Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A TCK Wedding (Third Culture Kids)

Several years ago, back in my earlier blogging years, a Kuwaiti friend, Amer al Hilaliya wrote a wonderful post: I Am a Third Culture Kid, Are You? He never anticipated the result – comment after comment, some short, some a little bitter, some longer and insightful. The Third Culture Kids know who they are, and are eager to share their insights and experiences – but mostly with other Third Culture Kids, who understand.

Others . . . don’t get it.

This weekend, we went to a wonderful Third Culture Kids wedding. It wasn’t billed that way, but it was so thoroughly that way that I couldn’t stop seeing it. It doesn’t hurt that we are reading the seminal work on Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E Van Renken called, yep, you guessed it, Third Culture Kids.

Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 12.08.31 PM

It’s almost like reading a whole new book. It has all the Third Culture Kids stories, but has expanded to include third culture kids cousins, like the adult third culture kids, ATCKs (those who have lived a goodly share of their lives in a non-native culture), cross culture adoptees, cross cultural marriages, etc. One of the points they make is that being third culture kids cuts across a lot of boundaries and makes for odd – odd by normal standards – friendships. Once again, across the boundaries – countries, old, young – friendships are determined by a commonality in experiences outside the native culture. It is a fascinating read.

People don’t think of how LONG Florida is, tip to tip, but from Pensacola to Fort Myers is a fuuur piece, as they say, even if it is on an inside curve. Thank God it wasn’t Key West! We thought it would be an eight hour drive, and it turned into thirteen, with heavy traffic from Lake City to Ft Myer.

The wedding was sweet, simple and heart felt. Both sets of parents had done significant missionary work in foreign countries, and the kids were definitely third culture kids. The groom would speak Turkish in his sotto voce asides to his best man, who grew up with him on the streets of Ankara. The bride’s brother read all the greetings and best wishes to the bride from her friends in Hungary – and he read them all in Hungarian.




Just as the ceremony started, along came a pirate ship! Some things, you just can’t plan, they just happen.


They all told family stories, and one of them stuck in our hearts because it reflects our own experiences growing up in the Moslem world. The groom, as a young man, came home flustered because a woman on the metro, as he was coming home, noticed he was not wearing an undershirt under his T-shirt, and assumed he was a homeless child. She started talking with all the other passengers, and they marched him off the train to the souks, where they insisted on buying him an undershirt (who knew that you were not properly dressed in Turkey unless you were wearing a sleeveless undershirt?) and also a sweater, to keep him warm on the streets. All this, in spite of the fact that this homeless boy spoke excellent Turkish and kept telling them he had a home! No! No undershirt, he has to be homeless.

Few people in America know the kindnesses we experience living in the Moslem world. It may not always make sense to us – in Tunis, we always wondered if we were getting the annual Eid platter of lamb and couscous showed up because we were thought to be poor or because we were strangers? There has always been a sweetness and generosity to our Moslem neighbors that humbled us. Because of the layering upon layering of these kindnesses, we see Islam, and the Middle East, differently from most of our American friends who have never lived among Moslems. Maybe if we all knew one another a little better, we would have less cause to fear one another, and maybe without all that fear, we could manage a little less hatred.

What is a wedding without babies and children to remind us of the Circle of Life (which AdventureMan calls The Circle of Death). This little one speaks English and Turkish already, and loved the sugar white sands of Ft. Myers Beach and the little seashells, just her size.


As more and more people cross borders, for work, for play, for marriage, for education, as we live in ‘alien’ cultures and learn other ways of thinking, maybe we are growing into an entire world with a larger viewpoint?

December 30, 2013 - Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Marriage, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel


  1. Absolutely. We have someone in the family who recently got married to an adorable Syrian American man but because people will be people and there is blanket ignorance about Arabs in India and vice versa, the larger families have still not taken too fondly of such a union. Thank God for Steve Jobs’ Syrian roots that now being Syrian has actually started earning good press in this country. I say the more diverse the couplings the better it is for the gene pool. We need more inter regional, international couplings NOT less. Spending the rest of your life with someone from a totally different part of the world can mean a lifetime of rich insightful learnings and delightful surprises.

    Comment by Hommes pour Hommes Seulement | January 9, 2014 | Reply

    • Steve Jobs has Syrian roots? I don’t think I ever knew that. I think it would surprise many Americans who are terrified of Arabs, think they are all Moslems who hate us.

      Totally agree, good for the gene pool and good for lowering the tribalism that keeps us from getting along with one another.

      Comment by intlxpatr | January 9, 2014 | Reply

  2. Yes, Steve’s biological dad was an immigrant from Syria. I first came to know of this reading Walter Issacson’s biography of Steve.

    Comment by From Coca Cola to Pensacola | January 9, 2014 | Reply

    • LOL, HPHS? For once, you have stumped me. Because of your first comment, or at least the first I recognized, I always think of you as BL, Beautiful Liar, LOL!

      Comment by intlxpatr | January 9, 2014 | Reply

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