My family group chat is a mess. Korean, English, and Chinese flying everywhere, jumbled in random sentences. Who knew a three-word sentence could be trilingual. You turn to your co-worker and make a joke about fake alcohol in China and they give you a weird stare. Then, of course, there’s the biggest headache of them all – “Where are you from?” Each simple answer you attempt to give only creates further confusion when they ask about why your English is so good, why I somehow have friends in China, what’s your nationality, etc.
Sometimes, the most comforting place to be is amidst the chaos of your fellow TCKs. Simple questions like what you are doing for winter break can turn into answers as convoluted as “Well, I’m heading back to Shanghai for a bit to see my friends, going to Taiwan to see my relatives, and then going to spend the rest of the time in Dubai with my parents.” And yet, in our world this is completely normal.
But it’s not simply the fact that you have shared a common lifestyle of globe-hopping. The TCK community is bonded more by our ambiguous identity. The kind of hodgepodge view of life that usually only another TCK can fully embrace and understand due to having lived through similar circumstances.
This is my long-winded way of saying, being the sole TCK in a community can be really lonely. Luckily for you, with the prevalence of globe-hopping and company relocations, every major city worldwide usually has a decent pool of TCKs to form communities with.
So here are my three tips on finding local TCK communities:
1) School friends who live in your area.
Like most TCKs, you probably went to an international school in a country that wasn’t your own. The friendships you form there are important because these are all fellow TCKs who will provide you with much needed TCK support when your non-TCK friends just don’t get you sometimes. Also, something I noticed about TCKs are that they really love meeting other TCKs (probably because they’re also desperate for someone who can relate to them in this regard). So see which of your friends from middle or high school are currently residing in your area and hit them up! I’m still super surprised by how close I remain with my high school friends.
2) Join an organization
The best way to find a community is to join an organization. If you are living in a non-English speaking country, finding a TCK community is usually super simple. You simply join an English speaking organization of some sort and you are most likely automatically paired up with a bunch of other TCKs or at least people who have had an international life experience. Choose a hobby and find the expat community group that gathers around this hobby. If you are religious, finding an English worship service is also a great way to join an organization. Find these groups online by a simple Google search or through sites like Meetup and Facebook groups.
3) Find the expat hangouts
Usually, expats tend to hang out in a concentrated area of the city that you live in. Now, this is not to discourage you from getting integrated with the local culture and meeting local people. But like all people, we get homesick and want someone super familiar. Hitting expat spots filled with other TCKs and foreigners living outside their homeland can bring you a sense of belonging and comfort. Cities with a fair share of foreign residents have a decent selection of hangouts that are catered towards foreigners.
Hope these tips were helpful and to all the lonely TCK souls out there, stay strong and know you’re not alone!