Unlocking Cultural Agility with Marco Blankenburgh

Understanding Third Culture Kids with Chris O'Shaughnessy

January 17, 2022 KnowledgeWorkx Season 1 Episode 5
Understanding Third Culture Kids with Chris O'Shaughnessy
Unlocking Cultural Agility with Marco Blankenburgh
More Info
Unlocking Cultural Agility with Marco Blankenburgh
Understanding Third Culture Kids with Chris O'Shaughnessy
Jan 17, 2022 Season 1 Episode 5

Join Chris and Marco as they explore the gifts and challenges unique to Third Culture Kids and how those parallel the realities of our globalized world. With his characteristic wit and engaging storytelling, Chris brings the intuitive into the intellectual so that we can all benefit from a shared language around our experiences. 

Christopher O'Shaughnessy is a speaker, comedian, and author who “gets to fly around and chat for a living.” He is a global expert on Third Culture Kids and speaks around the world about cross-cultural skills, Third Culture Kids, identity, belonging, and change management. 

If you are interested in bringing some of these skills into your school, you can see an array of available workshops offered by KnowledgeWorkx Education and Christopher O’Shaughnessy at www.knowledgeworkx.education .

Learn more about Christopher O’ Shaughnessy at: chris-o.com .

Listen to his humorous and insightful podcast “Diesel and Clooney Unpack the World” found at: chris-o.com/podcast .

Read His Book: Arrivals, Departures and the Adventures In-Between By Christopher O'Shaughnessy .

In this episode you will learn-- 

  •  What is a Third Culture Kid; 
  •  What we can learn from TCKs about our global world; 
  •  How to take our intuitive experiences and share them; 

| Articles: 

-- http://kwx.fyi/from-the-innate-to-the-intellectual 

-- http://kwx.fyi/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-tck

-- Brought to you by KnowledgeWorkx.com

Show Notes Transcript

Join Chris and Marco as they explore the gifts and challenges unique to Third Culture Kids and how those parallel the realities of our globalized world. With his characteristic wit and engaging storytelling, Chris brings the intuitive into the intellectual so that we can all benefit from a shared language around our experiences. 

Christopher O'Shaughnessy is a speaker, comedian, and author who “gets to fly around and chat for a living.” He is a global expert on Third Culture Kids and speaks around the world about cross-cultural skills, Third Culture Kids, identity, belonging, and change management. 

If you are interested in bringing some of these skills into your school, you can see an array of available workshops offered by KnowledgeWorkx Education and Christopher O’Shaughnessy at www.knowledgeworkx.education .

Learn more about Christopher O’ Shaughnessy at: chris-o.com .

Listen to his humorous and insightful podcast “Diesel and Clooney Unpack the World” found at: chris-o.com/podcast .

Read His Book: Arrivals, Departures and the Adventures In-Between By Christopher O'Shaughnessy .

In this episode you will learn-- 

  •  What is a Third Culture Kid; 
  •  What we can learn from TCKs about our global world; 
  •  How to take our intuitive experiences and share them; 

| Articles: 

-- http://kwx.fyi/from-the-innate-to-the-intellectual 

-- http://kwx.fyi/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-tck

-- Brought to you by KnowledgeWorkx.com

i think the name is even confusing

sometimes i've had kids who compete on

it and they'll say you know my dad is

argentinian my mom is somali and i was

born in venezuela i lived in new mexico

the united states and uh washington the

united states and connecticut the united

states and then we moved to singapore

and so i'm a ninth culture kid

and it's not quite that it doesn't quite

work like that right right


welcome to the cultural agility podcast

where we explore the stories of some of

the most advanced intercultural

practitioners from around the world to

help you become culturally agile and

succeed in today's culturally complex

world i'm your host marco vlankenberg

international director of knowledgeworks

where every day we help individuals and

companies achieve relational success in

that same complex world

welcome everyone to this episode today i

have the privilege to be with chris

o'shaughnessy in our studio

and it's uh it's fantastic that you're

back in the uae back into traveling but

that also gives us the opportunity to

sit together and record this podcast

episode so thank you so much chris for

making the time

ever since we met for the first time

i've been intrigued by your life story

but also the work you're involved with

is so incredibly important and growing

in significance in in the world that we

live in so we're looking forward to hear

more about that so chris why don't you

introduce yourself to our audience oh

thank you so much uh it is it's

thrilling to be back here i the uae has

been a special part of my life for

almost well it's been about a decade now


it's nice to be able to to be back yeah

i i get to work as quite a few different

things i work primarily as a speaker i

also i also do a bit of comedy so a

little bit of comedian thrown in there

which i'm always very nervous to say

because as soon as you say you do comedy

it raises everyone's expectations it's

much better to keep that secret and then

just surprise people and then hope

people laugh exactly exactly otherwise

you raise the bar too much and also an

author i've written a book i've got

another one kind of brewing at the

moment and

write for a few different publications

and online and really anyone who will

have me so um yeah it's a fun it's a fun

combination when i when i try to explain

it to people i end up getting to say

that in essence i just get to fly around

and chat for a living which is a pretty

great deal it's pretty i can't complain

well you do a really good job at it and

uh we'll come back to your book later on


that is in and of itself testimony to

your ability to tell stories in a funny

way as well and see the humor in

sometimes at that moment frustrating or

miserable circumstances

so thank you for that

share a little bit with the audience

about your earlier years in life because

i think that has had a significant

impact on where you are today in terms

of the work you're involved with the way

that you are able to impact people's

lives absolutely well i am a third

culture kid which uh which i speak on

quite a bit and by that i mean i sort of

grew up a little bit all over the place

and i'm kind of a a second generation

maybe even more than that as far as

third culture kids go and uh one of the

quickest ways i think to identify a

third culture kid is they usually have

trouble being able to explain where

they're from that the very simple

question that a lot of people

ask for tcks can be quite terrifying and

it's usually a long answer and mine's

not even that complicated but i think

it's fun

getting even further back at me my my

father is of irish descent but was born

in germany and grew up in france for a

bit and then eventually joined the us



as so many french german irishmen do and

i was born in the united kingdom to

american parents and and then moved

around as i grew up spent a lot of time

in the uk and then yeah throughout life

added europe and bits of the middle east

so that all that all kind of adds into

your background story and so for me from

a from a young age i i do remember

struggling with with trying to answer

where where are we from

because my accent hasn't always matched

you know where i am from

that's adapted and changed over the

years uh living in countries obviously


there's a bigger linguistic difference

and things like that and i can remember

actually you know trying to seek advice


where where to answer where i'm from uh

being you know of one nationality but

not born in that nation or living in

another nation and um i think at one

point the advice i had given someone

said will you fly through chicago o'hare

a lot just say you're from chicago and i

remember thinking that's that's not

gonna i don't know much about chicago

but they're gonna figure out really

quickly that i'm not actually from

chicago because if i meet anyone who is

i'm gonna look really dumb not having

any knowledge about it right um so yeah

it's you know from uh from a young age

uh multiple cultures uh had bearing on

on my development on my experience on my

story and it was it was later on that i

i learned about you know what the

definition for a third culture kid and

everything is and and it kind of

inspired me because it brought a lot of

clarity um and i wanted to i realized

there are lots of people like me i mean

i had gone to

military or international schools

growing up so most of the people that i

was friends with would fall into the

third culture kid category two and i

thought wow

if they all knew that there were labels

and language for for us it might make

life a little bit easier

now you mentioned a few things linked to

tck third culture kid for our audience


explain a little bit more so at what

point do you actually become a tck one

of my kids yesterday asked so dad if

both the parents are from the same

country and they moved to another

country are they a second culture kid or

are they still a third culture kid so

what's what's the package when are you

allowed to call yourself a tck yeah oh

it's such a good question and in fact i

think you know a lot of the a lot of the

work in the field there are some

marvelously clever people who have been

working on this for quite a while and uh

frequently get together and have strokey

beard and scratchy head meetings and uh

are ever expanding sort of the

definition i think in general

a third culture kid

is someone who spent a significant

portion of their developmental years

outside the country or countries where

their parents came from but there's a

fair amount of leeway in there just

because there are a lot of extenuating

circumstances and i think it's important

to note first of all that third culture

kids are a subdivision of a much broader

category called ccks cross-cultural kids

and cross-cultural kids that one's a

little easier to define because it's

it's not just a clever name

cross-cultural kids are kids who have a

cross-cultural experience um and that

can be cross-cultural from their family

that could be you know multi-racial uh

or multinational parents

cross-cultural kids can even be

cross-cultural within one particular

country or region a lot of countries

have multiple cultures within them and

so if you grow up

being influenced by multiple cultures in

a significant way

you are probably a cross-cultural kid

their culture kids are a subdivision and

the the ingredient that sort of adds uh

uniqueness to them is usually a degree

of transience so third culture kids

usually it does involve multiple

countries but not always

but some degree of transients so very

common examples of third culture kids

would be

military kids diplomatic kids missionary


a lot of times there's a lot of movement

but it's not always their movement

sometimes it's the movement around them


i work with a lot of international

schools who will have

you know a portion of the school be a

local population those kids are third

culture kids as well

just because they're experiencing their

own culture the culture of the country

they're from

but also the culture of the

international school which is the

international community is is a culture

in and of itself

and there's a level of transience there

because international schools usually

have have a higher degree of turnover in

the international schools usually

diplomatic or military or missionary

kids they tend to move more frequently

and so even for the local students that


even if they don't move the people

around them are moving so they're still

dealing with the degree of transients so

tzk in general is someone who has

multiple cultural influences

during their developmental years and

experiences a higher degree of

transience and transition so

there's quite a few of them out there

and uh and i think the the experience is

it's more widely understood now there's

a lot more um work done on it because

there there are there's some unique

things that come with it i think even

the name it's funny you ask about you

know would someone be a second culture

kid i think the name is even confusing

sometimes i've had kids who compete on

it and they'll say you know my dad is

argentinian my mom is somali and i was

born in venezuela i lived in new mexico

the united states and uh washington the

united states and connecticut the united

states and then we moved to singapore

and so i'm a ninth culture kid

and uh it's not quite that it doesn't

quite work like that right right um

although it would be fun if it would i

think we could have national

competitions right um but in general the

the reason they say third culture um is

that uh your first culture and everybody

has at least one some people have

multiple uh would be would we usually

what we would call your your official

culture or your paperwork culture or

your passport culture

and the second culture and people can

have multiple second cultures

would be your experiential culture

where you're actually spending time

where you're actually being influenced

if it's separate from the first and the

idea of a third culture is actually that

you have a bridge um that that moves in

between those two cultures so no matter

how many first cultures or second

cultures you have the idea of the third

culture is that it's sort of a

connection i think the the illustration

that i always like to use because i like

imagery a lot is that if you were to

think of your cultural identity as being

a house uh in that house you can have

many many different rooms and um tcks

are an easy example because it's usually

extreme and a lot of times divided by

countries so if you have for instance i

have uh i have a british room in my

cultural house i was born in the uk

my natural accent is actually english i

didn't learn american until much later

on in life so as a small child i was a

small british child in a small british

village drinking small british cups of

tea doing small british things so

there's a very english room in my house

it's got a portrait of the queen and

tears out promptly at half past three

um there's also an american room in my

house you know i learned an american

accent and uh

i've been associated with america i

lived there for a couple of years when i

was when i was younger

so there's those two and it doesn't even

have to be just a country there's i grew

up around the military so there's a

military room in my house that's got you

know an f-16 fighter jet and a load of

acronyms that will never be useful to

anywhere else outside of the military

but will always be in my head

and even if you stop right there

what it is to be a third culture kid is

not that those different cultures for me

those three rooms it's not that they all

get jumbled together and so my identity

is this warehouse with an f-16 a

portrait of the queen

and all that kind of good stuff it's

more that the rooms have to be uh

separate for practical purposes for for

much of the time and the third culture

is the hallway that connects them so

from that so for example i think it you

know i have a a student i know who's

german but lives in japan and so for him

he wakes up in the morning in the german

room of his cultural identity speaks

german with his family has brought him

for breakfast um you know that's that's

his german room

but then he goes to the international

school and he takes public transport to

get there so he travels on the metro in

tokyo and he has to step out of the

german room and into a japanese room

because linguistically it's different

personal space is different values and

customs are different

and then he gets to the international

school which is yet another room which

also has to be kept separate it's in

another language with another set of

traditions and values and customs and

the idea that he transits through that

hallway multiple times a day is really

what the tck experience is because he

can't mix the rooms if he spoke japanese

at home that would make a mess if he

used the customs and courtesies of

germany in the international school

it certainly would lower the

understanding of the commonality so he's

got three separate cultures that he has

to maintain some degree of separation

for as he goes throughout his day so so

he spends a lot of time in the hallway

and that's that's the tcga experience

they're people of the hallway which

doesn't sound near as exciting as it

should i wish we could say people of the

phoenix or something so much more

exciting but but the hallway works we're

hallway people that's really helpful um


tcks grow up


do they get a new name when they get

adolescent or because they're not kids


how do you deal with that that's true

there's there's a surprising amount of

upset about that

in certain circles people sort of resent

that we put the word kid on there i say

we i take no responsibility that was

those people far more clever than i um

i think what we're seeing now there is

that i hear the acronym tca used a lot

third culture adult um

or a grown tck um i think one of the

things that i really appreciate about

the the kind of the experts in this

field is that they are they're working

constantly to sort of uh to use their

words to expand the tent

because the reality is even in the

original definition you know it's it's

experiencing multiple cultures during

your developmental years i think you can

easily make the argument that for most

people what isn't a developmental year i

mean you obviously do a lot of


in childhood and through adolescence but

adults obviously are constantly

developing as well so i think there's

definitely room for

and a lot of validity in the idea of

third culture adults some of the

experience is different you know if your

formative years have multiple cultural


that causes some differences rather than

if you had a

monocultural upbringing and then moved

into cross-cultural there's some

differences there but but there's also a

vast amount of overlap so i think there

really are the concept of third culture

adults is incredibly valid and i'm asked

a lot when i speak at schools to parents

uh one of the most common questions is

just that is they'll

hear about you know the the

characteristics of third culture kids

the challenges and strengths that come

along with that experience

and and a hundred percent of the time

they then ask us that's great i'm i'm

glad i helped you know i understand my

kids more but me what about me

tell me about me yeah i've met a few you

know 60 plus year old

tcks or culture adults and when they

start telling their story oh yeah you

know my parents moved for whatever

reason to this and this exotic country


it's fascinating to hear their stories

now in terms of your story the fact that


you were raised at tck

you now

have drifted into working with them

you're a world expert actually on this

on this subject and

i can't help but think there must be a

connection between your upbringing

what you've experienced there and the

desire or the direction that you've

moved into to to come alongside other

tcks is there is there a motivation from

your upbringing something that you might

not have gotten that you want to give

the tcks of today or something else

along those lines yeah i think um i mean

i there's a story i use i put it in my

book and it because it was kind of a

defining moment and i was i was quite

young but it was the first major move

that i can that i can really remember

we'd moved a few times

even when i was just a wee baby um

but the the first one that i can really

kind of recall details from uh i was in

i was in primary school and we moved

from a little tiny village in the uk

called freshing field and if you get

bored you can look it up on google maps

and there's very little there it's just

tiny village amidst a lot of fields and

um my family was living there my dad

commuted a long way to a military base

had a good hour or so drive every day

back and forth but i did i i grew up in

this little village it's where i started

school and it's why my my original

accent was british um

and we did lived on a tiny tiny bungalow

surrounded by

sheep and fields and that was life our

school had you know maybe 100 students

and some sheep and that was about it

and then we moved from there to las

vegas nevada which is vastly different

um i went from a school of you know 100

100 children and some sheep in a village

to a school of three and a half thousand

uh with no sheep in the desert

and i can remember you know a lot of the

advice and everything

and everyone just kind of assumed well

you know you're going from the uk to the

u.s the language is the same you'll be

fine um i would submit the language is

only barely the same there's there's

more differences than sometimes we


but beyond that you know there's there's

so much cultural subtlety that was

different and doing that as a small

child i can remember my first day of

school being incredibly caught off guard

by the pledge of allegiance um you know

i got to school


first of all i looked ridiculous because

fashion worked very differently uh in

the u.s this was the

early 90s and in the u.s neon colors had

only just been invented and so you know

they were everywhere everything was

bright neon everyone looked like they'd

been attacked by a giant highlighter and

the 90s didn't come to the uk until 2005

and so for us in the uk we still in the

90s dressed like the 70s so i arrived

you know in very tight fitting

clothes in non-neon colors i stood out

like a sore thumb

and i sounded different i had a little

british accent and i get to class and

everyone's running and screaming and

yelling and then the bell rang and

there was silence and everybody

simultaneously without saying a word to

each other turned to the corner of the

room and everybody put their right hand

on their heart they began to recite the

pledge of allegiance which is just what

was done in american schools i think it

still is in some places but as a british

a small british child i had no idea what

was going on i didn't want to look

stupid so i stood up because everyone

did and i'm left-handed so i put my left

hand on my heart i didn't know that that

was a cultural no-no and i could hear

them and you know the pledge of

allegiance is very it's patriotic and

it's and it's very you know inspiring

and so i thought all right what what do

i know that's patriotic the only thing i

knew as a small british child was god

save the queen and so i proudly recited

god save the queen to the american flag

with the wrong hand on my heart and

everyone else finished because the

pledge of allegiance doesn't go for too

long uh and in the silence that was

supposed to follow was one little voice

giving one man homage to the queen

and just finished up you know happy and

glorious long train over squad say the


and uh my teacher was livid because that

could be interpreted as ever so slightly

disrespectful to say god save the queen

with your wrong hands on your heart to

the american flag

and i i remember

after all this and i got in trouble and

i was yelled at and uh just the whole

first few days were full of just little

things that no one would think to know

about and i remember

the big thing was that i had no way my

parents were very concerned and trying

to help and i just had no no language to

explain to them what was going on i must

have sounded like a small crazy child


my my way of expressing it was to say

you know they they said well they they

don't seem to like the queen and they

think that i talk funny and when they

say water they use a d instead of a tea

and i and i don't drink tea as much as

they should and they don't have and

it was just all of this you know through

my lens and and i just had no way to to

fully fully explain

what i was going through and so years

later when i did learn about the

definition for a third culture kid i

remember thinking you know that that is

so helpful that there's language and

framework to explain this because i'm

not the only one who's gone through this

there are

literally hundreds of thousands of third

culture kids having to adjust constantly

whether they're moving or the people

around them are moving and how

incredibly helpful it is to have again

the language and the framework to be

able to explain that to be able to

externalize what you're what you're

going through um and so it did that that

was a big inspiration to be honest was

was just thinking how great would it be

if i could help arm other people with

language that that would be helpful um

and sounds like you have plenty of

stories to share

um that were painful maybe in the moment

or for but they

and great illustrations for you to

connect with your audience in essence

now we talked about tc case if you would

have to to

summarize their gift to the world how

would you summarize it how are they able

to make the world a better place oh i

think in in very powerful ways and i

don't just say that because i am one um


very genuinely think that

they're in many ways a very necessary

ingredient for where we're at because

tcks have the ability to be bridge


quite naturally because that's what

they've had to do there was there was a

man named ted ward i'm very proud to

remember his name i'm terrible names but

ted ward remember that one um in the

1980s basically said that third culture

kids were going to be the prototype

citizens of tomorrow and i think we've

gotten to the point where that's today

because as the world continues to

globalize what we see more and more is

that the challenges

that we know tcks face

everybody is now facing and the

strengths that tcks have

everybody now needs so in many ways tcks

are just a little preview of coming

attractions and it means that what they

have to offer is a wealth of experience

uh a wealth of empathy and the ability

again to be to be bridge builders they

they have to

live in an advanced sort of

globalized world that everyone else is

soon coming to um and very simple

examples i mean things like

conflict resolution is usually a

struggle for third culture kids because

if you grow up in transients you don't

really have to deal with with conflict

you know when i was a kid i realized if

i got in a fight with someone i didn't

have to fix it because if i wait a few

months they'll move or i'll move um so

you just learn avoidance very

interesting you need a lot more than

avoidance to get through life healthily

so so we know now that it's not an

organic part of third culture kids

growing up experience uh to learn

conflict resolution skills so we have to

teach them far more intentionally but

that's crept into mainstream culture i

mean one of the big things social media

has done is it's meant that everyone is

now struggling with conflict resolution

because everyone can make relationships

disposable because if you don't like

what someone said you can delete it or

described or defriend them or yeah and

so something we've known about tcks for

a while that we need to spend more time

on conflict resolution is now applicable

to everyone fascinating so there's

there's a load of areas where that's

true yeah

other things that you notice about tcks

um i i've i've heard parents for

instance complain

my kids are not as brazilian as i am

and it's frustrating for me or my kids

are not as dutch as i am um

and i wish they were uh what would you

what would you say to parents like that

oh i would say so much um

so much because because it is it's such

a valid point and it's the thing is i

think honestly if i had to if i had to

distill it down i think if you look

underneath because that is it's a very

genuine sentiment and i think

i think it's worth paying attention to

because because if you look at it for

for adults who

chose to move into the international or

the cross-cultural or the transient

sphere for them usually nationality is

is an anchor usually that is something


amidst all the change around them they

can still hold on to the anchor of

underneath it all i am dutch underneath

it all i am swiss underneath it all you

know no matter no matter what discomfort

i face in different places i have an

anchor and so for them nationality

represents you know something that's

that's a core part of identity something

that's safe something that is constant

and so it can be it can be really

disheartening and just jarring when when

your kids don't feel the same way but

the difference is

is experiential the difference is that

for third culture kids growing up in

transition that hasn't necessarily been

an anchor um it doesn't mean the parents

have been an anchor and i think that's

where we we can unpack that and sort of

explain it a little bit is that in

essence when we talk about nationalities

they're really just a shorthand

what we're really saying is when when we

say we're proud to be and then you can

fill in the blank what we're really

saying is that we're proud of a set of

beliefs and customs and values and

traditions uh and ethics that that go

along with that national identity and it

is it's a shorthand and for the third

culture kids i think it's easier to

speak far more directly

because for them nationality doesn't

represent the same shorthand for them

nationality is far more of a

when we talked about those different

levels of culture it's a first culture

thing nationality might just be that

word might just represent a document or

a paper um it doesn't mean they don't

they don't cherish or share or haven't

haven't been brought up in the values

you're giving them it just means they

assign it a different shorthand so i

think with third culture kids a lot of

the time uh the the onus is on parents

to to not use shorthand but to be far

more direct you know to say we value

hard work or independence or community

or you know whatever it is that may be

and our traditions are this and we


this holiday because it represents this

it requires some more some more direct

um explanation because deep down that's

that's really what parents are saying is

i want to propagate you know my set of

uh beliefs and values and customs and

ethics and so shorthanding it saves a

lot of words but it can cause confusion

that you know that nationality is a

shorthand just means something different

to tcpa it sounds like that in and of

itself is a whole podcast

how do you create it how do you create

rituals memorable moments around those

things absolutely yeah yeah fascinating

now you joined the the intercultural

intelligence certification now if you

just a few years ago

you're already a globetrotter talk

talking to thousands of people around

the globe about tcks to their parents to

their educators etc

why join the intercultural intelligence


well i think one of the things that uh

you get out of out of the ici is that it

helps with a phrase that i stole from a

professor but i'm just going to keep

peddling it because it's such a good one

and he said that one of the greatest

things that you can do to enrich your

life in the lives of those around you

is you can learn to process

intellectually what you do intuitively

and i think that is the incredible power

of of ici that is the incredible power

of you know what what you do here at

knowledge works is that

it is able to provide framework and

language so that you can process

intellectually what you know or even

don't know intuitively and i mean and

that's been that's been important to me

from the very beginning the idea that

the language of and definitions of a

third culture kid can provide

clarity it's not just clarity but it's

providing again that bridge so that you

can have intellectual capacity to

explain something going on intuitively

and so

between you know on the ici journey

everything sort of revolves around and

points back to that the idea that you

can learn to process intellectually a

lot of what you do or what those around

you do intuitively and the beauty of

that is that using those tools using ici

and three colors and 12 dimensions and

on all of these different tools they

help you take a lot of time something

that would be internal something like


and externalize it and once it's moved

through that once you can put it into a

framework and give it language then it

can be taught it can be refined it can

be shared and all of that intuition is

very powerful

but intuition can't be those things

intuition can't be taught it can't be

shared it can't be refined intuition

remains internal

it's still very powerful but it's so

much more powerful when it can be

brought into the external world when it

can be

um taught and shared and compared and


and and that is i think there's there's

so much power in just that shift from

intuition to intellect and so and that

is that is precisely what you know i see

i was able to do it it added um it added

an immense amount of power and tools

to that to that aim to be able to bring

things so they can be shared and taught

and refined now you have

lived a very intercultural life

as a tck could you maybe

give an illustration of

bringing the ici language together with

your own life's journey was there like

additional like i know i get it or it's

like oh no i know why this was so messy

or this worked out so well or oh my

goodness absolutely um

i mean

you know easy easy examples that that i

remember seeing almost right away even

after even after uh learning about the

three colors of world view we're just

being able to appreciate that we


value things differently and and that

lens runs everything and so it helped me

understand as i traversed the world

there were things i picked up

intuitively you know different different

countries i'd been to where you know you

you realize um even down to you know

high context and low context

you know whether people speak more

directly or not i

for whatever read the the british part

of my upbringing

hit very strong i think it's because i

went to that little tiny very

old-fashioned british village school

where politeness and manners were of the

utmost importance and so

and that you know that in my world view


it holds up that's a very high value


for other people you know honesty and

directness are very important and being

able to again put put naming and words

to that

is is understandable it makes things

more relatable because then i can

understand that actually if i'm not

careful i can be really frustrating to

people um by being far too indirect

because because i i read between the

lines i i would speak you know low

context i would i would never come right

out and and tell someone well that

project is terrible i would say well

it's not what i would have done and

expect that they just can pick up that

that's what i mean i'm just not going to

say it yeah and realizing you know that

everything from the the three colors of

world view to again i love the the 12

dimensions as well

it helps you realize and put name to

those differences i mean time time is

such a good one to understand throughout

the world you know and and even that

comes down to a value assessment you

know do you do are you respecting people

by being punctual and in many parts of

the world that's absolutely the case but

in many other parts of the world you're

respecting people by putting

relationship over time you're saying

you're more important than what my

schedule says

and and those work fine when everybody

is is thinking the same way but but when

you have to traverse them you know

that's that's the fun part and i

it helped me assess you know some of the

the strain that i would feel when i was

in a mix of those two worlds where you

know i'd have people who i'm like oh i

need to be need to be on time to meet

these people if i'm late that would be

very disrespectful but the people i'm

with now

they they value relationship more than

schedule so if i leave them

it's it's not going to be a good excuse

to say well it's not a clock i must go

they would think well how how rude


what you do yeah it's it's going to be

difficult and so if nothing else you

know it helps you plan ahead a little

bit it makes you realize that maybe the

maybe the tight scheduling that you

could pull off in some places you you

have to buffer it more in other places

if you're going to make allowances and

so yeah i think even even just in in my

personal life you know let alone

professional life again it's it's

brought so much clarity to explaining

things intellectually that maybe

some of it i picked up you know

intuitively but but some of it i didn't

you know there's there's a lot that you

know i've been to 105 countries and i'm

still caught off guard you know there's

there's no way to ever fully

fully grasp or comprehend or master

anyone's culture i don't know if we can

even do it on our own

um and so any tools that will help you

traverse all of that i think are are so

useful well you mentioned earlier on

that no matter how old we are we're

always in a developmental year yeah

absolutely and being a cultural learner

is one of those developmental things

that happens hopefully until we die yeah

um now

hearing you talk about the tools the tck

language was a helpful way to open up a

conversation to probably settle things

in people's minds in their hearts the

ici language also


around the three colors the 12

dimensions etc

but you also mentioned something that

that i want to pick up on is that whole

idea of you

intuitively learn to navigate those


and that's what i've seen with tcks they

just do it

where other kids who grew up in a more

monocultural environment would would

just blunder through it

ccks they very often they just

of course this is normal when you talk

to them says yeah of course you would do


so why would they even need

to understand the intercultural

intelligence language they're already

doing it so just let them be

well i think you know it it's it's very

flattering and i would i would love to

say that you know tcks aren't just well

they're just smarter people um but it's

it's not that i mean they in all honesty

that's a it's a survival technique and i


underneath a lot of that is is empathy

and i speak quite a bit on empathy

because it's in some ways it's under

threat i mean there's there were studies

that um that looked at and said that

empathy has declined about 40 in the

last 30 years

which is a pretty huge decline you know

the the ability to be moved by the

feelings of other people if that's being

muted that's that's going to have a lot

of effects in fact i think in all

honesty you know a lot of the the

discord that we that we see around the

world now in loads of different areas

um would chart pretty exactly with a

decline in empathy and third culture

kids tend to be more empathetic um

mostly as a survival skill just because

to be to be able to fit in you have to

be moved by the feelings of others when

you arrive in a new place and you're the

new kid you have to figure out so much

so quickly in order to belong i mean

it's the pecking order the social

standing the customs the courtesies um

you know who who has the power what's

respectful to do what's not respectful

to do there's there's so much minutia um

that you have to adapt to and so they

tend to be empathetic because that is an

easy way to read that is if you can be

moved by the feelings of others around


then if that radar is always on you can

figure out that oh just because just

because it was okay you know to just

blurt out my opinion in my last school

actually this school that i'm at is you

have to be very respectful you have to

be quiet and you have to wait until

you're called upon it i mean little

things like that even to bigger things

to forming your friendship group so

empathy um is a survival skill for third

culture kids they they have to have

empathy to constantly adapt and that

empathy makes it makes it as you said it

it comes off as far more intuitive to

them in cross-cultural situations

because because they're empathetic

because they're just used to reading

what's around them in order to fit in

but i think adding on to that i mean

you're right like that's it's a great

skill to have and they their upbringing

has has given them you know has has

honed their empathetic abilities so they

can do that but again that that stays

just as intuition and i think for third

culture kids you know the power of

things like ici is just that it can move

that intuition into into something

intellectual and that's what the world

needs i mean again that the world moves

closer to their experience and so

tools like ici help unlock all of the

all of the potential that tcks carry

around with them and there is there's a

ton of potential the the lifestyle

they've had whether it's born and some

of it is born out of pain it's it is not

easy constantly having to be the new kid

it's not easy constantly having to

rebuild your social structures

um some of it is born out of difficulty

but it builds a resilience that

everybody is going to need i mean even

down to the simplest level of identity

you know identity has been a struggle

for third culture kids because it does

require different language it's not as

simple as just saying well i'm british

they they have to explore a lot more but

everybody does now i would argue that

globalization is causing a lot of

identity problems i think that's another

factor that we see and how divisive

things are getting you know

globalization a lot of times has some

very contradictory statements that it

throws out simultaneously you know we

want to preserve native cultures and

traditions and heritage but we also want

to put aside our differences and come

together to tackle global problems

those are those are actually two very

different things you know resources

required yeah and we throw it out all at

once and to navigate that is going to

take people who can be bridge builders

people who are empathetic people who

their life experience can be translated

um because intuition will remain

internal and it's it's one thing it's

it's a good survival tactic the tcks can

do it but how great if they could take

that and externalize it for the use of


it's interesting you mentioned that

because one of the things we do is we

offer scholarships to young adults

late teens who have

that intuitive skill set to navigate

between cultures and even to create

culture around them and we've seen that


as we've now had multiple teens to go

into the big world who've gone through

that program that they often

it's not it doesn't just bring

that sort of structural or academic

understanding of why this works and why

this doesn't work

but also i've heard them tell stories

where they say i can finally explain it

to other people yeah i now have a

language to say well if you do that here

is what you're going to trigger

but if you choose the other option here

is what you're going to trigger and they

can actually explain that to people so

they actually their skill becomes more

transferable absolutely and what a what

an incredibly powerful thing just


not only is it something the world needs

but you know how freeing is it to to be

able to explain you know why you do

what you do i mean that that opens up

into issues of identity as well i think

you know those sort of tools they're not

just beneficial to the people around

tcks but i think it's beneficial for

tcks i think it provides bridges inward

to them as well for them to be to feel

more understood


now you work a lot with schools

and from just the way you've explained

tck at the beginning of our time


it almost sounds like every school needs


what would you say to schools

where do they start uh how do because

you know schools are super busy places

every time i talk to educators their

schedules are chock-a-block full

it's very hard for them to even consider

another piece to the curriculum or an

extracurricular thing

how do schools start to incorporate this

way of thinking into the way they

prepare their students for the future

for a global future

well i think there are there are several

approaches i think i think you hit on it

well you know just just in the way you

phrase that i think that in in all

honesty you know intercultural

understanding um tied in with identity

tied in with you know the ability to

process things intellectually as well as

intuitively needs to be needs to be part

of the curriculum um because it is it's

it would be a lot to add in as something

separate but i think um in in getting to

work with schools you know i get to come

in as a speaker which is great fun and

uh because it's always a wise idea to

hire a speaker that's very important

always a great idea

but honestly a lot of what i get to do

is is to supplant it to be a part of

existing initiatives and i mean for

instance i've seen you know one of the

topics that i work with in school

sometimes is unresolved grief you know

for for international schools especially

a lot of times behavioral problems for

third culture kids will have their roots

and things like unresolved grief that if

you feel like you don't have control


your physical location environment if

you have to move all the time

you can you can compensate as a student

by becoming very controlling in other

areas so it can lead to you know

obsessive compulsive behavior it can

lead to eating disorders it can lead to

all sorts of problems that people may

not realize for third culture kids have

their roots and things like um

things like grief and so but i've seen

schools you know who have worked with

who've taken that on and have

incorporated you know uh into the art

program into the music program into the

reading pro into existing curricula

they've they've added in steps that tie

it back into

dealing with unresolved grief i've seen

schools that you know have worked into

their their student government system

and into

even the educational classes things like

conflict resolution skills and so

i think um i think it can be done i

think school's you know a good place to

start really would be to you know to get

a get a good initial handle on on who

third culture kids are because there are

some uniquenesses again some some of

their behavioral traits are going to be

different than at a mono cultural school

and i think

training up the teachers and the staff i

think is is really really important

because a lot of teachers will come into

an international school

with a wealth of experience from from a

mono cultural setting and a lot of that

experience is transferable but they're

definitely going to be

some new pieces for third culture kids

some new new challenges new difficulties

and it's worth educating you know the

teachers and the administration

on what those uniquenesses are so that

you know if you start with that then it

becomes easier to address those needs to

to figure out what it is uh the students

are struggling with what the core

reason behind it is so so i do i think

uh getting getting a handle on tck

basics is a good place to start and then

you know and then and do bring the

speaker because you know you should

always bring the speaker of course um


things into gear things into gear yeah

but it definitely you know it's part of

a much bigger strategy you know the i i

get to highlight things that you know

the school continue on um incorporating

and growing and learning and there is

there's a lot of research that backs up

the fact that you know um students who

are able to resolve their identity in

healthy ways perform better academically

and socially and emotionally so there is

this huge benefit for for schools to

take take all of this into consideration

yeah and i think that's also one of the

reasons why it's been exciting to start

our partnership so

you know your ability to bring that

unique expertise to schools to raise

issues with educators with students with

their parents their families

shelly reinhard our education director

has built this beautiful program culture

in the classroom which builds on the

type of things that you're doing such

good stuff and it really helps

teachers create the third cultural space

in the classroom yeah this broad mix of

kids that they typically work with

so more information about that is also

connected to this podcast you'll find it

in the the about the podcast text there

but also you can find it on the

knowledgeworks.education website

you mentioned your book a few times

already we as a family had the privilege

of listening to the audiobook while we

were driving for a holiday and we loved

it the stories were so relatable and

funny you are indeed a great comedian um

how can people get a hold of your book

what's the title and in what formats is

it available yeah the book is called

arrivals departures and the adventures

in between and it's available in all

kinds of formats

it's on amazon and can be ordered

through most major book stores and book


it's available for e-reader either

kindle or apple and it's also available

as an audio book

through audible or or just as an audio

book again through through amazon so

i think there's links to all of the

places to get it on my website which is


but yeah it's it's pretty widely

available if you don't feel like reading

then then i can just read it to you um

which which was great fun i have to say

recording audiobooks so much more fun

than i thought it would be um i i

enjoyed it so so yeah do do grab a copy

if you feel like coming along excellent

well thank you so much um time has just


so thank you so much for coming in and

for being in the uae i know you've got

lots of speaking engagements and

discussions about how to take this

conversation forward and i hope every

kid in the country will be exposed to uh

to your wisdom your expertise so thank

you for being here and thank you for

joining us on this podcast my pleasure

thanks so much for having me thanks for

doing what you do

thank you so much for joining us for

this episode of the cultural agility

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a special thanks to jason carter for

composing the music on this podcast and

to the whole knowledgeworks team for

making this podcast a success thank you

nita rodriquez ara aziz bakkyon rajitha

raj and thanks to vip and george for

audio production rosalind raj for

scheduling and caleb strauss for

marketing and helping produce this