Flicks for TCKs

On the tail of the Oscars, I thought I’d make this month’s TCK Talk post a tribute to movies.  Since we typically get many movies a bit after the fact when living overseas, I’m just now enjoying  viewing some of the Oscar contenders and winners in various original English cinemas (Kinos) around Vienna. As a person who has lived most of my adult life away from my home culture, I adore original English movie houses and the many date nights, family nights, friendly outings, and now that my daughters are older and more out on their own, date nights revisited, that original English theaters provide.

I remember being in heaven when first learning there was a small theater that showed original English vs. the German dubbed movies, while I lived in Augsburg, Germany.  Dubbing is great for improving German skills, and sometimes they did a remarkable job of getting voices that sounded incredibly like the Hollywood starts that I knew and loved.  Other times, it was such a mismatch, that I would literally cringe each time a favorite actor spoke an octave higher or lower than I was used to. Nevertheless, it was such a genuine treat and feeling of “home away from home”  to see a movie in its original form.

I remember seeing, Indecent Proposal, on a trip into Munich.  Forrest Gump and Schindler’s List were  memorable films that we viewed while in Amsterdam for the day. A plethora of Disney movies took over our viewing pleasure when the girls were young, including favorite, The Incredibles,  a birthday party movie choice one year.  More recently, the Harry Potter series were must-sees for the entire family, and now, both girls will head in for flicks with friends and often recommend films for my husband and me to later visit in accompaniment with a nearby Indian restaurant or a cafe.

So, in this way, any movie can be a hit for expats and Third Culture Kids, but there are also many movies with exotic and foreign themes that can serve many purposes for this unique culture.  For young  TCKs-to-be, it can be really helpful to give them insight and a view into their soon-to-be new homeland by sharing a movie with some familiar scenery.  When my husband took the job that would be moving us from New Jersey to Vienna, we invested in a video tape (yes, it’s been a while) of The Sound of Music and watched it with our young daughters.

Maybe this was a bit of  an unfair spin and my music-loving and performing daughters probably ended up with unrealistic views of running around their new country in drapery Dirndls, singing and dancing at every fountain.  On the other hand, they did get excited about a new country full of gorgeous fountains, mountain opportunities, breath-taking views, and an incredible musical history.  Where’s the harm in planting a visual seed of some exciting opportunities in a move that is bound to have some challenges, as well?  We did also make the journey to Salzburg soon after our overseas move, and they had a lot of fun getting photos of sights they remembered from the film, and, on the Sound of Music bus tour, they did get to burst into song just  like the Von Trapp tots.

Other movies for kids that can be helpful in opening windows to various views of the world are Madagascar (the third one even ends up in Europe), Cars 2, Ratatouille, Kung Fu Panda, Mulan, Finding Nemo and Up.  Children’s movies and series that originate in other cultures, such as Swedish Pippi Longstockings,  can also be incredibly educational for traveling kids and can offer a lot of insight into the views and social norms of a culture.

Young Adult and Adult TCKs have a multitude of movies to choose from that can either give them some insights or recognizable “a-ha” moments regarding  that “fish out of water” feeling that all of us who live and travel in foreign lands can relate to.  One very memorable one for me is, Lost in Translation.  I first met my husband when he was headed for an assignment to Tokyo, Japan.  When I later visited him there, I was amazed by such things as the hired “pushers” who basically “sardine” passengers into the subway before the doors close, the strong Sake samples (do not mix with jet-lag) in the grocery store, and the first-for-me feeling of being visibly different from the majority.  When I saw this movie with a friend of mine on a trip to Berlin, I immediately called Bob (also the name of lead character played by Bill Murray) and told him he had to see his former life-story, complete with the over six foot tall head towering above others in an elevator, Karaoke outings, and clubs where bands such as the Japanese Beatles, covered western tunes and artists.

These movies can provide people who have lived life abroad with much needed comic relief and feelings of universality: If someone portrayed “my” feelings and experiences in a movie, and people can watch and relate to it, then I must not be totally different and alone.  Other movies that show the experience of living out of your home country and element are Eat, Pray, Love, Under the Tuscan Sky, Mama Mia, The Beach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Darjeeling Limited, The Last King of Scotland, The Third Man, The Year of Living Dangerously, Casablanca, Outsource, The Painted Veil, and more. Please keep in mind that Hollywood portrayals can often be simplistic, and quite frankly, stereotypical, but for Third Culture Kids, it is still a plus that they can recognize this, and these concerns can tie in to later life desires to be global educators and advocates.

Third Culture Kids who are originally from America and relocating “home” can also often find some true connections with tales of first-timers in America.  There are a variety of fictional accounts of this tale from comedy to drama, children to adult-oriented, classic to modern.  A few that come to mind are, Charlie Chaplin’s, The Immigrant, Coming to America, An American Tail, Gangs of New York, The Kite Runner, The Joy Luck Club and more. Due to their frequent contact with airports, Terminal, about a man who is literally residing in an airport, also stands out  as a movie this group might relate to.

Lastly, Third Culture Kids are adept at becoming world diplomats and welcoming, accepting and celebrating cultures.  Utilizing these great life-time skills, many of the first-rate foreign films, complete with languages that might not be so foreign for these comfortable linguists, can also be incredible ways to catch a quick view of home, learn about a potential new one, or feel culturally alert and savvy.  Favorite foreign films of mine include, Cinema Paradiso, My Life as a Dog, Amelie and Life is Beautiful.

So there you have it.  My list of some of the flicks that are quite apropos for TCKs.  Really, the possibilities are endless and can’t be done justice in a single post, which leads me to believe there might be room for  TCK Flicks II.  Nothing like a good sequel. Now go pop the popcorn and dim the lights, it’s showtime!

Feel free to send me your favorites for the sequel!






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