As I prepare my interview for Kimberly Willis Holt, I think I should have a post about the theme of expatriation, and what it means for our global children, these children who accompany their parents into other cultures : the Third Culture Kids.
“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”
David C. Pollock & Ruth E. Van Reken
Third Culture Kids
Wikipedia has an interesting article about TKCs.
One statement fascinates me because I find it to be totally true: “TCKs have more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCK’s from their own country.”
My daughter’s best friend, whom I mentioned in my last post, came to visit us in France, last summer. In the TGV that was bringing her to the south of the country, they met another British family en route for their holiday destination. As the two families exchanged the usual introductory sentences, my daughter’s friend’s first question to the other children was : “So, how many countries have you lived in?” The other children looked at each other, a little puzzled. For my daughter’s friend, the question was totally spontaneous and natural. In the short 7 years of her life, she’s already lived in Australia, Singapore, India and now the UK. She was simply expressing what she knows.
My own seven-year-old has lived in New York, in Nigeria, in India, and who knows where we’ll be going next – well, hopefully, we will sometime soon. During those years, she visited France, Spain, Haiti, New York and Florida in the US, Benin, Morocco, India and Sri Lanka. She left friends in Nigeria, some who then moved to Indonesia. She has friends and family in France, Spain, Haiti and the US. She now has friends in the UK as well. And that global network of hers will continue to grow along with her. She also understands, although still reluctantly, and definitely not without pain, that her life is a lot about saying good bye. As I mentioned in my last post, even my 3-year-old knows about it, now. This also happens to be the theme of a couple of picture book manuscripts I have, sitting in slush piles here and there.
Of course, the good thing is that with the Internet, Windows Live Messenger and Skype, it is easier now than ever to keep in touch with people almost anywhere in the world. Also, studies seem to show that most TCKs do rather well in life. Still, it’s not easy, and the downsides of that life should not be disregarded, nor considered lightly.
To end on a humorous note, I found the following statements on several blogs and websites. I had to laugh, because practically all of them apply to us.
You know you are a Third Culture Kid when:
– You can’t answer the question “where are you from?”
– You speak two (or more) languages but can’t spell in them
– “Where are you from?” has more than one reasonable answer
– You feel odd being in the ethnic majority
– You have the urge to move to a new place every couple of years
– You have a time zone map next to your telephone
– You go into culture shock upon returning to your “home” country
– You flew before you could walk
– You have a passport, but no driver’s license
– You speak with authority on the quality of airline travel
– Your life story uses the phrase “Then we went to…” five times or more
– You don’t know where home is
– You run into someone you know at every airport
– You sort your friends by continent
– Your dorm room/apartment/living room looks a little like a museum with all the “exotic” things you have around.
– You automatically take off your shoes as soon as you get home
– National Geographic (OR THE TRAVEL CHANNEL) makes you homesick.
– Your second major is in a foreign language you already speak
– You feel that multiple passports would be appropriate.
– You go to Pizza Hut or Wendy’s and you wonder why there’s no chili sauce
– Your high school memories include those days that school was cancelled due to tear gas, riots, demonstrations, or bomb threats.
– Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you.
– You know the geography of the rest of the world, but you don’t know the geography of your own country.
– You realize it really is a small world, after all.