TCKDating

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

Dating as a Third Culture Kid: Part 1

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I would say that I first realised that the ‘TCK-ness’ (having lived outside my passport country) would have an impact on dating and relationships when I started seeing a Kiwi guy in New Zealand. I had just moved to Auckland to study abroad there for seven months. Boston University had fantastic study abroad programs, and I had never been to Australia or New Zealand.  I was excited to go back to a place that was warm, green, and outdoorsy! I had an inkling that it would remind me a lot of Johannesburg (we lived there for about six years when we were kids) so I couldn’t wait to see if it would resemble it. It did. It was as luscious and beautiful as I had imagined it to be.  And that was the North Island! The South Island was even more impressive; we did a road trip around it that I will never forget!

From what I remember, there were about seventy study abroad students from Boston University, mostly American. We started classes at Auckland University, learning about the history and culture of New Zealand. And we did a little bit of our own learning… By heading out to the nearby bars in the evenings. The amazing thing about Auckland was that it was so walkable. We could easily walk from our dorms to the centre.  And the bars were all quite close-by. Bar crawls were really easy, as it literally was a couple (swaying) steps to the next one.  Locals were so friendly, and it was ridiculously easy to meet new people. As a Third Culture Kid, you know how much I enjoy meeting new people. It’s what I’m used to. It’s the buzz. One night around two AM we found ourselves sitting outside having some drinks in a quite empty bar. It was just the three of us at that point. We were sitting on high stools chatting about our ridiculous night of dancing when two guys walked by our table. “Hey.” That’s all I said. Looking back now, it was definitely the drinks I’d had! But I just couldn’t let one of the guys pass by. There was something about him.  Luckily, they didn’t just ignore us and keep walking.  They smiled and walked over to our table.  The five of us sat there chatting away whilst the guys ordered more bottled beers.

He wouldn’t stop looking at me. I had never had those kinds of butterflies. We ordered more drinks and learned more about Auckland. They’d been living there their whole lives so they knew everything about New Zealand. Perfect tour guides! The girls and I decided to leave after a couple of hours as it was getting late, and we were all thinking how hungover we’d already feel the next day! He asked me if he could have my number.

He texted me the next day to ask me out.  Of course, I said yes!  We dated for the next three months.  It was fun. It was exciting. He would come around with his car and pick me up to go the restaurant. To go to the cinema.  He brought me red roses on Valentines Day.  He sent me (possibly looking back cringe-worthy) romantic texts. He would dedicate songs to me with his guitar in hand. I wasn’t used to this!

The American guys I’d met in Boston were more about going to see a Basketball game or going to UNOs, and I just couldn’t picture any of them sending those kinds of poetic texts and dedicating songs to me. Of course, I’m sure there are American guys out there who would do that. But I was just comparing it to my own experiences of dating American guys. I was enjoying getting to know the customs by someone who’d spent his life in New Zealand. And I was enjoying getting to know him.

But then, slowly, the novelty wore off. Little by little, I realised I wasn’t that comfortable around him. I wasn’t able to be fully myself. I didn’t feel we had enough to talk about. I was bored. Everything felt quite predictable. I was not surprised by anything he’d do.  I felt restless. He also never really knew who I was, what I was about. He would often express how impressed he was that I’d travelled so much growing up. He would say it all the time. It was all a bit too much. I understood his disbelief. But, in my head, I would think: stop putting me on this pedestal. I had moved around a lot, yes. But, at the time, I thought that doesn’t make me any different! Also, I realised we just didn’t have enough in common. It always felt that our conversations were quite superficial. I still wonder today if it was a culture clash. If it was because he hadn’t moved around.  If it was because he couldn’t understand me.  Or if maybe I couldn’t understand him. Or had it simply been a personality thing?  I broke things off. It didn’t feel quite right.  I had learned a lot. And he’d always been a lovely guy. But it was just not for me. But when you don’t feel understood and feel like there’s a whole lot missing, you can’t settle. You need to keep looking.

Has your ‘TCK-ness’ ever influenced your relationships?

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2 thoughts on “Dating as a Third Culture Kid: Part 1

  1. Hi,

    I am a South Korean TCK who spend developmental years in Tokyo and Seoul due to my parent’s international work and studied in Japan and U.S (Boston) and lived in Singapore.

    When you said

    I realised I wasn’t that comfortable around him. I wasn’t able to be fully myself. I didn’t feel we had enough to talk about. I was bored. Everything felt quite predictable. I was not surprised by anything he’d do.  I felt restless. He also never really knew who I was, what I was about. He would often express how impressed he was that I’d travelled so much growing up. He would say it all the time.
    And he’d always been a lovely guy. But it was just not for me. But when you don’t feel understood and feel like there’s a whole lot missing, you can’t settle. 


    I could understood what you meant.. because I had the same issues too.

    I did not know the term TCK until last year when I was researching to find similar experience..

    It is good to know that there are similar people exists because when I was younger, I felt completely alone for those unsettled feelings or multilayered parts of me..

    Best wishes to you!

    • Hi Cecilia! I was born in Tokyo and lived there for three years before moving again! I also studied in Boston at Boston University. What a small world! And it’s so nice to know that this post resonated with you! It’s for this reason that I decided to launch a dating site for adult TCKs! Right now, it’s only in London. I just felt like there was a real issue to find others who’d moved countries growing up and who didn’t identify with one culture (like most people do!). Lovely to meet you :)!

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