We were honoured to have David C. Sanford, an intercultural training specialist with more than 30 years of related experience, participate in our expert talk series about Third Culture Kids: Beyond and Between Borders. David spent over 13 years living and working in the UK, Taiwan, India, Taiwan, Iran, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Japan. He has diverse corporate experiences which include international sales, marketing, and transnational strategic business development for Fortune 500 companies as well as educational institutions in the US, Europe, and Asia.
Moreover, he wrote and published the book “Spilling the Beans” in India, which is a guide for Indians to understand and communicate successfully with Americans. He talked about how being a TCK has influenced his life and career choices and gave advice on how to overcome mental challenges through meditation.
Struggles of a TCK
Being a TCK means having no choices of where to grow up and which country to move to. Parents move to new environments and their children just follow them. In David’s case, he was born in California, and soon after his father was stationed in Taiwan. His first journey as a TCK began in Taiwan where he stayed for three years until his family returned to the US, to Washington DC. Moving back to the US turned into a challenge due to language barriers as he mixed English and Mandarin. His mother had to translate for him, but soon he caught on and learned American English. However, within three years his family was off to London where they spent another three years until they returned to America. Afterwards, he moved to India, where he spent three years of his adolescence. All of his developmental years were outside of the United States. Therefore, moving back and forth involved many disadvantages.
According to David, the customs and conversations of other children and young people were slightly different from what he was used to. He felt out of sync with those around him, which forced him to be more introverted. Moving from one place to another also became challenging for building friendships. You meet new people, but you soon realize that you may not see them again. Hence, you allow yourself to share about yourself to just a certain extent. Additionally, it is difficult to open up and talk about oneself because most people will not understand your experience and feelings. Thus, the intercultural specialist stated that for TCKs it is easier to surround themselves with others who have been through similar journeys.
On the other hand, being raised in so many different cultures opened new and diverse perspectives of perceiving people, cultures, as well as decisions and choices he made for his education and career path. Moreover, for David, being a TCK has more benefits than drawbacks because of a worldview of being able to deal with ambiguity, which facilitates adapting and using those skills in different situations such as in his consulting profession.
Introspection of identity with meditation
The intercultural specialist often found himself questioning his identity as a cultural person. His perspective of being a Third Culture Kid directed him to pursue a degree in American Psychology. Throughout his degree and later in his career, he was introduced to the notion of meditation. He used it as a tool to work with one state of mind and to find his identity, and for him, it was effortless to enter into the discipline of meditation and overcome the confusion of different cultures. It was a wonderful idea of bringing meditation into a cross-cultural experience which he also implemented in conferences sessions. Furthermore, David recommends for other TCKs, who are dealing with traumas and difficulties of not understanding the story of their journey, to overcome these obstacles through meditation.
Firstly, it is important to be open about the personal challenges and identity issues that one is facing. Secondly, many TCKs are unaware that there is a term and a community of people who share the same stories and experiences. Therefore, building connections and relationships with fellow Third Culture Kids delivers a feeling of belonging. There are many different forms and techniques of meditation. According to him, experimenting and implementing meditation will help you to connect with being present in the moment and to clear your worries about the past and future.
For David, being a TCK has offered many benefits. He acquired many skills in the international environment. Over the course of his journey of moving from one country to another, learning about diverse cultures, and meeting unique individuals, has expanded his horizons of viewing the world from different perspectives, which ultimately helped him to adapt to new environments and learn new languages. And eventually, through this adventure, he found his passion in being a cross-cultural trainer and consultant. He uses his skills and abilities to support others who are experiencing the same challenges as a TCK as well as companies and organizations that deal with cross-cultural difficulties. David wishes for everyone to recognize and use these cultural skills in order to find their true identity and the abilities which can contribute greatly to our society.
One of the benefits of being bicultural is simply the awareness that how you live is not the only way. – Ann Campanella
Final Words: SIETAR Austria and Raw Culture greatly appreciate and want to express gratitude to David C. Sanford for participating in this journey of spreading awareness of TCK and the great advantages that growing up cross-culturally has for every individuum in their life and profession. Furthermore, we are grateful to Weirong Li, founder, and CEO of Raw Culture, for working to increase the value of diverse cultures.
References and Sources:
Information about David C. Sanford: https://whenculturesmix.com/david-sandford
YouTube Link to Expert Talk with David C. Sanford:
Information about Raw Culture’s Community for TCKs: https://links.geneva.com/invite/2b89c652-9173-4be3-9435-23db919da91c.
Get early access to Raw Culture’s TCK job platform here: https://bit.ly/3iImXXg.