11 April 2005

Hidden Immigrants

Hidden immigrants, as the name implies, are people who have returned to their "home" culture after living abroad. They look like and technically are part of the home culture but often they don't feel or often act like part of that home culture. True immigrants are often identifiable by their language, race, or a variety of others things, but hidden immigrants are harder to identify unless they make cultural mistakes.

Hidden Immigrants: Legacies of Growing Up Abroad by Linda Bell shares discussions with 13 adults who grew up overseas. They talk about their home lives, schooling, college, the privileged lives they led, their current jobs, their restlessness, and how living overseas changed their attitudes.

This book was helpful in pointing out some of the things these people struggled with when they returned to their home countries. I am getting a better sense of what to watch for if we are able to live overseas a lot when our children are with us. However, the complaints started to bother me. I am not convinced that there are difficulties experiences exclusively by third culture kids. There are many different reasons why a teenager might not fit in at high school, or why college may be awful, or why a person might want to move a lot.

It was also interesting to note that many (almost all) of the problems these people experienced were somehow related to school. I think their parents could have done a better job of keeping things more consistent with their schooling. The one mention of homeschooling was negative. However, these children were overseas in the 50s and 60s when homeschooling was almost unheard of. Today many people living abroad homeschool their children. As always, homeschooling is not the best choice for every family, but it is certainly something to be considered.


  1. just JohnnaApril 12, 2005

    But many kids who move around with their families abroad attend the International Schools. I've always heard the continuity problems less severe that way, or is that a misleading myth?

    I agree that homeschooling eliminates the continuity problem. But for myself at this point, having the unusual benefit living near high-quality schools, I'd hate to give up the perspective of that other adult, the teacher, paying quality attention to my child.

  2. If you can get into the same International School "chain" the continuity would be there, but that is rarely a possibility. There are all kinds of international school with different philosophies.

    The expense can be a deterrent too. The international school in Bishkek is $12,000/year per child and our grant covers nowhere near that much. Homeschooling is by far our best option while we're there. But, like I always say, I can certainly see many good reasons for anyone choosing a different option. I just think homeschooling should be seriously considered more often.