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 the entire expatriate family. Contributions are welcome from current members, please contact admin@figt.org for more details.
  • 15 Apr 2016 12:46 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Vivian Chiona, founder and director of Expat Nest, is a psychologist with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degrees in both Child & Adolescent Psychology and Health Psychology. As a bi-cultural, multilingual expat with family all over the world, she is familiar with the blessings of a mobile life… as well as its challenges. As a result of both her professional and personal experience, it didn’t take her long to notice the significant need for counselling services devoted to expatriates. Vivian was inspired by this demand to create an ‘expat nest’, a comforting, empathetic environment in which expats could feel heard and understood, as well as deal with challenges specific to the expat life.

    In this two-part blog she explores the concept of the lovepat, naming 7 things to consider before moving for love and 8 top tips for ensuring a happy life in one’s new home.  

    Love-expat: How far would you go for love? (Part A)


    Love-expat: Creating a meaningful life abroad (Part B)


  • 11 Apr 2016 6:07 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    In the first of a series of profiles of FIGT members, Diane Lemieux asked Amanda Bate about her links to FIGT and her latest project, The Black Expat website.

    DL: How long have you been an FIGT member and what attracted to you the network?

    AB: I have been a member since 2014. Honestly, I knew very little about FIGT beforehand. I was doing some online research on Third Culture Kids and found a link to Ellen Mahoney’s (of Sea Change Mentoring) website. While I was reading her bio, I learned that she had been a 2013 FIGT Pollock Scholar. I was intrigued about that. I had a chance to meet David Pollock when I was a high school student at an international school many years before. So I reached out to her and she told me about both being a Pollock Scholar and subsequently the FIGT conference. She encouraged me to attend the annual conference in 2014 and I’ve been a member ever since.

    DL: You have just launched The Black Expat, an online magazine that gives voice to individuals whose life stories link globally mobility and black identities. How did this project come about?

    A myriad of factors led to the launching of the Black Expat. As the founder of Bate Consulting, I found that there was very little in general about the black Third Culture Kid experience. There seemed to be a real lack of resources about how racial identity plays a role in international living. This has been apparent as the co-founder and co-moderator of TCKchat on Twitter. I started to notice that some of the black adult TCKs were talking about specific issues related to their race that hadn’t really been discussed openly before, much less in a space that deals with the impact of an internationally mobile life.

    In addition, I mentor a number of young black adults. Many of them are considering studying abroad or an international career but they don’t know where to start or what to expect. Most of them have not necessarily been exposed to people who are living the expatriate life and so for them, there’s a lot of mystique around it. I wanted to remove the mystique and say ‘this is accessible to you to’.

    Beyond that, I wanted to reclaim the word expatriate. Many black folks do not realize that the word includes them, too. They think it’s for the glamorous and those who do jobs far more important than theirs. You’d be really surprised, especially those coming from an African or Caribbean background. I wanted members of the Black/African diaspora to understand that they are part of this migration story too.

    DL: How have you been able to accommodate this passion and desire to have an impact on this topic with your day job?

    AB: Well, anyone who knows me, also knows that I basically run around from sun up to sundown. My schedule is a bit bonkers. I work full time as a college access director. Essentially, I help first-generation and low income students in my city (Richmond, VA) figure out their post-secondary options. This is separate from my private practice (Bate Consulting), where I work with students who live abroad. I am fortunate that I have a lot of flexibility, which at this point is a priority for me. Because The Black Expat pulls stories from people who live all over the globe, its important to be accessible, and sometimes that is at 01:00 my time.

    But more importantly, my day job focuses primarily on students of color so I actually have a lot of conversations around travelling, international living, my experiences of being a third culture kid and how to find an international job. So, yes, I do end up talking about The Black Expat a lot!

    I am currently finishing a Masters in Counseling Education with a focus on College Student Development. One of my requirements is a practicum which includes facilitating a counseling group throughout. In a moment of complete providence (because they found me!)  I’m currently running a small counseling group for black female undergraduate students who have all studied abroad and are considering going back abroad once they graduate. In fact, one is going to Benin this summer with the Peace Corps. One thing they all have in common is that they want to see more of their black, undergrad peers (here in Virginia) have international experiences. The conversations and the stories shared in those sessions most certainly affirm why I launched the Black Expat.

    DL: Can you comment on diversity in FIGT and the role it could potentially play in the lives of black expats?

    AB: FIGT is a great organization. I have met some of my favorite people and love the community. That being said, I think more people have to feel like they have a place at the table.

    Perhaps, we need to think more intentionally about reaching within our networks and saying, hey, you should really be a part of this: you, your experiences and your voices are needed. We [Ellen Mahoney and I] did that really well this year with TCKchat. We put out a huge word to our network and we personally contacted our folks and told them to come out. And I think every one who did really contributed to the conversation about global mobility. I saw a lot of big and small conversations happen that I didn’t see in previous years. So I think diversity, and really I mean inclusion, is great for all of us.

    Diversity happens at so many levels. For example, as the sister of someone with significant developmental and physical disabilities, I would love to hear more about how expat families receive support for family members while abroad. I also think an even greater presence from younger expatriates is important. I think hearing the experiences of single parents and single expats is needed. I mean, we really are just scratching the service as to who could be at the table.

    For more information see:



  • 29 Mar 2016 11:13 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Lucy Greenwood, Partner, iFLG

    My Senior Partner, David Hodson, and I were very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet many of you at the FIGT 2016 Conference in Amsterdam. iFLG was delighted to be a sponsor.  We met some truly wonderful people who were very insightful and knowledgeable about issues affecting expatriates and TCKs.

    David and I were interested to hear about the legal family issues many delegates, their friends, families, and clients.

    We felt some of the sad stories we heard had often become unnecessarily complicated. However, we are aware of the long term and sometimes irreversible problems which can be created or worsened by poor or no specialist legal advice about international family law issues.

    The phrase “You just never think it is going to happen to you” is one we hear often. People just don’t talk about or even stop to consider any potential legal issues which might affect their relationships or families when they move abroad, or their spouse is moved abroad.

    Therefore I thought it might be helpful to provide an example about just one issue concerning the movement of children which most commonly arose during our FIGT conference discussions.

    Susan and Costa moved from England to Spain (to be close to his parents) about 2 years ago. They married in England in 2006 and had only lived in England.  They have two children, 2 and 6, both born in England.  Susan and Costa both had good careers in England (Susan had just returned part-time). She knew the move to Spain would impact her career but Costa had better pay in Spain.

    After the move Susan and Costa begin to argue. Susan felt Costa preferred to listen to his parents' opinions than hers. She felt isolated and unhappy. Sadly, Susan and Costa separated about two months ago and Costa moved to his parents' home. Susan longed to return to England with the children where she has a support network and can work, but Costa (and his parents) wanted them to stay in Spain.

    Costa and Susan had a very serious row and Costa hit Susan. Sadly, the children witnessed this.

    Susan immediately packed up and left Spain with the children on the next flight to England. She believed she was fully justified in going home as she was "fleeing" from Costa's harmful behaviour.

    Susan arrived in England and her family embraced her. She enquired about local schools and nurseries and began to feel comfortable and relaxed. She decided to ignore Costa's pestering text messages and calls.

    About six weeks after her return, the police arrived at her door.  The children’s and Susan's passports were seized immediately. She was served with court proceedings for civil (and possibly criminal) child abduction. She was told to appear at the Family High Court in London in a couple of days’ time and told to seek urgent legal advice.

    Susan was bewildered. What did she do wrong? It was Costa that was in the wrong.

    She called a local solicitor. Fortunately they said they were not specialist child abduction lawyers and recommended iFLG which is instructed regularly by the English Government for child abduction cases. 

    Susan was confident there must be some mistake. However, she was told child abduction proceedings are designed only to remedy and return children to their country of habitual residence. Welfare issues are not a criteria (save in the most extreme cases).

    The defences to child abduction are very limited and there were none available to Susan.  She was advised to return voluntarily rather than by court order.  But her specialist lawyers were able to negotiate safeguards/conditions prior to Susan's and the children's return; this included their living  arrangements away from Costa, interim financial support and contact arrangements pending her court application in Spain to be able to relocate legally to England with the children.  

    Susan might try to persuade Costa to agree to the move back to England, particularly if she has been advised by a Spanish lawyer, with whom she was put in touch by iFLG with their network of international contacts, that her chances of relocation via the courts are good.

    Mediation can sometimes also be very successful in resolving such issues (even after an abduction). IFLG offer international family law mediation and have a high success rate even for the seemingly most contentious international matters.  

    If Susan had taken advice earlier, she might have been able to make her difficult situation a little better.  The problems Susan faced could have been limited considerably by discussion with the other parent before any initial move abroad. She could even have had a written agreement about what both parents agree should happen if they separate whilst abroad or perhaps agree when they plan to return. Whilst such agreements might not be binding (particularly after time has lapsed) they can provide good evidence of the parents' intentions at the time of a move. Such discussion also alerts the other parent in advance of the potential difficulties. Take your advice immediately on return to England could have prevented the distress of the police arrival and service of papers at home.

    Remember, if you separate abroad you cannot return home with the children without the other parent’s consent or a court order. If a relocation is agreed, ask the other parent to confirm their consent in writing (email suffices) as evidence for border agencies and in case the other parent changes his mind

    The movement of children across national borders is one of many legal matters to consider prior to or after any move abroad.  Others include divorce, separation, related financial claims and jurisdiction/forum issues

    Lucy Greenwood is a specialist International family lawyer at The International Family Law Group LLP (www.iflg.uk.com) based in Covent Garden, London. IFLG advises about any legal aspects affecting relationships including pre-nuptial agreements, divorce, finances upon divorce or children issues. They work closely with specialist advisers in England and abroad.  If you have any questions, please contact Lucy Greenwood at lucy.greenwood@iflg.uk.com.


  • 18 Mar 2016 1:49 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    On FIGT's active Facebook page, #FIGT16NL, Emilie Alexandra Frijs Due posted the following:

    Hi everyone! 
    Thanks for an amazing conference! It was my first conference and It has been fantastic! A lot of you have mentioned these past few days that you have a blog. It would be great to have a list of blogs to follow and tell fellow expats/tcks/others about. So to all of the bloggers out there I would love it if you would comment this post with a link to your blog! Thanks so much. 

    Here is the impressive list that came out of the discussion. Please join the discussion on FB and add yours to the list:

    Olga Mecking  : https://www.facebook.com/europeanmamablog/?hc_location=ufi The European Mama

    Sarah Bringhurst Familia ; Casteluzzo.com  In search of a dream to call home

    Julia Lee Simens ;  jsimens.com  Helping families worldwide

    Catarina Queiroz ;  www.bycatarina.com  Writer & Translator

    Emmy Coffey McCarthy ; www.emmymccarthy.com  Every now and then I like to connect you with my favourite resources, interesting links…

    Ute Limacher-Riebold :  www.expatsincebirth.com and  UtesExpatLounge.com a blog by a multilingual expat-since-birth, mum of three, living in the Netherlands

    Henriette Wentholt : internationalsatwork.com for employees working internationally, for partners in finding their feet at their new destination and for children moving to a new destination with their parents.

    Melissa Dalton-Bradford : https://melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com/

    Melissa Writes of Passage: 1 Family. 6 Languages. 10 Countries. 1 Writer. Always at Home.

    Jennifer Ann Canning Patterson : jenniferapatterson.tumblr.com 

    Rita Rosenback : www.multilingualparenting.com,  Multilingual parenting - families with bilingual children

    Cate Johnson Brubaker  : SmallPlanetStudio.com http://smallplanetstudio.com  Re-entry after being abroad isn’t just about    reverse culture  shock. It’s an opportunity to    create a global life…

    Louise Wiles : www. Thrivingabroad.com/blog,  Inspiration, Motivation and Tips to Help You   Create an Expat Life You Love

    Janneke Jellema:  http://drieculturen.blogspot.nl  I blog about kids growing up in other cultures. I am a TCK and write about TCKs

    Katia Vlachos : www.diary-of-a-move.comand and http://m.huffpost.com/us/author/katia-vlachos,  Diary of a Move is a story about crossing borders and cultures.

    Lisa Ferland : www.knockedupabroadbook.com,  Knocked Up Abroad Book,  A collection of lighthearted stories of being pregnant, giving birth and raising a young family abroad

    Claudia Landini :  http://www.expatclic.com  personal blog: http://claudialandini.me   Leçons et bénéfices d’une vie à l’étranger       

    Diane Lemieux : http://diane-lemieux.com/mobilelife/ ,  The Mobile Life: a blog

    Jane Barron :  http://globallygrounded.com , Globally Mobile | Locally Grounded

    Marilyn Gardner  :     http://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/ , Communicating.Across.Boundaries communicating across the boundaries of faith & culture                                                         

    Dounia Bertuccelli  : www.tcknextstop.wordpress.com , Next Stop: Musings of a Third Culture Kid

    Ellen Mahoney :  http://seachangementoring.com/blog-page/

    Carolyn Parse Rizzo : https://pretzelsandpanini.wordpress.com,  Life, love, and living abroad

    Vivian Chiona: http://www.expatnest.com/category/blog/

  • 10 Mar 2016 4:38 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Kilian Kröll, FIGT Board President

    Opening Remarks March 10, 2016

    Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the 2016 Families In Global Transition annual conference. My name is Kilian Kröll, and on behalf of the board of directors and FIGT Netherlands, it is a distinct honor to welcome all 200 attendees, presenters, sponsors and FIGT members to what is promising to be a very special weekend. We have traveled from 6 continents and 36 countries to be here -- a feat that amazes me year after year. And whether you're a long-time FIGT friend struggling to fight off your jetlag, or you're a first-time attendee curious to see what the FIGT community might offer you in your hometown of Amsterdam -- welcome. 

    At last year's conference in Washington DC, we announced what I consider one of the organization's bravest decisions in its history: after 18 years of hosting meetings and conferences in the United States for globally mobile people and those working with them, we're getting out of our comfort zone. Thanks to the great work and enthusiasm created by our global affiliate groups, we're now holding our first conference not just outside of the United States, but in a country that has provided a safe harbor and pioneering services for expatriate families for decades. Coming to the Netherlands feels both exhilarating and like a home-coming. Thank you, FIGT Netherlands and all our local partners, for your gracious welcome to Amsterdam. 

    I am not going to lie -- moving a conference like ours, organized by volunteers spread across the globe, to a new location and culture has not come without its challenges. For some (Americans) it's learning to read the 24-hour clock; for others it's been programming speakers with different needs in a venue we'd never seen before. From my view, however, our biggest challenge has been not just to replicate a great conference program, but to transport the feeling attendees have become familiar with at FIGT -- feeling connected at a reunion of strangers; feeling expanded at a place for simultaneous professional and personal growth; feeling understood in a refuge for those who have trouble answering the question "Where is home?"

    The good news is that I alone cannot create this feeling -- it is up to each of us to take risks, move out of our comfort zones, strike up conversations and share and listen, make dinner plans with someone we just met, and connect with someone whose experience may seem quite different than our own. In our midst we have educators, artists, business owners, diplomats, parents, writers, academic researchers, accountants, missionaries, lawyers, coaches, counsellors, military and corporate employees, students and humanitarians -- all sharing in common: Empathy for, and Expertise about, crossing cultures and moving around the world. Two thirds of us are first-time attendees, half of us are FIGT members and 25% registered with an address in the Netherlands. As much as this conference is a reunion for some, it's a new beginning for all. 

    We chose this year's theme "Crossing Cultures: Bringing empathy and expertise to the evolving global family" to do several things:

    1. To explain who FIGT is and what we care about -- namely bringing together a group of experts with a PhD in Life, with a concentration in global mobility and crossing cultures. 

    2. To expand the conversation from conventional expat support, to include people in all walks of life transitioning globally, as well as those working with them. This includes all the types of families we serve at international schools as well as those who fall beyond that spectrum -- from involuntary migrants to global families of choice, with or without kids. 

    And 3. To set the tone for this conference -- we bring our best professional work to the table, in addition to an open heart, a calm ear and the willingness to let ourselves be changed by this three-day experience. 

    With that in mind, I encourage you to engage in rich conversations; ask "Where are you from?" and see where it leads; challenge the ideas you hear; share your own expertise; experience a new point of view; and help us transport the feeling of intellectual curiosity and a true welcome to our new home. 

    Thank you.

    Closing Remarks March 12, 2016

    Goedenmiddag, everyone! 

    As we wrap up FIGT16, I would like to share three lesser-known facts about me:

    1. As a native German and English speaker, raised by the sea, I subconsciously believe that I am automatically fluent in Dutch. Like, if someone asks me whether I understand Dutch, I say, of course! It’s just like German with English pronunciation and some “uis” and ggggs thrown in. However, the reality is that every time I am faced with Dutch people, I realize I don’t even know how to say, “Hello, how are you?” This makes me very sad. But right now there’s nothing I can do about it.

    Therefore I will not be holding my closing speech in Dutch.

    2. Even though I appear organized, I push every deadline. In some of my college courses I would have a 3-day grace period for the whole semester. The professors’ idea was that you could choose if you wanted to hand in one of your papers three days late, or three of your papers day late each -- but no more than 3 days in total for all papers that semester.

    Well, I decided to maximize that rule by parceling the 3 days into 72 hour-segments and essentially handed in every single paper 6-12 hours after the stated deadline. I was always meticulous about writing the exact delay on the top of the paper. And I always got away with it.

    What you may not know – and don’t tell anyone – is that in the fall of 2010, I submitted my very first FIGT proposal 6-12 hours late. By some technical fluke, the submission form was still active on the Monday after the Sunday deadline. I just thought, let’s see what happens! A few days later I got a phone call from Anne Copeland, the mastermind behind FIGT2011, who politely explained that really the only reason why she’s even looking at my proposal is because of the technical fluke, and she would have automatically dismissed it had I not proposed to speak on a topic that had never officially been on the FIGT program – namely how to support same-sex couples and LGBT families in global transition. She told me that she wasn’t sure how some people would react, but that she fully supported a discussion on this topic, as it was becoming increasingly relevant in the corporate, military and diplomatic sectors. 

    That year, Anne Copeland and I both took a chance. I had seven people at my Kitchen Table Conversation, all of whom knew way more than I did about this topic – but it was the start of a five-year relationship with this organization which has given me opportunities I would have never imagined at the time.

    3. The third lesser-known fact about me is that I love graduations. In North America they are referred to as commencements. In particular, I love commencement processions. This is when students receiving their diplomas from colleges and universities, walk in their caps and gowns down the college path, led by their professors dressed in colorful academic regalia, to take their seats for the bestowment of their degree. After the speeches that acknowledge the tremendous feat it took to get to this point, the ceremony ends with the professors and students receding back through the crowd of teary-eyed parents and family members, now ready to commence a new chapter in their lives.

    The dictionary definition of a “commencement” is literally

    1. the beginning of something.

    I get goose bumps when I think about what it took for everyone in this room to get to this final moment of the conference – and all the doors that are just about to open.

    At this moment, we are literally commencing new relationships, new projects, and refined visions for how we see the world and our place in it. I charge each of you to go forth and follow the path you are forging for yourself and those around you, to continue stepping outside the box of the familiar, to collaborate with people who share your passion, to ask for help when you know you don’t have the answer – Dutch lessons, anyone? – and to harness this powerful moment for a long time to come, and recall it every time you begin something, especially when you don’t know how.

    As Hermann Hesse wrote, “there is a magic in each beginning”

    -- thank you for letting me share this magical moment with you.

    Before I let you go, I want to remind you have time to linger until 4:30, and then we all have to exit the building for real. And as the last time standing up here in my representative capacity, I wish you all safe journeys home – wherever that may be and however you may define it – and see you again next year at FIGT17!


  • 05 Mar 2016 2:50 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    by Karen Glerum*, Global Connection

    A Global Connection Needs Assessment is far from a standardised test, as expat partner Sylvain** discovered. “My consultant offered help that was based on what she learned about me, instead of scores and graphs.”

    Seeking advice
    Sylvain is a French professional living in Strasbourg (France). His wife, who hails from Italy, recently started working in Zürich (Switzerland) about 230 kilometres away. Sylvain is keen to join her there. He turned to Global Connection for advice on this international move. When he met with consultant Josien Berkenvelder*, he was pleasantly surprised: “We didn’t dive into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or any other kind of psychometric questionnaire. Instead of putting me in a certain box, Josien took her time to get to know me. The conversation was really relaxed. It was based on trust.”

    Digging deep
    Like all Global Connection consultants, Josien has lived abroad herself. This helps set the tone for the Needs Assessments, which can be very intimate. There are smiles and occasionally tears. “As consultants, we don’t shy away from asking very personal, probing questions. We ‘respectfully dig deep’ to clarify your values, interests, objectives, and drivers. Why? Because the better we understand the expat partner, the better we are able to identify the support that is needed,” says Josien.

    Career options
    She put Sylvain in touch with career coach Anne Galloway*. Together, they explored both short and long term career perspectives. “It was very helpful,” says Sylvain. “It is always good to talk to people with experience to get a different point of view. I gained clarity about myself, and about what my wife and I are aiming for. It became apparent to me that Zürich will not be our last stop on the expat trail and that I have to find a way to shape a career that will accommodate for this.”

    Chance to be together
    Sylvain is staying put in France until a work opportunity arises that will allow him to follow his wife abroad. “My coach and I concluded that a job with a multinational company will be best for me. Not only because I enjoy working in an international environment and with people from different backgrounds, but also because such a company will offer the best chance for me and my wife to end up in the same place.”

    Outside the norm
    So for now, Sylvain and his wife are enjoying a long distance relationship. “We are not a typical couple,” he smiles. “We have an international outlook, we are both very career-oriented and we have had a long distance relationship before. But living apart should not be the norm for us. We should be together.”

    * Karen, Josien and Anne will visit the 2016 FIGT Annual Conference in Amsterdam on behalf of Global Connection (12 conference attendees).

    ** Name and some personal details changed at request of interviewee

    Adapted and edited from an original article, in Global Connection's media for spouses (B2B subscription).

    For more information: www.global-connection.info

  • 02 Mar 2016 11:05 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    by Laia Colomer

     This is my first FIGT conference and I am hoping to explore the issue of the cultural heritage of global nomads together with all those attending the event. I am developing an academic post-doc research project on this issue, founded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program. Because globalisation and mobility touches every corner of our lives, the topic is relevant and timely to the European Union, to community of heritage managers and researchers, and especially to any person embodying multiculturalism.

    My interest in this issue came from a more personal situation, and therefore I believe that the answer to that question may interest other global nomads and TCKs. I was raised in a bicultural and bilingual country (Catalonia). My passport does not account for this cultural diversity (Spanish). I lived in several countries during my academic and professional career: the UK, The Netherlands, Italy, and now Sweden. And my family is also touched by international mobility, either professionally or by adoption. When I moved to all these European destinations, my “neat” cultural roots changed thanks to encounters with other cultures and people. In this process, I had no doubts that my adult serial migration experience enriched my “original” cultural identity. But when I moved to Sweden with my internationally adopted child, I asked myself what cultural identity he would develop growing up with a restless mother. If we develop a cultural personality according to the inputs of our cultural environment and schooling process, what kind of cultural heritage will my son develop transiting in between, at least three cultures and languages? Then someone introduce me the TCKs, and my concerns move from being merely personal to being collective.

    Collective identity defines what we are socially and culturally, while cultural heritage provides (construct) the images of this cultural identity, either tangible (landscapes, monuments, objects) or intangible (skills, customs, traditions). The traditional role of cultural heritage is to evoke a common origin and a historical narrative in terms of national monuments and national histories. National heritage serves to define citizens’ cultural identity. But these items do not represent people affected by serial global mobility. This does not mean that neither tangible or intangible heritage has no meaning for them. Only that traditional forms of heritage that represent nation-state ideologies of collective memories are not applicable to their experience of living in between cultures and places. Instead, other forms of heritage need to be imagined. I invite TCKs and other global nomads who attend my Kitchen table session to imagine these other heritages.

     My cross-cultural heritage question began with my role as a mother and developed through my role as a heritage researcher. Though it begins as a personal story, I am aware that scholarly work also benefits the wellbeing of other people. Cultural heritage certainly offers people a potent way to connect to their collective past, as well as to build a collective identity. I hope cross-cultural heritage will empower the identity of the new community of global citizens: it provides a sense of belonging, and benefits TCK’s quality of life by representing their collective identities in materiality and place. 

    Dr. Laia Colomer is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at the Linnaeus University (Sweden). Her current research is focused on heritage as an identity experience for global nomad citizens in a cross-cultural context, and the use of heritage for the wellbeing of migrants and refugees. For more information see: http://laiacolomer.wix.com/cross-cultural


  • 28 Feb 2016 10:23 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Dr Ute Limacher-Riebold 

    In two weeks, the FIGT conference will take place for the first time in Europe. Amsterdam is a truly international city, where 45 per cent oft he population are ethnic minorities coming from 180 different backgrounds.

    I found out about FIGT thanks to Ellen Mahoney, when she held a talk on TCKs in The Hague a few years ago. I had read about TCKs before and was very glad to find out (in my late thirties!) that there was a name for what I was my whole life. I am an ATCK or expat*-since-birth , raising my children outside of their parents' passport countries.

    The fact that I only lived in European countries so far will probably make me a European ATCK? – I usually don't like labels, but I find the discussion about TCKs, ATCKs, global nomads, expats, internationals etc. in the FIGT research group very interesting, and I appreciate the fact that the "box" is becoming more colourful and expansible. I am also intrigued by the recurrent number three that we can find in many kinds of definitions: Third Culture Kids, I am a Triangle, STARS (i.e Spouses Traveling And Relocating Successfully; the peaks are triangles), not to mention the three years itch many internationals have... – Aside from this more definitorial research at FIGT, it is the social and psychological aspect that fascinates me. Since a very young age I have seen families split, people getting divorced and children being shunted between two or more countries because the international life took a toll on them. The fact that some thrive in very difficult conditions, whereas others complain about the weather, the food etc. and struggle to accept diversity, brought me to study resilience and the mindset that leads people to fully embrace life even under difficult circumstances.  

    For more than 20 years I have helped internationals adjust and thrive abroad as a friend, a mentor, a teacher and a lecturer, in Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands, before I turned my passion into my profession at Ute's Expat* Lounge. Like many other accompanying partners** I reinvented myself and decided to combine my expertise in linguistics, communication and the six languages I speak fluently to help internationals build bridges between the known and the unknown and find their very personal way to embrace and enjoy their international life.

    It will be my first FIGT conference and as a newbie I will do it the way "it all originated": with a kitchen table conversation. I am really looking forward to meeting like minded internationals and learn more about how we all contribute to help people understand that our international experience can be as normal and natural as any other if we realize that we are "united in diversity", quoting the EU motto. Because, like Pico Iyer (2013) (http://blog.ted.com/where-is-home-pico-iyer-at-tedglobal-2013/) said, if we all lived together, we would form "the fifth largest nation on earth".

    * I use the term expat in its strictest sense: ex "outside of" & patriam "father-country"/home country

    ** I prefer the term Accompanying Partner instead of Trailing Spouse, because I associate wheels with the term "trailing" and I don't think that one needs to be married to follow his or her partner abroad


    Dr. Ute Limacher-Riebold is German, and currently lives in The Hague. As an expat since birth, she has never lived in her passport-country. Her aim is to help internationals navigate their life abroad successfully. For more information see www.UtesExpatLounge.com

  • 19 Feb 2016 9:20 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    by Karen Glerum*, Global Connection                 

    Whether you enjoy meeting strangers, depends as much on you as on them. Try to think positive about yourself and you may even come to relish the most dreaded question of all…

    To love or to loathe

    A British newspaper columnist asked successful professionals for advice on how to make it through a night of mingling with strangers at a festive party. She got a very mixed response: “Don’t go,” one actress simply said. “Take a good book and hide in the loo,” advised a celebrity chef. A playwright told her, “I used to be shy, but I’ve become more fearless about talking to people. I say: ‘I don’t know you, you don’t know me, that’s why we’re here.’”

    Your mindset

    “Whether you enjoy meeting new people has a lot to do with your mindset,” explains Global Connection consultant Karlijn de Broeck*. “If you go to an event and think: ‘Nobody will know me’, ‘Nobody will find me interesting’, then it is not going to work. If, on the other hand, you believe you are an interesting person and someone will enjoy your company, then you will have an entirely different experience. Luckily, people can improve their mindset. A life coach can help, by discussing the event in question, for example.”

    Feeling like a doormat

    Karlijn continues: “In my experience, the problem with meeting new people usually boils down to: ‘What will people think of me?’ Many expat partners particularly fear the question, ‘So, what do you do?’ They have often given up their job to move abroad, so what can they say? ‘I take my kids to school’ hardly seems a valid answer to them. It makes them feel like a doormat. I advise them to talk about what they do for fun, such as a sport, a hobby, volunteering. This steers the conversation into another direction, to a subject they can talk about with enthusiasm.”

    Changing perceptions

    The way you formulate your answer also influences people’s perceptions, says Karlijn. “A useful approach, for example, is to focus on who you help. Saying ‘I help at school with organising a fundraising event so they can extend the library’ or ‘I help my children to keep their native language skills on a par with their friends back home’ sounds much better than a plain ‘I look after my kids.’ Some people I work with find it hard to come up with a subject to talk about. But all of us have a passion that will help break the ice.”

    *Karen en Karlijn will visit the 2016 FIGT Annual Conference in Amsterdam on behalf of Global Connection (12 conference attendees).

    Adapted and edited from an original article, in Global Connection's media for spouses (B2B subscription).

    For more information: www.global-connection.info

    Image: Flickr - Benjamin Gonzales

  • 12 Feb 2016 3:40 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Katarina Holm­-DiDio

    As we are getting closer to FIGT 2016, for the first time held outside of the US, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, we felt it would be of interest to share this interview with Christina Bertarelli, FIGT member and former Parfitt/Pascoe Writing Residency Scholarship winner.

    Cristinagrew up in a beautiful small town in Italy on Lake Como, in a family that rarely traveled abroad and preferred to vacation close to home. Then she met her partner in adventure, an Italian born in the U.S. but raised in Italy. His career with the United Nations would take them from Switzerland to France and then to New York City, where they have lived for almost seven years. They are raising two TCKs, a daughter now in college in the U.K. and a 13-year-old son. Cristina has moved with her family into 15 different houses in 20 years, and for the first time she feels she has found her home. She has come to embrace the life of an expat and carries her home with her.

    I met Cristina two years ago through the Local Expat Spouse Association of the United Nations in New York, at a meeting of coaches supporting expatriate U.N. spouses and partners. Her energy and passion about the work we do and the life and needs of a “U.N. Spouse/Partner” made a strong impression on me. That’s why I am so happy she was selected for the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency for FIGT2014 and returned to the 2015 Conference as a Kitchen Table presenter. I asked Cristina to describe her experience at her first conference last year.

    “It was a step out of my comfort zone,” she replies. “Until I attended FIGT2014, I had lived my expat life not thinking out of the box, with self-limiting beliefs and gremlins that worked hard to convince me that I was not good enough to continue my exploration of the expat world. Luckily, I started to meet like-minded people, initially socializing with other U.N. expatriate families and beyond. Attending FIGT2014 was a big step out of my bubble into a broader expat world. It was enlightening and I felt an immediate, strong connection with the other attendees at the Conference, which is why I also became an FIGT member.”

    Writing with Jo Parfitt’s support and guidance was a life-changing experience for Cristina. It gave her the confidence to continue developing her blog, and a group of like-minded expat writers to exchanges ideas with.

    Why is she back at FIGT?

    “Because you challenged me to it,” she answers jokingly, referring to my suggestion she submit a proposal as a presenter. The challenge did get her creative juices flowing and during a long walk the idea that became her proposal came to her – “Changing Home is More than a Theory” – where she explores moving with the help of our senses. “Change is an open door, sometimes we are not ready for it, and that is OK too, but we need to make the best of it.”

    So why is she really back, and why should you attend?

    “Because of all that I received last year was worth coming back for and to give back for. When you step out of your comfort zone, you find yourself. I also found a place where I felt understood, and with possibilities to share experiences with like-minded people.”

    This interview appeared in the FIGT Newsletter 17 February 2015 immediately before the FIGT 2015 Annual Conference in Washington, DC. 

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