August 21, 2008

Third Culture Kid

I’m not a huge fan of categorization, as I have never quit fit any label. I have never belonged to any ethnic club or community, simply because, aside from my sister, I didn’t know anyone in my Munich neighborhood with a French father and a Filipina mother. Vaguely you could say I’m Eurasian, or Mestiza as they say here, but where does my German heritage fit in? Is ethnicity limited to the blood in my veins? Aside from me being me, I like to think of myself as a cosmopolite, a global nomad, a world citizen. Those labels are ambiguous and malleable. A few months ago, I heard about the term Third Culture Kid (TCK)– someone who as a child has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture. Typically TCKs are multilingual and highly tolerant of other cultures, however they also lack the sense of where home is. Only knowing bits and pieces of each culture, leaves them with a feeling of being incomplete. OMG, this just sounds all too familiar. After further research, I realized that I even "qualify" as a Fourth Culture Kid; my culture being shaped through the ones of both my parents and my environment. Here is a selection of “You know you are a TCK when…” that I found spot-on:

- “Where are you from?” has more than one reasonable answer

- You flew before you could walk

- You feel odd being in the ethnic majority

- You go into culture shock upon returning to your “home” country?

- You wince when people mispronounce foreign words

- You don’t know whether to write the date as day/month/year, month/day/year, or some variation thereof

- The best word for something is the word you learned first, regardless of the language

- Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you

- You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball

- You consider a city 500 miles away “very close”

- You cruise the Internet looking for fonts that can support foreign alphabets

- You think in the metric system and Celsius

- Your minor is a foreign language you already speak?

- When asked a question in a certain language, you’ve absentmindedly respond in a different one

- You speak with authority on the subject of airline travel

- You know how to pack

- You have the urge to move to a new country every couple of years?

- The thought of sending your (hypothetical) kids to public school scares you, while the thought of letting them fly alone doesn’t at all

For more on TCK check out

1 comment:

cd said...

Took the test! Turns out I'm a TCK too! =)


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