Third Culture Kid Dating; adults who have spent their developmental years outside their parent's culture

Oui, j’suis Française et Belge. But I have an American accent when I speak English.

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As a Third Culture Kid or someone who has lived outside their passport country growing up, did your parents unconsciously or consciously teach you about customs from their ‘home’ country?  For example, did they want you to go to a school in their native language? Or want you to take courses that allowed you to learn their native language at home after the English-speaking or international school you went to?  Did your parents really want you to know how cook all of the old family recipes? Did they want you to know about politics in their country?

My parents never pushed the French/Belgian customs on us. And yet, unconsciously, they did have an influence on us.  And this is probably simply because they had grown up in France (my dad) and in Belgium (my mom). So what they knew was the culture they’d grown up in. Although over the years of being expats, behaviours and customs might have shifted for my parents as well.

But, for instance, my mom was adamant that we be able to speak, read and write in French. She always said how important it would be later on in life to feel comfortable working in both English and French.  We were attending International Schools throughout so we were learning how to speak English there. Hence the misleading American accent my siblings and I now have when we speak English. And yet, because our parents spoke to us in French, never in English, we have a French accent when we speak French.

So my mom encouraged and taught us how to read and write in French. We did this course called CNED after-school. We would do about an hour or two three times a week. I remember we used to complain so much about it. My siblings and I thought it was so annoying to have to continue doing work after going to school in English. But today, we are so grateful as it’s already helped us so much in our careers.

My dad always loved French music so we would often hear Jean-Jaques Goldman or Starmania on our long car journeys ‘home’ from Hamburg to Brussels or St-Quentin in France.  We learned all of the lyrics by heart! That’s how much he had it on. We loved it though. I remember an hour or so before we’d arrive in Brussels, he put on the Starmania CD and we’d all sing along at the top of our lung!  It’s so funny that hearing it again today brings back so many memories.

But I guess I’m lucky that my parents didn’t feel like we absolutely needed to identify with everything French or Belgian. They didn’t force it upon us. Or make us feel as if we should be less ‘Americanised’ from the customs we picked up in the International Schools.  They accepted who we were becoming. And accepted that it was not going to classic French/Belgian.  But a real mixture of different cultures.  And even today, when we go back to visit them in Germany, they accept that we don’t live in France or Belgium. That we don’t have French partners. That we don’t have a close bond with those two countries.  It will always be a part of us, yes. But it will never be the one and only!  Did you experience this too? Did your parents consciously or unconsciously impose the customs of their home country on you?  What about today, when you go back to see them?


One thought on “Oui, j’suis Française et Belge. But I have an American accent when I speak English.

  1. I found TV5 on Sky TV and I record the Journal de 20h so that I can watch it, even though I’m in Belfast now!! It’s the little things that you really miss! I would never have grown attached to the news in French if my parents hadn’t watched it every night, regardless of where we were living at the time.

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