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For a Third Culture Kid, birthday candles are easier to come by than the Christmas kind

Tiffany Xmas Collage_dropshadowBorn to German parents in the United States who later moved the family to the UAE, Tiffany Lake-Haeuser learned very quickly that unlike birthday candles, Christmas candles only happen if you’re living in the right place. She joins us today to tell her tales of Christmas Past, in New York and the UAE, and Present — in Germany. (Hmmm…what will Christmas Future will hold for Tiffany — the world having already been her oyster in so many ways?!)

— ML Awanohara

There have been two events I have always looked forward to since I was a little girl, my birthday and Christmas. Luckily for me, those are perfectly spaced so that in the summer I have my birthday and in the winter I have Christmas.

My fascination for the two events was different, though. My birthday was special to my family, my friends and me; the decorations were left up for a day and it ended almost as quickly as it started. I generated most of the excitement, with others joining in.

Through my travels I have come to learn that this is not the case with Christmas — which is a group affair. At least half the Christmas spirit depends on the people around you and the widespread anticipation of that one magical night or morning.

Although I am German, I was born in New York City, and that’s where I remember having my first Christmases.

New York’s love affair with Christmas

I think no city does Christmas decorations like NYC.

My family lived in Battery Park City, and I remember when I was just a little kid going to the Winter Garden Atrium in the World Financial Center, and seeing that huge light switch that turned on the lights on the an enormous Christmas tree.

Later, when I was a little bigger, I recall walking the city streets in my coat and mittens and hat and feeling in every bone of my body that Christmas was coming.

Of course my German family celebrated a little different than the Americans. In Germany we celebrate on Christmas Eve; families get all dressed up and have a nice dinner before opening all their presents.

But when I was younger I didn’t notice this difference. It was only much later, back in Germany, when our American friends came to spend Christmas with us, that I noticed this (and other) differences.

Discovering Weihnachts

Now that I’m back living in Frankfurt, I keep thinking how much more old fashioned and traditional Christmas seems in Germany compared to in America. We take pride, for instance, in our hand-crafted ornaments and their old-style workmanship — the kind you can buy at our Weihnachtsmarkt. Not for us the fantasy luxury windows of Bergdorf’s.

Christmas in Germany is tied very closely to religion. We don’t say “Happy Holidays” here. And we emphasize nativity scenes in our decorations. My family has its own little crèche — and on Christmas Day my older sister and I get to add Baby Jesus.

But probably the most striking difference of all is that we don’t really have Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas (“Nikolaus”) visits German children on December 6: we put our boots in front of our door, and they get filled overnight. This tradition commemorates when Nikolaus gave a cold, homeless man his coat.

It’s true we do have Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus), but the concept came from outside and is part of popular German culture. Das Christkind (Christ Child, or Baby Jesus) visits on Christmas Eve with presents.

…but after an Emirati interlude

Before repatriating to Germany for the second time, my family lived in Abu Dhabi. I was 13 then and for me, Christmas temporarily lost part of its appeal. There was no cold, no snow and barely any Christmas trees.

Believe me when I say, you don’t understand the importance of a Christmas tree until you don’t have it anymore. Instead, we had a little metal frame that was supposed to represent a Christmas tree.

The cold I used to have a love-hate relationship with in New York (Germany, too) was now non-existent; and though I didn’t exactly miss it, it did take away a big part of the anticipation of the holiday — of the winter solstice.

With very few people around you getting excited for Christmas, it was much harder to even remember that Christmas was nearing. It snuck up on you and then disappeared, much like birthdays — but without any of the accompanying fanfare.

* * *

Living in Germany had renewed my awareness of Christmas traditions and the sense of community they bring. Nowadays I actually enjoy the build-up to Christmas as much as Christmas Eve or the day itself — the markets and the decorations. For me, this is what makes this age-old holiday so much more than a time to give presents.

* * *

Readers, especially those who are Third Culture Kids, or TCKs, can you relate to Tiffany Lake-Haeuser’s competing visions of Christmas? She would love to hear your comments. You can also follow Tiffany on her blog, Girl on the Run.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s displaced Q, on stogy holiday foods.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Images (clockwise from top left): Candles in Tiffany Lake-Haeuser’s German home, Christmas 2011; birthday candles (Morguefiles); the crèche in Tiffany’s home, Christmas 2011; Bergdorf Goodman Christmas windows, courtesy Flickr Creative Commons; the rare Christmas tree in Abu Dhabi, courtesy Flickr Creative Commons; the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center (Morguefiles); and Tiffany in front of the tree in her German home, Christmas 2011.

Would I travel for food? It depends…on whether it’s pizza or haggis!

Third Culture Kid Tiffany Lake-Haeuser is back, to tell us what she thinks about gluttony as a motive for travel.

As a Third Culture Kid who was raised in the United States and Abu Dhabi before returning to my native Germany, I’ve learned that every culture has its own traditional foods — but the idea of trying them all? I’ll take that with a pinch of salt, so to speak.  Some of the world’s most celebrated foods are very good; others, not so much.

At my international school in Frankfurt, I’ve found it amusing to walk around at lunchtime and see what the different nationalities are eating. Obviously, we students are somewhat limited by what the cafeteria offers, but once a year on International Day — a day for celebrating all the nationalities at our school — things get a bit more interesting. We get to choose between egg noodles at the Thai stand and the burgers at the U.S. stand, among others…

Food for thought

Would I travel for food? I know that the Displaced Nation has covered this topic obsessively last month. I discussed it with a few of my schoolmates — ironically, during our lunch period — and we agreed that while most of us have a certain sweet or other type of food we make a habit of eating or buying when we are in certain countries, we would not be inclined to go on a food tour.

One of my friends said she makes it a priority to buy “double stuf” oreos in the U.S. Though hardly a delicacy in America, this cookie is seen as an exotic treat at our school.

Other friends mentioned their efforts to avoid certain traditional foods at all costs. For instance, one of them said she loathed eating haggis in Scotland — even though that’s where she is originally from! For those of you who don’t know what haggis is, it is a savory pudding of sheep lung, liver and heart encased with other ingredients in an animal’s stomach. Mmmmm!

Another friend reported she’d found eating snails in France less than appetizing. The snails slimy and chewy, not pleasurable as French people like to claim.


My own most memorable food experience associated with travel occurred when I was attending international school in Abu Dhabi. I refer to my eighth-grade week-long school trip to Thailand. Every day, we were given plain white rice to eat; it came with every single meal. By the end of the week, we just couldn’t face another bowl of rice! (On the rare occasions when we were served French fries, the students would attack them and within minutes they would be gone.)

However, on the last day of our trip, we were taken to a school and taught how to make chicken curry and spring rolls. Not only was it the best meal I’d had all week (which is of course not biased to the fact that I was the cook!), but I also found it so interesting to see the way these foods were made.

So maybe I would consider a cookery tour one day?

By the way, that still didn’t stop me from refusing to even consider eating rice for another month after that trip!

Pasta & pizza — perfect!

By the time this post goes up, I will be traveling in Italy, which is by far my favorite country to eat in. Pasta and pizza are two of my favorite things to eat in the world — and let’s face it, Italy does these foods better than anywhere else.

Honestly, I don’t even know how I will stop eating, but that’s a different problem.

I guess everyone needs to decide for themselves how far they are willing to travel for scrumptious or adventuresome eats. As for me, I will not be taking the train to Paris (where my dad now lives) every time I want a croissant — even if the original is truly amazing.

* * *

Readers, any thoughts on or reactions to Tiffany Lake-Haeuser’s skepticism about linking international travel to food experiences? Please put them in the comments. You can also follow what she is up to on her blog, Girl on the Run.

STAY TUNED for the Displaced Nation’s agony aunt, Mary-Sue Wallace, who will attempt to offer expat readers solace on their horrifying experiences in tomorrow’s post.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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A classic TCK dilemma: Which of my 3 heritages counts for the Olympics?

We welcome back Third Culture Kid Tiffany Lake-Haeuser to the Displaced Nation. (She last joined us during fashion month.) Born in the United States to German parents, Tiffany returned “home” to Frankfurt when she was six. But then at age 13, she moved with her family to Abu Dhabi, UAE. Now back in Frankfurt, this 16-year-old divides her time between this city and Paris, where her father currently resides. So which team(s) does Tiffany support in the Olympics? That’s the million-euro (or is it dollar?) question.

I was never really very interested in sports. This year, during the Olympics, that changed. You still won’t find me glued to the television to see all the events, but I’m definitely more interested than in the past.

Then of course, there is the somewhat confusing decision of which country to cheer for. Do I support my heritage and the country I now live in, Germany? Or do I support the country I was born in and often associate with, the USA? Well for me it was easy to decide. You see, I am extremely competitive and enjoy cheering for the country that wins, which for the most part leads to me cheering for the USA.

I watched the pre-Olympic trials for the American gymnastics team when I was in the United States visiting childhood friends earlier this summer. I was gobsmacked — not only by the amazing talent of the athletes, but also by the enthusiasm shown by the spectators.  I think that’s when I caught the Olympic bug. Suddenly I was eager to see the team compete for gold in London.

German apathy

But when I got back in Germany, there was barely any sign that the Games were fast approaching. Maybe I was just in the wrong environment, but no one was even talking about it. Even when the Games started, it felt like no one cared. The most excitement I observed was a small promotional program by a pharmacy(!). Unless I was on some social networking site, I barely ever exchanged views with anyone about what was happening at the Olympics.

While waiting for the Games to start, I did some research and found out that since the modern Olympic Games began, the USA has always been in the top three countries when it came to the number of medals won.

This history made me even more inclined to support my other “home” country. I love cheering for countries that are doing well. I love being a fan.

Go USA! Hmmm…unless it’s soccer?

As anyone who read my March interview with The Displaced Nation knows, I’m something of a fashionista. I love the idea of showing some pride for the US team by wearing red, white and blue. It may seem petty, but half the fun of watching the Olympics for a non-athlete like me is getting dressed up and painting your face in your team’s colors.

That’s something I picked up from Germany, in fact. Germans get truly pumped up for one thing: soccer. It’s our pride and joy. During the European Cup or the World Cup, Germany is transformed into a black, red and golden country. While in the USA people have flags hanging by their doors all year long, in Germany that happens only during these major soccer events.

One test of which side I was on in the Olympics came when a friend tried to bug me by saying that Germany was being beaten by his country in some sport. To be honest, I didn’t mind that much. All I could think about how well Gabby Douglas was doing in gymnastics.

Does this mean I am not proud of my German heritage? It definitely doesn’t; by the next soccer game you will see me losing my voice for cheering on Germany.

So it really isn’t that straightforward or clear. You never truly stop cheering for a country that means something to you. All you can really hope for is that the two countries’ teams never play against each other…

Go women athletes!

On a different note, I was excited to hear about how every country sent women to the Olympics this year. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I do think gender equality is important, and that a country that is sending its women athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time is taking a big step. I hope that gender equality in sports can become the new standard. Some day, perhaps, it will be considered so normal it won’t even make the headlines.

Having lived for three years in Abu Dhabi, I was particularly interested in the news about Saudi Arabian women participating in the Games. I know from experience how easy it is for us Westerners to look at Arab women wearing the hijab and think they are less liberated than we are. When I saw the Saudi women walking behind the men during the London opening ceremony, I was not surprised so much as humbled. Not everyone sees equality in the same way as we Westerners do.

Likewise, I didn’t think it was fair for the International Olympic Committee to consider banning the judo wrestler Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani from dressing according to the traditions by which she was raised.  (In the end, they compromised on a cap for her to wear instead of the hijab.) To some degree, I admire Saudi Arabia for insisting upon preserving its cultural identity and traditions in face of the influence of Westernization.

By the time the Games end on Sunday, I think my favorite part will not be about having supported a particular country. The best part, in my opinion, has been seeing the people who rise to the occasion and do phenomenally well. It sounds cheesy, but you can see in their eyes the joy and relief that all their hard work and training has finally paid off — in the moment that counted, they were able to be the best they could be.

* * *

Readers, any thoughts on or reactions to Tiffany Lake-Haeuser’s dilemma? Please put them in the comments. You can also follow what she is up to on her blog, Girl on the Run.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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CLEOPATRA FOR A DAY: Fashion & beauty diary of Third Culture Kid Tiffany Lake-Haeuser

Let’s all line up and curtsy to the 16-year-old German-American Tiffany Lake-Haeuser, who has just disembarked on the shores of The Displaced Nation. Born in New York City to German parents, this Third Culture Kid returned “home” to Germany when she was six and then at age 13, moved with her family to Abu Dhabi, UAE. Now back in Frankfurt, she divides her time between this city and Paris, where her father currently resides. Today she will play the role of Queen of the Nile and let us in on the fashion and beauty secrets she’s collected from her travels.


I’ve become a big fan of black eyeliner after living in the Middle East. (The real Cleopatra would approve!) The more conservative Arab women in Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE don’t wear eyeliner, but those who are more modern or Westernized often wear quite a lot. They all have such nice eyes and long eye lashes, so it always looks striking. Eyeliner easily takes an ordinary make-up to something special.


Living in the Middle East also taught me that eyebrow shaping helps frame the face and makes people look elegant. Even though it’s painful, I get my eyebrows done regularly.

And from my various travels, I’ve learned how important it is to take care of one’s skin and hair, especially since those are two things people notice right away when they they meet you.


My hair has been very long, but I recently had it cut to much shorter. I have pretty much done everything with my hair from long to short to all different kinds of bangs. The only thing I haven’t done is dye my hair, because I am afraid it will be damaged.


My favorite piece of clothing from my travels is not so exotic. It’s a big dark blue woolly cardigan that I bought at the Urban Outfitters in London. I love that sweater because it is so comfortable. Sometimes it can be hard to combine with an outfit, but I’ve discovered some ways I think work well.


I have never bought lingerie in any country other than my own but I would imagine South America to have nice lingerie so I would definitely keep an eye out for that if I ever travel there.


My favorite piece of jewelry is a ring my mom bought me at a market in Sharjah (the capital city of Sharjah, one of the emirate states). It has a black smooth stone and a silver frame; the stone is slightly bigger, too. I really like the fact that it doesn’t come from a store that mass produces their stuff, but instead it’s different and individual.


I am wearing a pair of black jeggings, which I recently got at the German clothing store People’s Place. In my opinion, they are flattering and you can never really go wrong with a comfy pair of skinny jeans. I am also wearing a light green sweatshirt, which is the softest piece of clothing I own (also from People’s Place), and a slightly cropped pastel-pink shirt. It’s also amazingly soft — it’s from a Roman boutique called Brandy Melville, their store in New York City. For accessories I have on a feather necklace from the Urban Outfitters in Frankfurt and a black flower ring that comes from a small jewelry store on the outskirts of Frankfurt.


I always read Glamour magazine, especially since it has so many versions: German, British, American and Australian. I like to see the differences in fashion around the globe. (British and French magazines have the most cutting-edge fashions, though.) And I read a lot of fashion blogs: for instance, Birds of a feather flock together — by Cailin Klohk, an 18-year-old half-Irish, half-German girl who lives near Frankfurt — and Snakes Nest (an American one).

Actually, I created my own blog at the end of last year as my dream now is to become a fashion journalist. It’s called Girl on the Run. I chose the name because of my many moves and travels, which makes me feel like life never stands still and I am constantly discovering new things.


Alexa Chung is very present across Europe — I think she has a beautiful and individual style. She mixes some pieces no one would think of to mix, yet they work so wonderfully together. Also, she seems to follow her own instincts instead of being a slave to current fashion trends.


I like to go to the Zeil/Hauptwache area in Frankfurt to people watch; there are so many different kinds of people and fashion-forward styles. I especially like to look at people’s bags as I have a slight obsession with bags.


From all my travels, I have learned that it is important to follow one’s own tastes and cultivate one’s own style instead of just mimicking fashion trends. There are so many beautiful ways to dress in the world, and seeing them has really opened my eyes and made me open to experimenting with what really suits me.

Tiffany Lake-Haeuser is an 11th-grade student at Frankfurt International School with an ambition to become a fashion journalist some day. For more of her fashion impressions and beauty advice, follow her blog, Girl on the Run, which she plans to update regularly now that it’s spring break!

STAY TUNED for Monday’s post, a celebration of The Displaced Nation’s one-year anniversary!

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Images: (clockwise beginning with large picture on left): Tiffany Lake-Haeuser on the balcony of her father’s apartment in Paris, sporting her shorter hairdo; applying eyeliner; her Emerati ring (a gift from her mother); and a side view of her beloved cardie from London (Urban Outfitters).

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