Saturday, May 05, 2007

Third Culture Kids

I recently came across the phrase "Third Culture Kids" (AKA Trans-Cultural Kids or abbreviated to TCK) while surfing the net at Facebook and Wikipedia. For those not in the know, here is a definition from TCK World:

"A TCK is an individual who, having spent a significant part of the developmental years in a culture other than that of their parents, develops a sense of relationship to both. These children of business executives, soldiers and sailors, diplomats, and missionaries who live abroad, become "culture-blended" persons who often contribute in unique and creative ways to society as a whole."
It is something I totally identify with, having grown up on three different countries in three different continents before I was even eighteen years old. My brother is an even more TCK than me (if there were levels). He can claim passports in three different countries and has lived in FOUR different countries in FOUR different continents before he is twenty five years old. Beat that!

I'm actually thankful that I grew up as a TCK. Without it my perspective would be narrowed and I would be very naive. That said, it has been studied that depression and suicide are more common in TCKs.

There are also lists about attributes of TCKs, which I have reproduced and modified slightly (to be slightly more universal):

Regarding your home country

  • You can't answer the question, "Where are you from?" without having to tell your life story.
  • You honestly don't have a hometown - you have several.
  • Your life story uses the phrase, "Then we moved to..." several times.
  • If talking to somebody else about your childhood, you are frequently asked, "What did you parents do for a living?" (and if it is an American, "Where you parents in the military?")
  • You are tired of people asking, "Where is that?" when you say where you have lived or where your home country is.
  • You know that your home country is not the only country in the world.
  • You go into culture shock when you return to your "home" country or had to re-learn your own culture after spending years overseas.
  • You know the geography of the rest of the world, but you don't know the geography of your own country.
  • You and your siblings were born in different countries.
Regarding language
  • You speak two (or more) languages in addition to English but can’t write well in any of them.
  • You can swear in more than one language.
  • You have to explain to everyone why you speak English fluently, even though you grew up elsewhere.
  • Your yearbook had more than one language in it.
  • The best word for something is the word you learned first, regardless of the language.
  • Conversations with close friends often descend into using two (or more) languages.
  • You wince when people mispronounce foreign words.
  • Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you.
  • Your accent slides all over the English scale.
  • You can mimic other foreign accents quite easily.
  • You cruise the Internet looking for fonts that can support foreign alphabets.
  • You know what expat (expatriate) and IB (International Baccalaureate) mean.

Regarding culture

  • You feel odd being in the ethnic majority in at least one country.
  • You think in the metric system and Celsius, but also have learned to think in feet and miles as well.
  • You will never ever learn to think in Fahrenheit, because it sucks
  • You don't know whether to write the date as day/month/year or month/day/year
  • You know to use the term “soccer” when speaking with Americans and “football” when speaking to everybody else.
  • You have played both American and world sports and follow at least one team from America and one team elsewhere in the world.
  • Rain on a tile patio - or a corrugated metal roof - is one of the most wonderful sounds in the world.
  • American culture is either foreign and fascinating to you or it bores you to death.

Regarding daily life

  • When something unusual happens,it doesn't seem to phase you as being something out of the ordinary
  • You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price.
  • Your blood is not eligible for donation.
  • You bring tissue paper when ever you had to use a public lavatory.
  • You read the international news before the local news and the comics.
  • You automatically take off your shoes as soon as you get home.
  • Your dorm room/apartment/living room looks like a museum with all the "exotic" things you have around.
  • You never really use a seatbelt.
  • You start to keep your experiences overseas to yourself because people look at you as though you are spoiled for having the opportunity to indulge in a new culture.
  • People love your "accent" or make fun of it.

Regarding growing up

  • You got to go home three times a year.
  • You don't feel at home at home anymore
  • You start introducing yourself followed by your country of origin.
  • You have little or no contact with he locals but are best friends with people across the globe You had a domestic helper (and probably a driver) in your childhood.
  • You live at school, work in the tropics, and go home for vacation.
  • Your wardrobe can only handle two seasons - wet and dry.
  • It wasn't unusual to find a lizard or cockroach in your house.
  • You regularly made long distance calls as much as local calls.
  • You never had a job until you reached college

Regarding technology

  • You use MSN/ICQ because you know it's cooler than AIM (and the rest of the world uses it).
  • You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, 50 and 60 cycle current, and realize that a transformer isn't always enough to make your appliances work.
  • You fried a number of appliances during the learning process.
  • You’re address & phone book is actually an email & mobile phone book.
  • Everybody had a mobile phone when they entered school (and I don’t just mean high school).

Regarding entertainment

  • You have watched TV programmes from at least three different countries dubbed into different languages and don't find this strange at all.
  • You watch a movie set in a 'foreign country' and you know what the nationals are really saying into the camera.
  • When a film is set in a ‘foreign’ country, you automatically know when the actors, language and setting they are using are not from that country.
  • Your music is in three different languages and from three different countries.
  • You frequently buy pirated computer games, video games, movies and music.
  • When you return home, you watch all the local TV channels, no matter how crap the programs are.
  • You constantly feel like you have to catch up with TV programs, actors and other people or songs you are not familiar with
  • You hate the subtitles to movies and TV programs because you know they translate them incorrectly.
  • You miss the subtitles when you see the latest movie.
Regarding school and friends
  • You’re friends come from four different continents and at least ten different countries.
  • You spent your high school years in bars and pubs without having to show some identification.
  • Your minor or alternative major at university is a foreign language you already speak or you did A Levels/GCSEs of your own language before anybody else did their A Levels/GCSEs.
  • You've gotten out of school because of monsoons, bomb threats, and/or popular demonstrations.
  • Your class trips entailed going to a foreign country.
  • When in (boarding) school, you can only call your parents at 8am and 8pm.
  • You frequently bumped into your old school teachers.
  • When other students complain about wanting to go home and they live in the next state or next town you laugh out loud or to yourself.
  • Talking to your school office and getting signatures from your parents must be planned in advance.
  • You think that high school reunions are all but impossible
  • You don't think it’s strange that you haven't talked to your best friend in a while because you know you will always have a unique bond.
  • You've dated people from other countries
  • You are afraid to go back to visit your school because you know no one will be there that you used to know, they all moved.
  • The tuition that you pay in one quarter/term/semester is equivalent to what your fellow schoolmates pay in a WHOLE YEAR!

Regarding food

  • You go to any restaurant and have to put lots of chilli sauce on your food or wonder why there is no chilli sauce or soy sauce available.
  • You can name the ingredients in any 'foreign' dish.
  • You will or have eaten any kind of foreign dish, no matter how nasty looking or disgusting it sound.
  • Initially you did get food poisoning when eating foreign dishes but no longer get diarrhoea when you eat any kind of foreign dish.
  • You complain about the quality of rice they serve at school
  • You miss the cheap and delicious food from home.

Regarding travel

  • You actually physically owned a passport before you were 18 years old.
  • You own a foreign passport or more than one passport.
  • You had pages added to your passport.
  • You actually use two passports – one to get into your home country and one to get into your country where your school is.
  • Your passport has more stamps than a post office
  • You flew on an airplane before you could walk.
  • You can speak with authority on the quality of international airline travel.
  • You know nothing is worth buying in airports, apart from duty free.
  • You had frequent flyer miles when you were in high school.
  • You have frequent flyer accounts on multiple airlines.
  • You think VISA is a document stamped in your passport, and not a credit card you carry in your wallet.
  • You run into someone you know at every airport.
  • You know how to pack properly.
  • You can live out of a suitcase with ease.
  • When you return home, half the stuff in your suitcase is for people at home.
  • When you return to school, half the stuff is from your home country which is expensive/unavailable at school.
  • The thought of sending your (hypothetical) kids to public school scares you, while the thought of letting them fly alone doesn't at all.
  • You know the exchange rate for several different currencies off by heart.
  • You know the time zones for some of the major cities around the world.
  • It takes you a day to reach home in a plane.
  • You consider a city 500 miles away "very close."
  • You've read National Geographic and recognized someone or feel very homesick.
  • Whenever you watch a travel show, half the places are locations you have been to and the other half is where your friends come from.
  • Once you get home you miss your adopted home and visa versa
  • You wake up in one country thinking you are in another

Last of all…

  • You're spoilt. You know it. You're VERY spoilt.
  • You realize what a small world it is, after all.

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