I turned 18 earlier this week 😀 Hooray! Anyway, one of my friends gave me an awesome card so I copied the design onto my wardrobe.
So maybe you are a third culture kid. Maybe you’re friends with one – or several (lucky you 😉 ). Maybe you just want to know a little bit more about them. Whatever the case, here are a few facts which will help you along your path to enlightenment.
1) We don’t live in mud huts or in trees. Not for long anyway. It’s Mowgli you’re thinking of.
(we don’t befriend and talk to man-eaters either)
2) We’ve almost definitely never seen, let alone hunted, lions, tigers, rhinos etc in the wild. If we had we’d be dead. We find food the same way everyone else does – by opening the fridge.
3) We don’t speak “African” – there is no such language. Further breaking news reveals Africa is not a country.
The “country” of Africa. I have nothing more to say.
4) We have absolutely no idea how to truthfully answer the question “Where are you from?” There are several way we could answer it and most of the time we just choose the most convenient one. For example if a British person were to notice my accent, simply to avoid a conversation about where I’m from I would say America. I’ve never been to America in my life, but to British people, my accent is American. The same would work the other way around and I would tell an American that I’m from England.
Yes, now that I say it it doesn’t make much sense to me either.
5) Toilets and televisions are both quite common in Africa. Instead, things we may not have had include good cable tv, western food and 24/7 electricity.
Yes, we don’t even have your friendly, local one way to obesity stop.
6) Not all African children look like this.
(that isn’t me playing down starvation though – it’s still a serious problem. I’m just pointing out that there are starving kids in Europe and the US as well)
7) Please don’t ask us whether it feels good to be “home”. We don’t know. We’re probably quite happy to be here… but we’d be happy to be anywhere else as well. Then there’s the word home, which is another thing TCKs (third culture kids) aren’t always confident about. Ask us what music we like instead. That one’s easy.
So here’s my first post ever – all about my life (not as boring as it sounds. Honestly)
I was born in Essex, England but my family didn’t stay there long – come to think of it we’ve never stayed anywhere very long. My first move (and no I don’t remember it; I was still in diapers) was to Belgium. It’s funny the things you DO remember though – I don’t remember learning to walk or read (which seem like pretty important things now obviously), but I do remember a giant Tellytubby (the purple one – Tinkywinky I think, my Tellytubby knowledge is a little rusty) outside the door of the nursery I went to… go figure. My sister was born in Belgium too (yes that was less important than the Tellytubby story). After a short trip back to England, my parents were off to Africa. I followed. We settled down in the Ivory Coast where I was sent to a local french school (incidentally, another of my memories from this time is falling into a rice field on the back of my dad’s bike).
(no this isn’t the same rice field – it felt a lot deeper than this when I fell in but I was probably just flapping around at knee height)
Then, in 2002 we were evacuated – about time really as we could hear gunshots from our house. Leaving Ivory Coast behind (and taking only one bag with me – filled with essentials like action man and select legos), we travelled to Mali where I was introduced to the American schooling system. It’s some crazy stuff – I apologise to any Americans reading this but you can score over 100%. Over 100%! I’m pretty sure that’s not even mathematically possible. Other than that I spent most of my time in Mali at the SIL centre; basically its where the TCK parents worked and where we hung out, playing football and Age of Empires and other equally awesome stuff. No I did not live in a mud hut. After a year of this, my parents decided it would be ridiculous to let me and my sister settle down too much so we went back to England for a year. Then we returned. Then we went back to England. Then we returned. I think I’m about 12 at this point. The American school system being the confusing thing it is, my parents sent me to another french school. Oh yay. I don’t have the time or the space here to expand on the horrors of french school (maybe some other time). For those of you who’ve been through it, my commiserations. Suffice to say while it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done, I didn’t enjoy it much. Another random memory – locking myself in a toilet cubicle and climbing out over the top, sadly before climbing out I threw my bag over the side… where it landed in the toilet in the next cubicle. Two years of french school was a “character building” experience but I couldn’t take it any more.
(Calvin and Hobbes – the best comic ever?)
The next move we made was actually sort of my decision! We went to a boarding school in Senegal – BCS. This is the best place I’ve ever been (see how great it is when I pick where we go next parents? No evacuations at all). In two years, the second year in particular, I made some of the best and closest friends I’ve ever had (and letting people get close when you move around that much isn’t always easy). Boarding school is a great experience and I would recommend it for everybody. I took my IGCSEs and we moved back to England (it gets tiring doesn’t it?). Talk about culture shock. I flipped. The last time I had been schooled in England or even a first world country was when I was 10 or 11. It was a different world. I will never be able to describe it to anyone but for an entire year of A levels I hardly made any friends and struggled to fit in. Clothes are different, music is different, transport is different, teaching is different… but most of all people are different (the film Mean Girls is a little bit how I felt). It’s the little things that really make you feel out of place though – just as one example out of hundreds; I had no idea how to get a bus to stop. The red button looked like an emergency stop button to me. These aren’t even the sort of things you can just ask people either – you get the “are you retarded?” look from everyone who hears the question. Things have gotten much better though. Two years into my life in England and I feel much more confident that I can blend in. I have some awesome friends here and feel less freakish every day. I just recently finished A-levels and am having a minor breakdown over my University course (which I’m trying to change at the last minute, yay)
And that’s pretty much my life to date. Just for anyone who felt like they related to anything I said or has been through anything similar – I’d love to hear your story. Please, please comment with a thought or advice or a question (which I promise to do my best to answer).