCK, but he can relate very well to TCKs. I think we are more open to other parenting styles and different viewpoints because we’ve seen it, we’ve experienced it. It’s important to us for our kids to learn multiple languages. It’s honestly something we’ve struggled with, getting our kids to speak Spanish. It doesn’t help that we lived in Mexico for less than four years. Alex speaks Spanish, but she doesn’t want to speak Spanish with me. I get that it’s weird. It’s odd to this day when I speak Spanish with my mom. But they need to speak it, so I need to push myself.

Being a TCK myself, I try to be more sensitive to what my kids are going through. Especially Alex, she’s eleven. I don’t know that Ivan will remember his time in Mexico. If we move to a different country again in a few years, I think living in that country will be a massive part of Ivan’s formative years. We try to be more sensitive to their emotional needs. We frequently asked Alex, “How do you feel about living in Mexico? Do you like it here?” Because of my husband’s work, we have the option to live in another country or not. It’s not like when I grew up, we always lived in Argentina. For our family, we are moving around a lot.

Breanne: And I think that’s an ever-growing trend. Traveling a lot more. Not just being a TCK but being a Global Nomad – having to move around. I don’t know.

Liz: Yeah. I don’t know, just trying to be more aware of what they might be struggling with.

Breanne: And you’ve gone through it too.

Liz: I’ve gone through it too. In Mexico, we stuck out like a sore thumb because we definitely looked like foreigners. Haha – there was that. Being sensitive to the kids in that situation. They were always the foreigner. Thankfully we found a decent school option for them. I think that’s it. Being more aware of their emotional well-being in general.

Breanne: Thank you so much, Liz! This was so awesome. I think it’s so good for me to hear different stories. I try to find overall themes. Every TCK story is so different and unique, but there are those themes. I’m trying to grasp them, so to speak.

Liz: Not every TCK I’ve talked to has struggled a lot. Every person is so different. Everyone’s life story is so different. People could have a very similar life story and approach it differently. I’ve talked to TCKs who really struggled and struggle even as adults. Others didn’t struggle at all. I appreciate you getting different stories because everyone’s story is valid. Even if you talk to someone who didn’t struggle a lot, someone else who didn’t wrestle with those issues might better relate to that person. I remember in college where people would talk about how much they struggle with something. I’d be like, I don’t struggle, so does that mean there’s something wrong with me?

Breanne: Yeah.

Liz: I just want to put that out there for some TCKs who might say I don’t have this monumental struggle. Maybe the culture they are growing up in isn’t that different from their parents’ culture, so there isn’t this vast disconnect. Maybe. I don’t know. Different people will struggle in different ways. So various stories of diverse struggles are excellent too. There’ll be something there for everybody.

Breanne: Yes.


Wow. There’s so much to unpack! I especially appreciated how she talked about realizing that other people’s upbringing, which has molded their way of thinking, is actually God’s plan for them. Our ways are not God’s ways. We might find someone’s views narrow-minded, but God can use them in ways he couldn’t use us because of their background, and vice versa!

What stood out to you all the most from this interview? I will answer all your comments 🙂

I Bring Something Different: Interview with Adult TCK Liz Lovelace (part 3)

I got to interview a close family friend, who is also an adult third culture kid (or ATCK). She shared about loneliness as a third culture kid in college, and learning to be comfortable in your own skin. This is the third part of a multi-part interview. You can read part one here, and part two here.


Breanne: So, in college, what was your experience as a TCK in college?

Liz: College was hard. Especially the first year. Like I said with high school, the beginning is always an adjustment. By the time I got to college, I had already had those experiences of being in the States and going back to Argentina. Going in, I knew I could adapt and learn. I had that in my mind.

Breanne: That’s such a TCK thing, though… adaptation. When you said, “I would just wait on the sidelines, and wait and watch and learn.” I know that a widespread TCK reaction to a new environment is kind of not doing anything for months. Watching and learning and studying the culture and setting, and then starting to interact with it. So that makes sense.

Liz: I mentioned I was fourth out of five children. I ended up going to the same college as my older siblings. That helped me going in. I had seen the college before; when we dropped off my siblings, I was there. That was an advantage. My next older brother was in college when I arrived, so I had somebody. I knew I had support – I wasn’t completely alone. It was the middle of the year, January, when I started college. I ended up rooming with my now brother-in-law’s sister. She knew I was coming, and she requested to room with me, so that worked out. I made some terrific friends in college. One of the friends I met that first semester ended up being one of my very best friends. Going into college was a little different for me than for my siblings.

The academic aspect, though, I was going from homeschool to college. I actually hadn’t finished high school. I had to take a GED exam to have a high school diploma. It was daunting. There was the question of “Will I do okay… will I be able to do the work?” High school is supposed to prepare you for college and for writing a bunch of papers. I had to write an essay about whatever, five to ten pages, for every class. I don’t remember doing that when I was homeschooled in high school. That was a big thing for me to learn to do. Thankfully I did well in college. And I made good friends. A lot of the socializing that people do in high school, I did in college. Actually, no, When I was in ninth grade in the States, I played team sports, but I didn’t again till college.

Some of the aspects of playing on a team sport are where I got most of my college experience, traveling to play other schools, things that you learn in those environments. I didn’t have that for most of the high school. In Argentina, I didn’t play any sports. Not because it wasn’t allowed, at that time, soccer wasn’t… I don’t know if I was interested. I was introverted, so I think I was too shy to find a sport I wanted to do. It wasn’t something my parents encouraged me to do either. For my brother, they saw it as something he just really loved. He played soccer. I didn’t have a sport that I loved playing or that I had to play. I think I would have enjoyed it if I had done some kind of activity. It was common as a teen to be part of a sports thing, at school or at a club. But girls’ soccer wasn’t a thing back then.

Breanne: I mean, we’re talking about Argentina. Haha.

Liz: Right. Back in the 90s. So girls soccer wasn’t a thing. I don’t remember it as something I wanted to do. College was my first experience of playing on a team for several years in a row. Many people who play sports in college played sports in high school, so they already have played sports on a team. That was new to me.

I do remember having this my first semester: This moment where I felt very alone. I think it was a free period; I was in my dorm room by myself. I guess I was journaling or reading the Bible or something like that. I just remember crying… sobbing. I felt very alone, out of place, stressed. It’s not just getting into a different culture. It’s a different culture, but all of a sudden, you have college classes and responsibility. It was this level of pressure I wasn’t used to. I remember praying and crying, and I felt so alone. I remember, specifically, God being with me in that moment. It was probably the first time in my life where I was alone, and I had to call out to God. Until then, you’re with family, when you live at home, it’s different – you aren’t alone. College was the first time I had to rely on God for companionship. Even though there were other TCKs there at that time (my brother was there, there were Spanish-speaking TCKs there, who I could talk to. Those were still new friendships too. There were actually two TCKs there, one from Uruguay and another from Argentina. She was a pastor’s kid who lived in Buenos Aires who we knew, but we weren’t really friends. She was at my college for a year and then dropped out. I had some friendships, but they were new, and being an introvert, it wasn’t easy for me to break out of my shell and be myself and make friends. So that was an adjustment. As I got through a couple years of college, I could see a benefit in being a TCK in that… I remember going through this time during college where I was like, “Who am I, how do I fit in? I miss Argentina, but what’s home”… that whole struggle. I think, at some point, I accepted me for myself. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Breanne: No, yeah, totally.

Liz: I think any differences I had with other people my age didn’t matter anymore.

Breanne: Whereas before, they really mattered. That was like the switch.

Liz: Right. As a teenager, being different wasn’t something I relished or something I wanted. As I got older, as I matured, as I gained experience… I don’t remember an “aha” moment, but as I grew, fitting in and relating to other people wasn’t crucial anymore. I was able to accept that I am the way I am and, knowing that I bring something different to the people around me. I have different life experiences, and that is a good thing. That doesn’t diminish other people’s life experiences of mine. It’s just different.

Breanne: That’s so good.


This interview has been amazing to unpack and chew on! Don’t miss the last part that I’ll post next week. (And honestly, I’m saving the best for last.)

What has stood out to you in this interview? I’ll be replying to your comments!

Third Culture Teen Stories: Interview with Adult TCK Liz Lovelace (part 2)

I got to interview a close family friend, who is also an adult third culture kid (or ATCK). She shared about growing up often feeling like an outsider, and also shared a funny story about ice-cream. This is the second part of a multi-part interview. You can read part one here.

As you read this part of the interview, I would like you to keep something in mind. The struggles Liz paints aren’t necessarily things that only third culture kids go through. However, the degree of those struggles was elevated, I believe, because she lived in a country where everyone was completely different from her.


Liz: Here’s a funny specific story. The Christian school I went to was a part of the church we went to as well. When I was in ninth grade, one Sunday after church, this college-aged guy who was helping with the youth group was like, “Hey, let’s go get some ice-cream after church.” The way I heard it… of course, I had no experience with how this actually played out. I had never gone out with other people to go get ice-cream in my life. I convinced my dad to let me go. My dad asked me, “Is he paying?” I said, “Well, I think so because he invited us.” Then we get to the ice-cream shop, and people start ordering, and everyone is paying for their own ice-cream. I just felt really stupid. And I’m kind of in trouble here because I was like, “oh no!” I was expected to pay for my own ice-cream, and I had no idea because all I had heard was this guy invited us out to get ice-cream, so he must be paying. So that was like a particular cultural moment, I guess.

Breanne: Is that an Argentine thing – to pay if you invite someone out?

Liz: Not necessarily, looking back, I don’t think that’s true, but I just didn’t personally have that experience. If we ever went out for ice-cream with the youth group, my dad, who served at our church in Argentina, always paid for everybody. That was the youth group thing. He paid for everyone; he didn’t expect people to pay for their own. But, looking back, if friends go out, usually everyone pays their own way. The way it worked out in my head was that this is a church thing. This guy works in the youth group; it’s a church thing.

So to my friend, I told her, “Oh, I didn’t know we had to pay for our own.” And she was like, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll pay for you.” She was pretty nice. (And had money, apparently.) That’s a specific cultural story.

Breanne: Yeah… just not being in the know, even if it’s a cultural norm or not, just not knowing. I get that.

Liz: Yeah, and our parents didn’t even let us go out with friends much in Argentina, even as teenagers. We never went out and did stuff if it wasn’t associated with a church.

Going back to adapting in the States… I don’t know if people still give kids allowances. But when I was in fourth grade, that was a huge deal. I was the only kid in my class that didn’t get money regularly. So, I do remember that was something that made me feel like we didn’t fit in. It wasn’t something my parents ever did, and I don’t think they had the money to do that sort of thing. In fourth grade, kids would talk about their allowance or what they got with their money… just having that money to spend on something. Back to the topic of high school, if we wanted to go out, we would have to ask for money every time. Some high school kids also got allowances and had the money to buy stuff and go out for ice-cream. Anyways, money was always tight for us.

Breanne: Yeah, I think that’s a familiar story to pastor’s kids and pastor’s families overseas.

Can you talk about specific struggles you went through, maybe in teenage and young adult struggles, perhaps identity and belonging struggles? Any range of struggles and reactions, really.

Liz: I think as I got older, being in Argentina, I wanted to fit in and knew I just didn’t. As I got older, most of my friends were from church. You know, neighborhood friends, as kids got older, that had their own friends from school and had their own things they did… It was widespread for Argentine teenagers to go dancing on the weekends (and obviously, we didn’t do that.) There was a natural break with our neighborhood friends who weren’t Christians. As teenagers, our friends were from church. But even then, they went to public schools, or when they started college, they went there in Argentina. Their experiences were very different from ours. They went to the public high school… schools there can be very political there. The education system for high school is very different – from what we knew. As teens, we knew our life was very different. There were things sometimes that I would want to do with friends.

Our parents were super strict as well when it came to doing things with friends. They rarely let us do anything if they weren’t there. Sometimes we would do something downtown or go to some kind of event.

Breanne: So when could you go out with friends?

Liz: As a teenager, not a lot. To skip ahead a bit, I went to college in the states and then returned to Argentina. I was still living with my parents. I was older then; I was doing things with a friend then. I’m trying to think of something specific.

I had this one good friend in Argentina that is a few years older than I am. She would go to high school and go and come back by herself. When she started college, she would do all these things. She studied to be a physical education teacher. As part of the program, she would go hiking or camping… they had all these activities. I was watching her do all these things. Her parents were like yeah, sure, whatever… I don’t think my parents would ever let me go camping with a group of kids my own age as a teen without adult supervision.

Breanne: Yeah…

Liz: Not that one is right or wrong, but that sticks out in my mind. I think I was probably the first in my family that wanted to do stuff like that. I don’t remember my older siblings having that issue. Well, my brother, he played soccer for a club…

Breanne: And that was his social life.

Liz: Yeah, and he was a boy. In our family, boys got treated differently than girls.

Breanne: Was that a matter of the way they thought? Or was it a matter of society and it was a safety issue?

Liz: Definitely, I think it was a matter of keeping the girls safe. My brothers had freedom and could do public transportation much more than we could. I understand that now. But as a teenager, it was very hard. You don’t see that… my brothers have the freedom that I don’t.

Breanne: Even more so, I think when your parents are raising you in a country that isn’t their own. I feel like that would be even more of a concern.

Liz: Yes.


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I Knew I Stood Out: Interview with Adult TCK Liz Lovelace (part 1)

Guys! I got to interview a close family friend, who is also an adult third culture kid (or ATCK). She shared about growing up often feeling like an outsider. This is the first part of a multi-part interview.


Breanne: Welcome, Liz! Well, could you please tell us your TCK story from the beginning?

Liz: Hmm, from the beginning… I was born in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1978. I’m the fourth child out of five.

My parents had been in Argentina in a year or two before I was born. I grew up in Argentina and had dual citizenship because of that. Growing up, we were homeschooled… I went to a public kindergarten, but from first grade on, I was homeschooled (unless we were doing furlough in the US, we’d go to a Christian school for a year.) So we had friends in the neighborhood and friends at church. That was basically our social life. We were the only ones who were homeschooled. That was a little different for Argentines, especially back then. Right now, there are many homeschool families, but then no one had ever heard of it.

Breanne: How did explaining it go?

Liz: We would just tell people we do school at home. We have a curriculum from the US, we do it at home, and our mom is a teacher. But we discovered later on that there are kids in the military… there is a way in the Argentine public school system to just go and take the tests. It’s called Rendir Libre. Free testing. Then we told people we did that.

That was one of the more significant differences as we grew up there. Neighborhood kids would get out of school, and they’d be done. In Argentina, the school day is made up of two half days. The morning session just goes till noon, and kids go home and eat lunch, and they’d be done. We’d still be doing work. Kids would come around looking for us. They wouldn’t get that we were home, but we weren’t available.

Also, my parents were big on everyone speaking Spanish when someone around couldn’t speak English. I really appreciate that. It’s something I try to practice with my kids – when we lived in Mexico. I think it’s a meaningful way to show respect to other people. We thought it was normal till we got together with other TCKs and found out it wasn’t a typical thing. We only had one expatriate family living near us – and they had a similar mindset. Then we’d meet up with expat families in Buenos Aires or at conferences. And we’d be around TCKs – and they’d just be talking English the whole time, no matter who was around. We had a few Argentines tell us that they really appreciated us doing that – even though it was my parents’ second language.

For my sister and me, I think it was this aspect of… Well, back then, my parents didn’t believe in women wearing pants. We had to wear culottes all the time.

Breanne: Aren’t they like really baggy pants?

Liz: Except they come to the knees.

Breanne: Like basketball shorts for girls?

Liz: Yeah, except they were even bigger, baggier, and longer. My mom always made our clothes. Growing up in Argentina, the fact that we dressed differently was so hard. Moreso for me personally. We were questioned: Why do you wear that? Why don’t you wear pants? It made childhood and especially the teenage years awkward. Because it’s the phase where you want to fit in, and you just didn’t. As far as what we looked like, lots of people in Argentina have paler skin, there are descendants from Germany and Britain. I was taller than the average woman in Argentina. I stood out some there. For the most part, we would have fit in better if we dressed like ordinary people.

Breanne: So was that a constant feeling? Feeling like you had to fit in?

Elizabeth: I don’t know if I needed to fit in. I always knew that I didn’t, for whatever reason. I knew I stood out.

Breanne: But it frustrated you.

Liz: Yes. Yes. Especially as a teenager. There were things that I wished were different. Or rules that my parents had that most Argentines didn’t understand. Yeah. Those two aspects made us stick out: homeschool and dress.

Breanne: Was homeschool a positive or negative experience, other than the fact that you didn’t fit in?

Liz: I wouldn’t say it was negative or positive. I struggled with it because I’m not self-motivated, and for homeschool, you need to be. I would have done better in a regular school setting. I realize that more now because I see that in my daughter, Alex. Because of how I learn, I don’t think I did well with homeschool. It was important for my parents that we were educated in English to better transition to college in the USA. For that, I think it was helpful.

Breanne: I agree that English education is helpful for transitions. I have only ever had two and a half years, spread out, of schooling in English. I do think they were beneficial for exercising my mind in that language.

Liz: Yeah, I know grammar in English, but not in Spanish. My husband knows Spanish grammar, but I am more fluent than him. I think that it was helpful for college, that I had learned English that well.

Breanne: What about… You were talking about TCKs and how you would see them, and they just felt different. Can you elaborate on that? Why did they feel different?

Liz: I think it was because, in Mar del Plata, there was only one other expat family we were close to. We didn’t grow up with other expat kids our age. All our friends were Argentine. Many expat families in Buenos Aires would get together for Thanksgiving or other events. They would just see each other. Some of them were homeschooled together. Their friends were other expat kids. Whenever we saw them, we felt like they knew more about the US culture than us. They had a more up-to-date vocabulary than us. They were more up to speed, so to speak.

This is back in the day before the internet. The only thing we knew about the US culture was… One of my aunts would record on video sets the Buffalo Bills football games for my dad. At first, she was just recording the game and sending it. Then she figured out she had a bit of tape left, and she started to record shows. We would tell her to go in the commercials because she would also not record those.

Breanne: American commercials are so fun.

Liz: I know. That’s how we learned about US culture – watching whatever our aunt sent us on those video cassettes. My dad would watch the football games, and we would watch TV shows. She would put America’s Funniest Home Videos, Home Improvement, and maybe the Cosby Show.

Breanne: That’s awesome.

Liz: We had hundreds of those tapes. Because she would record a couple weeks’ worth of games and then send them to my dad. It was exciting when they came. We’d have something new to watch. That’s what we knew. I don’t know if these other expat families went to the states more frequently than we did. We only went every four years.

Fourth grade was the first time I remember going back to the States.

Breanne: What was that like?

Liz: I remember being scared about going to an actual school. I thought it’d be really hard. I remember the night before my first day. I was crying because I was so nervous. I remember being scared, but once it started, it was fine. I had a good, kind teacher. I think I enjoyed having friends my age.

Breanne: How did making friends go?

Liz: I don’t know. It was a long time ago. But I am now Facebook friends with a lot of them. We actually went back to the same school four years later. So when I was in ninth grade, some of the same people were there.

Breanne: Did that feel weird – going back four years later to the same people?

Liz: Yeah, some people remembered me, some people didn’t. I was the new kid. Going in at ninth grade was hard for other reasons. I had no experience writing reports or doing science projects. I don’t remember doing those in homeschool.

Breanne: You had talked about how you felt different and had trouble relating to the expat kids in Argentina. Did you feel different from the kids at this school? Maybe being exempt from pop culture? Or did you struggle with making friends and then having to leave?

Liz: What I remember from the years we were in the States… the beginning is always hard. I am also an introvert. I just naturally gravitate towards sitting in a corner and watching and listening. I don’t remember specifically the feeling of not fitting in… probably because I wasn’t trying to fit in. I wasn’t trying to make friends. I do know that after a while, you just learn and pick up things.


Amen. You just learn and pick up things. Story of our lives, no? Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list so you don’t miss the next parts of this interview.

Global Nomad, Think You Are Accepting? Think Again.

Do you ride camels there?

I pause. And groan inwardly. These people – they have no idea.

No. We don’t ride camels. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in my country.

No kidding. I live in a huge city. The poor camels would continuously be run over by cars and hit by motorcycles.

No Different

I’ve heard it said that Third Culture Kids are some of the most accepting people in the world. 

With all the exposure we’ve had to different cultures, ways of thinking, and kinds of suffering, you’d think that’d be true. 

But are we, really?

Many Third Culture Kids have extreme feelings about their passport culture. They could go on and on about how wrong people are, how close-minded they are. Now, some of that is valid. There are definite faults or problematic aspects that TCKs can realize about cultures, and especially cultures of passport countries, that most people can’t see. But the fact that TCKs can see them doesn’t make TCKs inviting or open-minded. Most often, Third Culture Kids really struggle with being kind to their passport culture, with finding the good in it. 

And when we belong to a God who has called us to love our enemies, that’s not ok. 

Whether enemy or not, the people from our passport culture are just that – people. Created to mirror God’s glory. 

‘And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

Matthew 5:43-48

You must be perfect. 

That’s hard. It doesn’t mean we will be perfect – it means we should strive to be perfect. 

Because as believers, if we hate or pridefully shame ignorant people with a more “closed” worldview, we are no different from unbelievers. 

Love When It’s Hard

TCK, your insight and your experiences are valid. Your passport country does need your perspective. But as followers of the one who counted his equality with God as nothing and who became a servant, we should be nothing less than that: servants. 

We should use the experiences God has given us to kindly and humbly help others think differently. 

We should be humble enough to recognize that we can learn from those who haven’t traveled or interacted with as many cultures as we have. 

Everyone has a story. Everyone is going through trials. 

Jesus loved the least of these. 

Will we think we are better? Or will we follow our humble Savior?


TCK, what things do you complain about when interacting with people? What pride might you be holding onto in your life? Bring it to the Lord.

The Secret to Living Fear-Free as A TCK

What if they think I’m bragging? What if they think I’m weird? What if they think I’m stupid for not knowing who so-and-so is? What if they don’t understand why I’m struggling? What if they don’t get why moving was so hard?

Have you had any of those thoughts before? They may seem like the thoughts of an average self-conscious teenager, but if you look closer, there is something more going on. These are the thoughts of the anxious TCK.

I’ve been there. I’ve been the awkward girl in the US sitting in the Sunday School room. A couple seats over from the end of the row… But not too close to the middle — that might seem weird. Sometimes I’ll sit there and barely talk with anyone. Everyone there has their friends and their clique — no need to try and interrupt. 

Once in a while, there will be a friendly girl. She’ll ask me where I’m from— the dreaded question. I’ll explain. “I don’t live here,” I’ll say. “I live overseas.” 

“Really?”

There is so much locked up in that word — her presuppositions about me, her expectations, curiosity, or lack of it. I don’t know what is coming exactly — but I’m nervous. 

Why?

Why am I nervous? Why do I care so much what people think about me? Why do TCKs especially struggle with this?

After years of moving, trying to fit into multiple cultures, and living an ever-changing life… the TCK finds themselves in another new place. 

And the fear kicks in.

Why Fear of Man Is Problematic

That fear is wrong and sinful. 

As humans, we were made to love and worship our Creator. He is to be first in our minds, our hearts, and our lives. 

When we worry about what the monocultural new person will ask us or think about us, God isn’t in the first place. 

We are fearing the approval of the created more than the Creator. The Creator’s approval is powerful and everlasting. The created’s opinion might seem powerful — but the approval will sway as easily as a blade of grass… and eventually wither up. 

Wanting approval isn’t wrong. What matters is whose validation you are seeking. 

This is where it gets tricky. 

All their life, TCKs have looked to people’s approval to learn multiple cultures and languages. That’s how they’ve navigated life. It’s taken them a lot longer than most to figure out where they stand in a community and culture because those cultures and communities change a lot for most TCKs. 

But here’s what we have to remember: Although people’s approval might teach you, you cannot let it rule you. Because when you fear their disapproval, you become a slave to their opinions. 

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Proverbs 29:25

Escaping the Handcuffs

Trusting in the attributes of God — who God is — will change your perspective on who you are. Those who are secure in their identity won’t fear others’ opinions… because others’ opinions won’t change who they are. 

My dear TCK friend, if you are in Christ, you are no longer a slave to fear

That doesn’t mean you won’t still struggle with fear. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be anxious again. Nor does it mean you won’t feel awkward around people sometimes. It means your chain binding you to that cell wall has been broken, and you are free to walk out. 

Are you struggling to walk out? Here are 3 ways you can fight against the fear of man in your life: 

  1. Focus on who God is. He is:
  • Faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9)
  • Loving (1 John 4:8,10,16)
  • Kind (Psalm 116)
  • Eternal (Psalm 90:1-2)
  • Powerful (Psalm 90:11; Psalm 24:8)
  • King (Psalm 24:8)
  • Wise (1 Corinthians 1:25)
  • Just (Ezekiel 18:20-26)

If we have such a wonderful God as our Father, then his opinions and thoughts are precious. 

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Psalm 139:17

Our identity is anchored in Christ. If God is immovable, then who we are in Him is as well. Focus on that.

2. Remember, you can’t control others’ opinions. They don’t define you. 

(…) in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?  Psalm 56:11 

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Out of my distress, I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.  Psalm 118:5-8

3. Pray that God would take first place in your heart. The higher a place God takes in our hearts, the less important the opinions of others become. 

As I write this, I feel guilty because I have not attained fearlessness. In fact, I am quite often the most fearful and anxious person in the room. But by God’s grace, I will lose fear… day by day.

Lord, please take first place in my life! Please destroy the idols of others’ opinions and take your rightful place on the throne of my heart. Let me take refuge in You. Give me the grace to focus on who You are and the immovability of my identity in You. 


Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash