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Third-Culture Kid: how a little relocation support goes a long way

As a Third-Culture Kid, I spent a significant part of my childhood outside my parent’s culture.

When I was ten years old, my family and I moved back to France from Singapore where we had lived since I was five.

In France, the whole family was suddenly aware of the dramatic difference in the lifestyle we had to adjust to.

Singapore’s tropical-cosmopolitan-full-expat life was a distant memory. We now lived in a small village of barely a thousand people in the south of France. Our Singapore high-rise full facility condo was replaced with a rural house surrounded by cows and cornfields.

We, a half-Asian family, with a “weird” French accent, were used to putting up our Christmas tree in October, so we quickly became the Addams Family of the village.

My family had a choice of host location at the time, but without any guidance from my father’s employer, they could not entirely foresee that moving back to France would be a culture shock.

Adjusting to my new school was challenging for me and this had an impact on us as a family.

During difficult days at school, I remember telling my parents I wanted to return “home” to Singapore. The small village school I had to go to was very different from the bustling French International School I had attended. I felt out of place in a class of fourteen classmates who had all known each other since kindergarten.

Looking back on my experience I can now see how having some relocation support would have made the adjustment we eventually experienced much smoother.

For example, an Orientation tour would have provided my family with information and helped us all better manage our expectations.

I can also now appreciate why companies offer assignee families School Search support. It mitigates many of the challenges I experienced during the move. Taking a child’s particular needs and experiences into consideration allows parents to select a new school that will most support a child’s ability to assimilate to their new environment.

For me, life went on and luckily I managed to blend into my new life in France. Schoolmates were eventually fascinated by my ability to speak English fluently and my family eventually adjusted to putting the Christmas tree up in December.

Nathalie Dufoulon is a half French half Indonesian adult Third-Culture Kid who was born in France and grew up in Singapore from ages 5 to 10. She currently works with Sterling in Singapore supporting HR teams to relocate employees and their families.

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