Traveling with TCKs

The view from my room in Germany - a view that feels like home.
The view from my room in Germany – a view that feels like home.

While living in Europe, we’re taking advantage of cheap (like, $40 roundtrip tickets, with half-price for kids!  Thank you RyanAir) airlines to reconnect with friends and family scattered across the continent.  The travel also reveals the third-culture kid (TCK) tendencies of my children.  I don’t often write about TCKness, but I am a TCK and I am raising TCKs, so understanding how that shapes our family is important.  A TCK is a term “used to refer to children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years.”

In January we spent two weeks in Germany.  While out and about one day, we overheard the national anthem of the United States.  My oldest yelled with excitement, “this is the song we watched on our computer when we lived in Virginia!” [referring to watching a youtube clip of a child singing the anthem].  Um, yes.  That’s the Star Spangled Banner.  I took a quick look around to see if any of the other Americans present overheard my child’s joyful surprise.  Perhaps I’ve been remiss in teaching them about the first culture in their third culture-ness.

I also appreciate they can pick out German and French on the radio.  According to them, Italian and Spanish ‘sound like Romanian,’ so I assume their ears are being attuned to their second culture – Romanian and the Romanian language.

Other parts of their cultural identity are the third culture, the integration of the two that is unique to each individual.  In one sense, it’s our family culture.  We went to the indoor swimming pool in Germany one morning and my children were the only children there.  “Where are all the kids?” Lil’ P asked.

“They’re probably at school,”  I responded.

“We don’t go to school.  We take trips.”   That’s how she sees life.  For the record, they go to Romanian school in the mornings for language acquisition (mommy’s excuse to send them to school) and several afternoons a week we do English language reading, writing and math, with smatterings of world history.  And  we take trips, which brings me back to my original point- cheap flights, friends and family in Europe, limited time on the continent = off we go!

Gorgeous church in Timișoara
Gorgeous church in Timișoara

I must mention that all this travel is possible because my husband works.  When he can take time off, we travel as a family.  However, if we only traveled when he can get off work, we would miss many opportunities to explore, learn and connect with people.  He is a great advocate and supporter of our exploits, encouraging us to ‘GO!’ (his words exactly).   Before I flew to Germany with the kids, we spent time as a family in Baile Herculane and Timișoara, several places we had yet to experience in Romania.  Timișoara is a bustling university town with too many good coffee shops to count.

Our primary focus in travel isn’t always to see the most touristy sites.  It’s to find the best coffee! (Just kidding, sort of).  We visited the Landesmuseum in the palace in Karlsruhe, Germany not because it was in Rick Steve’s guidebook or was a top site in the region.  We visited because it was a warm place indoors to meet college friends halfway between our respective homes (or home-away-from home in our case).   Meeting up with friends is always the highlight of our travels.  And, in the words of our young TCKs, they love meeting friends “who speak English,” something my children pre- Romanian cross-cultural experience would have taken for granted.


4 responses to “Traveling with TCKs”

  1. Six-year-old is getting pretty comfortable in the language, but without frequent use I think she will lose it. BUT, her brain knows how to hear foreign languages now and she won’t lose the ability to make sounds like the rolled ‘r.’ The younger two probably won’t retain much.

  2. Wow! I knew about the revolution starting there, but I love your personal story about it. I’ll have to look up ‘The Body.’ We are certainly enjoying these rich experiences during this season of life. We don’t take it for granted.

  3. Your children are being “privately educated” as it was called in former times. Enjoy the rich experiences.Timisoara was also the birthplace of the Romanian revolution. See Charles Colson’s The Body for a moving account. Steve preached there once, translated by the Baptist pastor who prayed in the square and upset the apple cart in a big way. Steve didn’t find out his story until later.

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