Dear Light Workers,
Last month I promised I am to continue in sharing TCK’s (Third Culture Kid’s) unique culture, so, I shall pick up where I left off. For readers who missed last month’s article, I recommend that you go back to the archive and read my August article first before you continue …
The intercultural flexibility and adaptability that TCKs display make non-TCKs question what the TCK’s own position is. The following comments by Sophia Morton, herself a TCK (Third Culture Kid), illustrate this“Cultural Chameleon/Onion” dilemma well:
My basic shape camouflages itself in the colours of whatever surroundings I find myself in. I am adept at playing the appropriate roles. But do I have a colour of my own apart from those I appropriate? If I cease to play any role, would I be transparent? To mix metaphors, if I peeled away the layers of the roles I adopt, would I find nothing at the centre? Am I, after all, an onion–nothing but the sum of my layers?
The question with which Morton is confronted is one of relativism. Is everything relative in the worldview of TCKs or are there certain things that hold true regardless of the transient situation? Schaetti argues that relative truth must be supplemented by “personal truth,” which, to use Morton’s metaphor, constitute the natural colour of the chameleon and the centre of the onion.
Schaetti explains that “developing, resolving and expressing a multicultural self-concept, then, requires the capacity to hold an internal rather than external point of reference for one’s identity. The capacity to do so is based upon a non-contingent, overarching, and spiritual locus of integrity.” I definitely could resonate with Morton and Schaetti’s findings.
Cultural Orientation : How TCK understand themselves in terms of cultural identity and belonging is a complex issue that evades straight forward answers.
For the purpose of this article I shall highlight some of the characteristics & values that I have in common with TCKs:
• I have challenges relating to my own ethnic group.
• I maintain a global dimension throughout my adult life.
• I find myself more tolerant of different cultures and of people of different backgrounds.
• It’s easy for me to adapt to new cultures and understand how to behave appropriately in any new environments.
• I am more inclined to seek out interpersonal relationships.
• I value cultural experiences, diving head first into the lifestyles of other people while abroad.
• Reframing “not fitting” as “third culture”, therefore provides context and a new freedom.
• I fit in the middle and that makes me unique.
• Whilst I may struggle with “belonging” and “loneliness”, the experience of straddling different cultures also lends itself to distinct strengths.
• I am not content to adhere to the party line without consideration for alternative viewpoints.
• I also value critical thinking cause I am a critical thinker.
• I am global-minded, which is an essential skill for our world today.
• As a clinical counsellor, there is no greater feeling than helping a client find a sense of security — to feel at home in their own skin.
• I do not like to be forced into piety (specifically “blind obedience”).
• My culture ( third culture ) has no geographical border, without a language, without racial or class distinction, without ethnicity.
• Accent switching makes people think I’m faking at least a few of those. In reality, it depends on the last person I just got off the phone with because truth be told, I have about three different accents for each language.
• I often slip foreign slang into my English.
• It is difficult for me to “pick a country that was my favourite” because I know each one was special to me in its own way.
• I am really good at calculating time differences.
• I dislike being asked “Where are you from?”
• My circle of friends is as politically, racially,chronologically and religiously diverse as the United Nations.
• I have friends that I physically haven’t seen in YEARS but I still consider them some of my closest friends.
• I value inclusivity, open to meeting new people and trying new experiences.
• So, when I do see my best friends from overseas, I tend to lose it a little.
• I believe I do have the most rigorous sensitivity training of all : real life.
• I get nervous whenever a form needs me to enter a “permanent address”.
• I am definitely a food snob because I’ve sampled the best and most authentic of every possible cuisine.
• I convert any price to two different currencies before making significant purchases.
• No matter how many “good-byes” I say, good-byes never get easier.
• I experience the feeling that I fit in everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
• I value radical honesty and outrageous openness & open-mindedness most.
• Last but not least, I know better than anyone else that “home” is not a place, it’s the people in it. And I look forward to seeing where my life adventure takes me next.
I believe the two influences that created my “third culture” are, first, high mobility, and second, exposure to multiple cultures.
Carpe Diem! Barbara’17]