If we’ve moved so much before the age of 18, does this mean we are really really good at leaving places and moving to new ones? Does practice somehow make perfect? Does it make us total pros at leaving people and friends and places behind? As a Third Culture Kid, I was only 2 months old when I took my first flight from Tokyo to Paris! I couldn’t believe it when my mom told me. That is a small baby! I can’t imagine how annoying my crying must have been for other passengers and my mom! So we start at such a young age. Airports become familiar. Leaving friends becomes the norm. Changing cities is all we know. But does all the moving, the flying, the goodbyes, the new beginnings, the new friends make us experts at leaving?
Well, my sister recently spoke about this in her latest post. As you know from my previous post, she moved to Belfast for work a couple of weeks ago. She brought up this question of whether or not it gets easier for us to move. If you’ve done it so many times in the past, it’s like anything, you should get better at it right?
Not necessarily. My sister had been living in Paris for 6 years. That’s a long time for a Third Culture Kid! With that amount of time, you can properly build a community, a network, a ‘family’ of friends. You have a local pub. She had several actually! But one of her favorites was in the 5th Arrondissement. You have your favorite supermarket. She had one just downstairs from her flat that she’d go to all the time. She knew them really well by the end; they’d always say hi when they saw her coming in to buy her fresh fruit and veg. She’d also made some amazing friends who she could call up at anytime to set up a dinner party and go for a dry gin martini (her favorite!).
It can be unbelievable. That closeness. That familiarity. For a Third Culture Kid. It’s funny because most TCKs tend to move from feeling incredibly restless to a deep need for stability and consistency.
The ironic thing was that when she first moved there, she wasn’t that ‘French’. Yes, she has a French passport. And, yes, our dad is French. But as all TCKs and global nomads out there know, that doesn’t mean you feel fully French. There’s a part of you that is connected to it, of course, but you’ve also spent so much time in other countries that it can also feel very distant.
But over time, of seeing her living there, visiting on a weekend, going there for work. I noticed a change. She was becoming in a fantastic way more and more Parisian. Why fantastic? Because she was born there, and yet spent the majority of her life outside of France. And yet, then and there, she was becoming Parisian. Of course, there would always be a huge part of her that was every other nationality (Belgian, Japanese, South African, Austrian…) as we had grown up in those countries. But she was starting to know things. Know the ins and outs of Paris. She knew people. She knew customs. She knew what to do on a cloudy Sunday in Paris. She knew where the good bars were on a very late Wednesday night. She knew about the new restaurant that had just opened up.
And so, even if you’ve done it, what feels like a million times as a Third Culture Kid, moving and leaving friends doesn’t necessarily get any easier. And I think the biggest reason for that is that there is again that sense of loss. Even if you’re about to meet brilliant new people, learn about a new job, discover new customs that make a place unique, it still means you’ve left behind a number of things that had become your home.