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Mike and Anita James

Reaching Children – Training Leaders

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Dec '10

Observations of a Third-Culture Kid

Grace can be classified as a third-culture kid.  She is an American living in The Netherlands.  She’s not fully Dutch and at the same time, she doesn’t totally relate to people in America.

When I observe her, I see some differences in her from most American kids.  First of all, she only understands temperature in Celsius.  We were Skyping with my family, they mentioned that the weather had been in the 70s.  I looked at Grace and asked her if she  knew what that meant.  She didn’t, so I told her that it was about 20 degrees.  She immediately knew what that was.

She also has an odd mix of vocabulary and spelling.  She is taught English on a British curriculum, so she writes about how many metres it is to the centre of town.

Grace can also compare the voices of cartoons in English versus Dutch.  She said that Spongebob is weird to hear in Dutch because they don’t sound too much like their English counterparts.  Mickey Mouse, however, sounds exactly the same – except for the fact that he’s speaking another language.

When it comes to traveling, Grace has more miles under her belt than most adults.  She’s flown over the Atlantic Ocean seven times.  When we go somewhere, she’s the one to remind us that we’ll need our passports.  While we’re in The Netherlands, we don’t travel all that often, but since countries are small and it’s easy to get from one place to the next, she’s been to quite a few countries.

Grace’s list of best friends changes often.  One friend in America has stayed on the top of the list since Grace was a baby though.  Some of her other best friends she’s had here have moved to places like Spain, Libya, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain.  Between that and being in an international school, Grace’s world geography knowledge is pretty good.

I often think about what an amazing opportunity it is for her to grow up in another culture while at the same time wondering what it’ll be like when she goes back to the States or where she’ll end up when she’s older.  I do my best to help her as a mom, but I have to leave most of that in God’s hands!

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