My interns started working together and learning each other this week.  In my humble estimation, we’ve had a good two days.  We’ve laughed a lot.  They’ve taken in more information than they can process at one time.  We’ve learned our Meyer’s Briggs types.  (In case anyone is interested the I’s vastly outnumber the E, and when you put me in the mix, the J’s are in the minority.)  We’ve also started telling stories.

This morning we had a high school student join us.  If we didn’t scare her away, she’ll probably be part of our team for most of the summer.  For quick introductions this morning everyone took a turn saying their name, school information, where they grew up, and then told a truth and a lie.  The rest of us had to guess the lie.  I’m used to playing this little truth/lie game with TCKs.  It’s fun and insightful.  Generally their lies are the more common things.  If you’re playing with a TCK and the choices are “I ate an endangered species” or “I’m a middle child,” choose the middle child statement as the lie.

I realized as we were doing this with our high school student, who is the daughter of one of our IT guys, that everyone else’s life sounded rather exotic.  “I lived with a spy for my country’s police.”  “I ate cow brains.”  “I had kangaroo for dinner.”  “I argued with a secret service agent in London.”  Not your typical American statements.

These simple statements create such massive impressions.  My interns just laughed at each statement and tried to figure out which one was the least outrageous, and, therefore, the least truthful.  When I looked at the high schooler, her eyes were just big.

Later in the afternoon as the five of them were working on a nececssary but fairly mindless task, I went to check on them.  When I asked what they were talking about the answer was, “Airplane and airport stories.”  This was quickly followed with, “Tell us one of yours.” I had no trouble coming up with two while they were still asking the initial question.

I love and loathe the assumption that everyone has a story related to air travel.  I love it because in TCK and other international circles, it’s a fact.  On the other hand, it’s loathsome because it can eliminate others from the conversation quite quickly.  While the majority of the adult population of the USA flies at some point during the year (I recently read 85%, but I can’t find the source now that I need it.), it doesn’t mean that the TCK’s late adolescent peers have traveled by plane.  Many have, but not all.

TCKs are great at telling stories that star with “When I was in  . . . ” or “When we flew through . . . ” or “One time we went on vacation to . . . “. It’s normal and good–and really interesting.  I don’t want to detract from those experiences one bit. However, the story needs to end on a conversational note.  After the tale has ended in laughter or tears and questions find answers, it’s important for the TCK to ask about a funny/tragic/memorable moment from the monocultural who sits with huge eyes wondering if there’s anything to contribute.

The monocultural has a lot to contribute.  She has stories.  She may talk about Detroit–a place that doesn’t sound very sexy to her ears in comparison to Dubai–but she has a story to tell.  The irony is, to many TCK ears, Dubai is old hat; Detroit’s much more exotic.

Sharing stories is a critical entree to another’s life.  We all need to learn to listen well, to ask good questions, and to be generally interested in what the other has to say.  Monocultural or Third Culture–it doesn’t matter.  Stories are one of the best ways to connect.

When’s the last time you were on an airplane?  Did anything interesting happen?

photo courtesy of TACLUDA on; modified on

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