On my flight over, the guy sitting next to me asked me if I lived in Belfast. I told him that I was just there for the weekend to see my sister. She had just recently moved there for work. He asked me if I was American, the eternal misleading accent! So I explained my story about my parents being French/Belgian but going to international schools throughout my childhood (the TCK story). He had a look of astonishment. It’s funny that I always try to make it sound as normal and as simple as possible. Also, to make sure they know, I’m not trying to sound pompous when I list the countries I have lived in. And yet, it always causes the same reaction! Disbelief.
I still had to use my crutches on the plane (for the torn ankle ligament), and this is when I found out how incredibly helpful and lovely people are here. He first offered to take them out of the overhead compartment. Which, by the way, I could never have reached on my own! They force you to put them in there, but then it’s impossible with an injured foot to get them back! He then went out of his way to show me where there was a secret lift in the airport. This saved me 3 flights of stairs in my walking cast! He then asked me if he could help with anything else. I was so impressed. I know this is silly, but I find that in larger and busier cities, people simply don’t have the time for this.
And this happened the whole weekend! And most of it had nothing to do with my injury. When my sister and I asked for stamps in a convenience store, the girl at the counter went out of her way to call up her mum, who ran the business, to find the right stamps. When we sat for dinner at an Indian restaurant on Friday night, the level of attention and friendliness we had from the waiters was over the top and made us feel really welcome. And this kept going throughout my stay in Belfast. Everyone had the time to offer their help when we looked confused. Everyone was overly friendly. When we went to a cafe. In the mall. Downtown. They just had this warmth to them. And of course, it could have been a one-off. But having lived in London for four years, I just know you don’t get the same level of attention. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love London. And I think, on the whole, people are great. I just think you don’t always get the same level of care from them simply because people are busier, have further to go on the tube, are more stressed out, and face a faster pace of life here! It means that as lovely and kind as people are in a large capital city, they don’t always have the time to offer that to others.
So how is it living in a smaller city for a TCK? I know some people will say “Belfast isn’t small?! It’s the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland!”. Which is true!
But for TCKs who feel comfortable living in places where it’s culturally diverse. Where people have traveled a lot. Where people are open-minded about different customs. Where they speak different languages. Where you can meet people from all over the world. Those places are often where there are more expats, more people moving into and out of the city. More international business. And this means it’s often a larger city. Not always. But often.
Although, I would maybe become quite restless and bored in a smaller city as there would most likely be less on in terms of events, gallery openings, new restaurants, and networking events. I feel that perhaps the warmth and level of attention you’d get could outweigh this. So TCKs, what do you think? Do you currently live in a big capital city? Would you move to a smaller city?