Third Culture Kid: Where are you from, really?
When someone asks: “where are you from?”
I reply “do you mean where was I born, where did I grow up, where do I live now or where do I call home?”
They don’t usually want the whole story so I’ve abbreviated it to “I was born in the USA, brought up in India and have spent most of my adult life in the UK”. We did move between USA, India, and UK, so I guess I am what they call a “third culture kid”.
What’s a third culture kid?
Wikipedia, that fount of wisdom, defines Third Culture Kids as
children raised in a culture other than their parents’ (or the culture of the country given on the child’s passport,TCKs move between cultures before they have had the opportunity to fully develop their personal and cultural identity.
Marathi was my first language, but I learned to read and write in English. I graduated with an American High School Diploma from a school in India and went to a UK university. When I was young I saw it as a disadvantage to be raised in a different culture to that surrounding you. I felt an outsider in all the cultures and countries and tried desperately to fit in, adapting my accent, my clothes and my personality to try and fit where I was.
Advantage or disadvantage?
When I was young I saw it as a disadvantage to be raised in two different cultures. I felt an outsider in all the cultures and countries. I tried desperately to fit in, adapting my accent, my clothes and my personality to try and be like everyone else.
Imagine a chameleon being moved from tartan to paisley to chintz to gingham in rapid succession.
Fortunately, with age comes the realisation that everyone at some time is an outsider and feels they don’t belong. The “curse of being a third culture kid” gave me insights into the fact that actually, people have a lot more in common than they have differences. Smiles translate, people opened their hearts and homes to me. Being an outsider helps you appreciate the good things in the different cultures and makes you less judgmental, more open to new ideas, to pick and mix what suits.
You discover you can make poppadums in a microwave, that naan tastes good with chilli. Shared food and shared experiences transcend culture.
So what do I do?
I guess even with my career, it’s been a bit of a pick and mix. It started off with a degree in Social Admin, then segued into nursing and midwifery. I joined the Army and spent most of my two years there working in Special Care Baby Unit (yes really). On coming out, I got a job as a researcher at the University of Surrey. There I discovered the thrill of investigating and working out problems, as well as a knack for persuading people to fill in questionnaires.
When my husband decided to buy a business, I found that researching had honed my persuasive skills. sales seemed easy compared to getting questionnaires completed. Managing and developing staff led me into consulting when we sold the business. I managed several charities, making them financially viable without losing their souls.As a manager in the private sector, I taught people to be self-reliant and brought out the best in them. (Why I have this passion for making myself redundant I’m not sure).
I trained as a business coach and a personal professional coach and found my ideal job. Becoming an accredited civil and commercial mediator was a natural extension of this. In both roles, I help people to create their own solutions. It’s a constant challenge and requires continual practice, yet is so rewarding when you see the light dawn on someone’s face.
I find people fascinating and learn so much from the people I meet. It’s great to have a job that you love. It’s great to share food and traditions with people. I love learning about others value and lives.
As Lao Tse says
“There is no need to run outside for better seeing, not to peer from a window. Rather abide at the centre of your being. For the more you leave it, the less you learn. Search your heart and see, the way to do is to be.”