Neither here nor there: Third Culture Kids
The term TCK makes me slightly giddy. I know now that there is enough of us to warrant a specific label.
Countries: India, Romania, Italy, China, USA
It was junior year of my high school, in Rome, Italy. I was sitting with my friends at lunch, when someone asked me “So Gopika, what does it feel like to be a TCK?” That was a term I had never heard before. “ TCK? Whats that, how is that me?” My friend explained the term TCK to me , and yet I didn’t think I fell under that category, I was Indian, that’s what my passport said too. “ But is India, home for you? Is India your permanent address” That’s when I realised, that India was my home country, but it wasn't home. It had not been home since I was 9. Home was where my family was, and right now home was Rome.
Yes I visit India, but I go back as a visitor, never as a resident. I was a foreigner in my own country, but I was also a foreigner in the country I called home. So where was I not a foreigner, where was home?
I grew up with four languages, in three cultures and between two countries.
Countries: Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, USA
Where is home?
I’ve learned to accept every home as temporary. Every place I’ve lived has given me a sense of home so it’s hard to pinpoint a set location.
I’ve been exposed to a multitude of cultures. Singapore is a melting pot that has a mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian descent locals as well as a mix of foreigners/expats. I found myself celebrating holidays like Chinese New Year and going to Buddhist temples among other things because of the location I was in.
The first time I started flying alone was at age 10. I flew four times a year, for 8 years.
Countries: USA, Kenya, Guinea, Australia, Senegal, Mali
“I’ve always liked meeting new people, but there’s one thing about it that I hate. People always end up asking me where I’m from and I hate that question, because honestly, I don’t know! Most people want a one word answer, like “I’m from the U.S, or Canada or whatever.” But for me it’s so much more complicated. It takes much longer than 10 seconds for me to explain that I was born in Virginia, but at six weeks my mom moved us to Guinea, and then Michigan, where my brother was born, and then we moved back to Guinea. After Guinea, we moved to Mali, Senegal, Wisconsin, Australia, Kenya, and finally South Hadley. So honestly I don’t know where I’m from…”
I remember stepping in an airport after a 1 year hiatus. It was like going home…well to one of my homes.
Countries: Pakistan and China
“Home for me is anywhere where my family is, especially where my parents are. So now I would call Pakistan home too because they’re living there. That’s why in the summer I went back to Islamabad for a couple of weeks. I think I would probably not have been back if there weren’t there. But one day when they don’t live there, I would still have a close association with the place because of the amount of memory I had over there as a teenager. So now China and Pakistan for me”
During my first year at college, I realised that it was my first time staying in one place for longer than 6 months. I hadn’t done that since I was 5.
Countries: India, Cyprus, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia
Where are you from?
I’m from India. If you asked me this question 5 years ago, I’d say I’m from Cyprus. And then around 9th grade I started saying yea I’m Indian.
I’ve lived in Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Cyprus.
Guess my accent. Go. That’s always a fun game.
Countries: Nepal and New Zealand
How was it going back to your home after living abroad ?
It was very overwhelming. I felt like a kuire (foreigner) because I was so amused with everything at first.
In New Zealand, I was mostly surrounded by locals so I always remained a foreigner. As the years progressed I fit in a lot better than I did at the start. In Nepal, people think I am a foreigner in many places, especially because I wear clothes from Thamel (Nepali market) which is ironic because those are made in Nepal. And I had problems at work initially because some people thought I spoke Nepali weirdly or they thought I had an accent”
I don’t consider myself any nationality. Instead, I have learned to embrace culture.
Countries: Pakistan and Dubai
What do people say when they learn where you are from?
“I tell them I’m from Pakistan and they ask me which city and I say Karachi and then they ask me which school but then I say I went to school in Dubai and was born and raised there and they say I’m not from Pakistan”
Every place I have lived in has contributed to the person I have become.
Countries: France, Singapore, Hong Kong, China
Do people accept you as Chinese/French/ Singaporean?
Not those from the mainland (those having grown up in France). I’m a watered down version and I can’t escape that anywhere, and definitely not in Chinese/ Singaporean culture either. You can’t be complete in any identity, so for Full-french people I definitely don’t fit the bill and will be treated as an immigrant, imposter or fraud (for lack of a better word, I’ve actually had people tell me in both ways “you’re not truly french anyway” or not “enough”’ and as a local from Singapore I’m still not the typical national).
I can curse in 5 different languages. Over time you realise that people are sometimes apprehensive about teaching you their language, but curse words, that’s an exception.
Tsewang Dhoenkyi Sadutshang
Countries: Nepal, India, Tibet
What surprises people the most about you?
That I never really learnt the 4 languages I know in a classroom setting. I’ve always been surrounded by people/ circumstances where Tibetan/ English/ Nepali/ Hindi are spoken and it just caught on.
When I went to Australia, they said I sounded American and in America, they say I sound British.
Countries: India, Bangladesh, USA, England
People always assume I’m American and when they see me change my accent, they just look at me funny.
I don’t even know I change accents. It just happens unintentionally.
I was born in India. Moved to Bangladesh when I was 6 months old. Lived there for 3 years. Moved back to India and lived there for 3 years. Moved to England and lived there for 4 years. Moved back to India and lived there for 5 years and then moved to New York.
I remember going to a multicultural event where I could tell where people were from based on their traditional clothes and the language they spoke. I didn’t know that was a skill until a friend pointed it out.
Countries: India, UK, Singapore, Israel, France
Being multicultural is a boon almost because, you can associate with anyone from any part of the world even to a small extent. Your comfort zone is so big now because you keep testing its boundaries. And you look forward to every adventure life is going to throw at you as an opportunity to expand my horizons.