Ever been in a situation which required you to “adapt” to a specific language slang, take interest in a topic that is specific to a culture and just felt…completely disconnected while doing it effortlessly? When you’re a person made up of different culture, you’re never fully “one culture” and it’s not because you are able to keep up in culturally-specific conversations or share knowledge that it’s really “you”.
Sometimes, I contemplate those proud citizens from a specific place with envy. I wish I had that singular identity to always go back to, that stability and guiding principle which holds you through the countless experiences life brings. At the end of it all, it’s pretty clear cut. There’s no “in-between” or “grey area”, which comes in handy during our individual (and always evolving) quest of self-actualisation.
You can then argue that the grass is always greener on the other side. Perhaps a third culture kid can also be seen as a big canvas with an infinite range colours and patterns. Offering a spectrum of possibilities and perspectives. A canvas which you continually splatter paint on, an organised chaos of sorts which constantly aims to paint a singular picture.
But see, that’s the thing. You’ll never have a “full” picture, you’ll have bits and pieces of the various cultures. Quirks, mannerism, preferences.
Third culture kids are like a carefully crafted floral arrangement.
And there’s beauty in that too. As Stephen Hawking said: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change” and third culture kids have a higher tolerance to change, only because that’s something their environment demanded of them.
On the other hand (and thankfully!), globalisation has led to more “global citizens” and the multitude of cultures the world can offer is now more available. Third culture kids aren’t seen as “different” in a world that is growing to become more “global”, in all aspects. While that is a reassuring thought, we do also see an increase in fear of cultures become “diluted” and that fear can go down many routes, some of which aren’t as reassuring.
I sure hope the notion of global citizenship continues to grow as there is so much beauty and meaning in recognising and celebrating cultures, beyond geographical or political borders. And I believe third culture kids and adults are key to driving this concept further, albeit the pain points this can bring.