Ask a *Third Culture Kid (TCK) where he/she is from, and watch most of them stumble over the answer. The TCK wonders, do you mean where I was born? The country of my passport? Where I live now? Where I used to live? Where my parents live? The place where I feel I most belong? And so the confusion begins!
On my recent trip to Utah, I met hundreds of new people. And 99% of each new conversation started with two questions: “What’s your name? Where are you from?” To tell you the truth, even I got tired of answering it. I started wondering to myself again – do you want the long answer or the short answer? Do I like you enough to tell you my whole life story? Or do you like me well enough to want to listen to it?
This question is the reason why so many TCKs have some identify confusion. It’s just complicated, and my personal opinion is that the answer needs to be rehearsed so that various versions are ready for different occasions.
But when TCKs get around other TCKs, the mood changes. All of the sudden it’s fun to compare notes! I was reminded of this yesterday when I was on the set of Dubai One television to tape an interview about TCKs for the show, “Twenty Something”. I met someone in the lobby of the studio who had a Swiss and Indonesian parent. We instantly had a connection. The presenter was born and raised in Dubai, but her parents were from Karala, India. Another staff member has Lebanese and Jordanian parents, but was raised in London. The staff person attending me is from the Philippines and her son is being raised in Dubai. The next guest interviewed, a celebrity hairdresser from Los Angeles, spoke of his multi-cultural background before his parents immigrated to the United States during his interview for the show. Everyone I spoke to had a mixed heritage from a multitude of cultures. Since the topic of the show was to talk about Third Culture Kids, everyone was in the mood to share bits of their own life stories. In that setting and situation, it was fun! And why? because we were with our own “tribe” of other people who understand what it means to have a very international life. Even though I’m an adult now, the same rules that apply for TCKs also apply to me….We don’t belong anywhere 100% – and yet we seem to fit in everywhere. Rootlessness and restlessness. Home is everywhere and nowhere. These are a few ways many TCKs define themselves.
Would you agree? What has been your experience, or that of your children’s, when it comes to roots, identity, and sense of belonging?
Feel free to comment – and if you get satellite TV, watch the interview about TCKs on Dubai One next Monday, April 19 at 8 pm, Tuesday at 3 pm, and Friday at 7 pm!
*A Third Culture Kid is someone who has spent a significant amount of their developmental years outside their parents own culture. The TCK builds relationships to all cultures while not having full ownership in any. Although elements of each culture is assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, a sense of belonging is in relationship to others of a similar background. – definition from David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken’s book, Third Culture Kids, The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds.