Confessions of a Third Culture Individual
My whole life had to fit into two suitcases at any given time. The words “pack up, we’re moving to...” was never a surprise. I was, and still am, in a perpetual state of “the grey space”. Home is not tied down to one location, nor is it my passport country. Home moves within me, with the people around me, and in my spirit. There’s no such thing as a “permanent address”. I am a global nomad, just like my mother, father, and generations of family members before me. I am a citizen of the world. I am a Third Culture Individual.
The term Third Culture Kid (TCK) or Third Culture Individual (TCI) is a term used to refer to people raised in a culture other than their parents’. We are people exposed to multifarious cultural influences and can be referred to as cultural hybrids or cultural chameleons. TCIs are particularly good at building relationships with other cultures while having no clear ownership of any one culture. We take pieces of the cultures we like and form our own personal culture and identity that never seems to “match up” with the rest of the world.
As a TCI, you spend a lot of time as an “outsider” looking in and observing the behavior of others. We often see things that other people don't see.
We’re used to getting a lot of peculiar and awkward questions about our background or past. We can curse and say “I love you” in five different languages. Our accents change depending on who we’re talking to, which throws some people off.
We have an international group of friends we call family and can identify where they live on a map of the globe. We start to get birthday wishes several hours ahead of our actual birth date and spend a lot of time hanging out with our friends and family online. We’re the token exotic friend in our non-TCI circles.
We’ve blown through six passports in our lives and are sick of hearing the question “Where are you from?” We run into our grade school friends in unexpected countries at unexpected times and are more comfortable in airports than most places. Jet lag just isn’t a thing anymore.
People with strongly rooted locations often feel pity for us, but there's nothing to feel sorry about. We've had the most intense sensitivity training there is and are super adaptable to change. Not to mention, we have exceptional intercultural communication skills, high levels of emotional intelligence and a diplomatic approach to most things.
A lot of people we meet think the world is big and we think it’s small. We are well-informed and very opinionated about U.N. events and the I.B. school system (luckily it didn’t kill us).
Saying goodbye to people we love is never easy, and the flow of new people is always super exciting!
We feel incredibly grateful to have memories from all around the world, and we can’t wait to see where our next adventure takes us!