The Third Culture Syndrome

A collection of thoughts and ideas of what it means to be a THIRD CULTURE KID and its impact on my life.
Hopefully, a place where other TCKs can find a familiar voice and others can understand us a little better

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A Jumble of Ideas

I think it is time I explain why I have picked this particular layout for my tumblr. It may seem an irrelevant and boring topic but to me this jumble of posts, notes and images makes absolute sense.

First of all, it looks like my desk which is a mess of different bits of papers, notepads and post-its above which tower a pinboard about to collapse and a whiteboard covered in writing. This is the only way I keep track of everything that goes on in my life: my academic work, my workout, housework, job applications and various projects. I love the feeling of being busy.

Secondly, this replicates the way a TCK’s life feels: a load of disjointed moments, places, people, memories. It is so difficult to put them all in categories or to order them in any way. For example, the place I was born in is not the place I live in which in turn is not the place my parents come from or the place where I grew up. In terms of people, ordering them by place says nothing about the amount of love I bare them or how well they know me. In my head all the parts of me are a web of cue cards which I shuffle and re-shuffle whenever I need access to something. So this layout perfectly visualises this.

Finally, it takes the idea of linearity out of the equation. My life happens in multiple places at the same time. I am in contact daily with different people, in different places and have multiple things going on. I just dip in and out of them. A blog that just follows life day by day, one thing at a time, is just not a realistic approach to my life or to my friends’ life who are equally scattered and multitasking. I think it is becoming the hallmark of the new generation: multiple existences.

So, yes, it might be confusing and messy at first approach but it also looks so much more alive, teeming with energy and a wealthy of undiscovered information. The sense of possibilities, abundance (ok,maybe not quite there yet in terms of number of posts…), and excitement is something I can identify with better.

Permalink A Sense of Occasion
This is what my kitchen table looked like today. All decked out and ready to celebrate the Royal Diamond Jubilee!
Beyond the tasty cakes and smooth clotted cream, I suddenly found myself wondering why I had invested so much time and energy in prepping for a holiday celebrating the monarch and values of another country.
As an individual I embrace every public and fun holiday that crosses my path: pumpkin pie, candy and dressing up for Halloween, Christmas trees and festive dinners for Christmas, fancy dinners for New Year’s Eve with foie gras and champagne,…
There is not a holiday or occasion I have met and not liked. I do not discriminate based on religion or country. Today, I was so struck by this pattern that I had to think a little about it.
As a TCK, national occasions are both a reminder of any shred of national pride I might have or a process of understanding and assimilating a culture. That is no different to any other person, but what makes it odd is that this approach applies to all cultures: my parent’s country, the country I live in, the nationality my passport shows…
It doesn’t matter which country I am in or which country I feel closer to, all holidays, whether they are ‘my’ holidays or foreign occasions, are opportunities to celebrate, take part in traditions and, above all, feel a sense of unity and belonging.
So, here I am, celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, regardless of my nationality or my opinions on monarchy. Not because I feel British but because I want to explore what it feels like to be British, what it feels like to swell with pride and joy at the sight of the Queen or the first notes of Jupiter. But I feel the same joy when cheering the Greek national team at the Euro, hearing the Marseillaise, or introducing my friends to my favourite childhood dish.
When you grow up moving constantly, you learn to partake in all celebrations, enjoy everyone’s traditions and share their joy.
When you are searching for an identity, each holiday is a new identity: Greek, French, British, American…Does it matter what a passport or birth certificate say? It is what you feel.
When you belong to no culture, you belong to all culture and all holidays can have a meaning. To me, they mean joy, fun, enjoyment and the sense of being part of something I have chosen, something that makes sense to me without being restricted by borders or nationalities. I find it liberating.
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Permalink I Know Nothing About Brussels
If you look at my birth certificate, you will see that I was born in Brussels.
I prefer ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ way of doing things and chose to believe I came out of a suitcase or a cardboard box my parents were unpacking after another move to yet another house. A kind of ‘this shouldn’t have been in the kitchen towels box’ moment. In a way, it makes a lot more sense for me to have been brought into the world that way than being eligible for the Belgian nationality.
Now, I have nothing against Belgium, or Belgians, or mussels and fries as a culinary combination. But I also do not have some sort of intense yearning or connection to the land of pralines. It is just a place.
I have gone back a couple of times and have very much enjoyed the beautiful city of Bruges. Nevertheless, there is no part of me that feels…well, Belgian. Which is why I am always very surprised when asked why I never thought of taking up the dual nationality. I wouldn’tmindhaving an extra passport…but,…why would Belgium even want a citizen that feels so disconnect to it she imagines she was born in a suitcase?
What this rambling post is trying to establish is that we have entered an age in which where you were born says very little about you. We are finally acknowledging that people are a sum of places and memories and experiences. Third Culture Kids are the very essence of this combination, because our experiences are so distinct one from another and we can more easily point to the elements which make up our identity.
So, do not be daunted to look at your passport(s) and admit that this label does not summarize you. Just cherish the fact it is one of the many parts of you. This opportunity which has been given to us, to exceed borders, belong to more than one place and to a generation that is making the ‘term’ global its central attribute, is an incredible chance. Relish it!