Third Culture Kids, this post will bring back all sorts of memories of when you were kids and had to go through long-haul flights! Did you used to sleep on the floor like my siblings and I did? Were you an absolute nightmare for the air hostess? Here’s a fantastic post from ‘A Diplomat’s Daughter’!
Overall, I love having had the opportunity to travel the world before the age of 18. If it wasn’t for my dad’s job, I would never have had the chance at such a young age to absorb different cultures. It’s allowed me to see the world in an open-minded way. When I meet someone from a different country, I’m not usually surprised by the little things that might offend others. And the reason for this is that I expect that they most likely learned it growing up in their household or in the country they grew up in. Every country is so different, and of course, you’re going to pick up all sorts of strange and wonderful customs. But, saying all of this, there are still some things that drive me nuts! So, here it goes, these are the 3 things right now that bug me about being a TCK:
1. The Look. It’s this look that people have when you’re answering their question about where you’re from. They just stare at you. There doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgement or look of understanding. It’s just a pure blank stare. What is that all about?! Yesterday, at a startup event, I was speaking to three people about the dating site we’ve launched for adult Third Culture Kids in London. This led them to ask how I came up with the idea, which is when I had to bring up my background. Once I was done, they were all just impressed. It annoyed me. I don’t know why. I just wanted them to say “Nice” and then move on. It’s almost as if you’ve taken centre stage without wanting to. And in your head, it just sounds so rehearsed because you’ve repeated it so many times!
2. The American accent. Very often, I love being different. And, in a way, I want people to know I’m not from here (London). Because, well, I’m not. But, sometimes, it just automatically puts up that barrier between you and the person you’re speaking with. For example, when I meet English people here in London, they straight away have created this ‘I am from here. You are not.’ I guess, that’s obvious. But it’s more the accent that has created that separation. And sure, maybe it’s the normal reaction to have. But it’s unfortunate as well because it creates a strong contrast between two people. You then need to work ridiculously hard to take that barrier away. By doing what Third Culture Kids do. Adapting. Reading their behaviour, reactions, and reflecting it back to them.
3. The ones who don’t understand why you’re going away on a weekend…Again. The thing is, right, we moved around so much that it’s super likely that our family is dispersed all around the world. Our friends are also spread out. Well, this means that we’ll most likely need to make the effort to travel to see them. And, unfortunately, we can’t just hop on a one-hour train to see our siblings, parents, grandparents on a Sunday afternoon. More often than not, it means a flight and hence a weekend. And our family is who we spent the most time with whilst doing the moves and goodbyes growing up. It also means we’ve built a really strong bond (probably a solidarity thing whilst leaving friends, schools, cities). And, trust me, for most of us TCKs, this means we’ll do everything we can to keep this bond strong. It’s the only relationship that has remained throughout the departures. The one with our parents and our siblings. We will do everything it takes to show them how much we care and how important they are to us by spending the money on a flight and making the time.
Like I said before, most days, these small things don’t bother me at all. But there are some… When.. Well, you know! What about you guys? What’s driving you nuts as a TCK right now?
My sister and I spending some quality time together a couple of weekends ago…
I want to know. Where do you stand right now? At this point in time. Are you loving life being single? Enjoying the fun dates out? Discovering lovely new cafes and bars in the city. If you’re a girl. Going out with your girlfriends. And having that knee-weakening snog at the end of the night with the guy you’ve been eyeing all night. Meeting the girls the next day at a very hung-over brunch with bloody marys (because you know that’s the only real way to get over it). You review the night. Blurry memories become surreal in daylight. Where exclamations like: ‘You did what?!’ happen every ten minutes or so. It’s fun. It’s light. It’s not meant to be serious.
If you’re a guy. Are you hitting up different pubs with the guys on the weekend? Using your funniest pick-up line to the girl in the red dress. This being after at least 3 pints so that you can actually muster the courage to go chat to her. Having free Sundays to play football or rugby with the boys and then head off for a Sunday roast. No commitments. No compromises. Showing the guys the last hot girl you went out with on Tinder. Your mate takes your phone and swipes ‘yes’ for all the girls that you would never date. It’s easy. Could life be any better right now? Honestly?
I think we put a lot of emphasis on finding a girlfriend or boyfriend. But sometimes, I think it’s just not the right time. And sometimes being single is awesome. Maybe you’re right in the middle of getting that promotion at work. And you’re loving it. You know you’re doing well. And you’re enjoying putting your efforts into that at the time. Or maybe it’s just that you’re actually enjoying the dates you’re going on. You don’t feel like putting the pressure on. You want to just see where things go. And you don’t want to miss out on spending time with friends. It’s funny how much bad press there is about being single. How do you feel about it?
So, in the last week, I’ve met up with two of my single friends, and they both told me a very similar story. This is the first one!
She met a cute guy online. They started messaging. As you do. Often too long than you’d like. Lasting sometimes two to three weeks of back and forth. Which, by that time, you’re thinking: come on; just ask me out on a date! This is ridiculous. We’re both into each other enough to be spending time writing cheeky, smart, and ‘I’m really fun’ messages. Finally, he decides to take that leap of faith. He asks her out on a date. They finally meet up in person. That’s the point when you can finally decide if there’s an actual spark. They have an awesome time. He makes her laugh. He’s charming. Confident. Attractive. She leaves the date thinking that was really fun. I would like to see him again. They start texting each other flirtatiously. There isn’t an insanely long time to wait between texts, often showing both are keen. But then he falls off the side of earth. For a month and a half, nothing. No text, no call, nothing. She thinks, well, ok, that’s unfortunate! But, she thinks: this is the classic ‘he’s just not that into you’.
Fine. So, she goes to all the weddings, birthday drinks, social events that she has scheduled in. She goes on a new date with another guy. She gets back to furiously sending back messages on OkCupid and Tinder. She has basically forgotten him and moved on. And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he texts her back. As if it’s just been half an hour. Rather than six weeks! She thinks about it. Wonders if she should text back. Then decides. Fine, I’ll text back. It’s not often that she really really enjoys a date. It’s hard to find that rare spark that she experienced with him. She thinks, I’ll give him a second chance. They start texting. Smiley here. Wink there. Some additional emoticons. He says they’ll meet that Wednesday, but he’ll confirm on Tuesday. Tuesday 9am: no text. 11am: still nothing. Tuesday midnight: phone is still silent. Wednesday rolls around and nothing. Then Thursday afternoon, he sends that apologetic text. He sends a work email, even though she has no idea how he’s found her address. Extra effort has been put in. He sends her a WhatsApp. (To be continued)
So, what is this all about?! I’m sorry, but I just think, if you’re not that into the person, then stop texting! Don’t give them hope. Don’t lead them on. And don’t waste their time. There should be respect for everyone’s time. If you plan a date, you obviously have some sort of interest in the person. So go on the date. And fair enough, if you don’t like the person enough, then send that text saying you’ve had a great time, but unfortunately you don’t see things going further. Yes, it can hurt. And it doesn’t feel great to receive a text like that. But, at least, the other person can move on. They can move on to the next person who might rock their world! With you on their mind, they might not be able to do that. And yes, it’s all on them. And they should be strong enough to just think, he or she is not worth my time. I should just forget about him or her. But remember, we’re all human. We have emotions. And sometimes it’s hard to cut people off. So just do us all a favor. Stop texting if you’re just not that into them.
As some of you know, I am what they call an adult ‘Third Culture Kid’ or TCK. Born in Tokyo, I lived in Dusseldorf, Johannesburg, Vienna and Hamburg before the age of 18. And the reason I moved around so much growing up was because of my dad’s job in an international company. He started off in sales and then worked in different roles in the company as a manager.
I enjoyed our multicultural childhood and moving around was just a huge plus! I think it might all have been scarier if I’d had to deal with the moves alone. But because our family was so close and tight-knit, those departures just felt like a new adventure for the five of us. What I didn’t realize is how much harder it could have been on Military Kids (MK). There are so many reasons why kids grow up outside their passport country, from missionary work to working as a diplomat to freelance work and the list goes on. However, it seems that for Military Kids or what some call ‘Military Brats’, not only is there a fear of leaving their friends, schools, teachers and homes at any time, but also there is also the fear that the person they love might never return. If one of their parents is serving the armed forces, there’s a risk involved.
I never had to deal with this sort of fear. And I can’t even imagine what that must have been like as a child. I realized how much of an effect and impact it could have on Military Kids when I saw this video. I’m not one to cry, and I definitely teared up watching that clip. You can just tell how much that boy missed his mother. And how much emotion there is in his reaction when he tears up.
My dad was away once or twice a month for four or five days on business trips. Yes, it was sad as a kid. But my siblings and I always knew he’d be back. So it was very different for us. And he’d always bring back a French magazine from the airport or a small key chain from his travels that we started associating his trips as something great to look forward to. That’s the thing about being a kid. It’s the small things! And whenever he’d come back, walking through our front door, we’d all run over to him. And there was always something special about that. However, some Military Kids have to say goodbye to one of their parents for several months or more. It just shows how much resilience you must build up as an MK. That goodbye has more weight to it too because there is a real sense of danger involved with them going on that mission. I’m curious about their experience as I didn’t go through it myself, and will continue researching the topic!
Military Kids, Missionary Kids, Third Culture Kids, Cross Culture Kids, what are your own thoughts about this?
As some of you may know, we have launched the beta version of TCK Dating in London! We are looking for more people to join the site who have grown up outside their passport country and are now living in London. We welcome any feedback and comments as we are constantly updating and improving it!
We recently shot the video below to explain the term adult Third Culture Kid. We also wanted to share how we came up with the idea! I would love to hear what you all think about the video. And if you’re single, a global nomad, and currently living in London, don’t hesitate to sign up on http://www.tckdating.com! It should only take you two minutes to upload a photo, video and profile!
Here’s the very first video!
I read an article mentioning a research study that found that technology today was aiding people in relationships to keep certain friends on the back burner as a potential “safety net in case their current relationship goes south”. Well, maybe this is me being naive, but that seems a little sad. Really? So we’re hedging our risk by making sure we still have friends or previous acquaintances in case we ever break up with our current partner?
I mean, of course, in the finance world, that’s what you do. I remember talking to my clients in banks who wanted to protect themselves from a default with a Credit Default Swap. But come on! We’re talking about love! Shouldn’t we be living in the now? And not planning our next relationship? I mean, I was like this in the beginning. I was struggling to focus on the ‘now’. I’m guessing it had something to do with being a Third Culture Kid and living in five different cities before the age of eighteen. You learn that leaving and goodbyes are the norm. And you start protecting yourself by detaching from your current friends to make room for the new. If you didn’t slightly disentangle yourself from those connections when you felt a goodbye coming, you would really struggle with the separation. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s a way to cope. But when you’re in a stable, committed relationship, should you be expecting the worst? And keeping people on the back burner in case your relationship crumbles?
We hear about break-ups, cheating, divorces everywhere. We see and read about it everywhere in the media. But we also hear it firsthand from our best friends. You almost expect it to happen to you at any moment. It would be naive to think that it could never happen to us.
But does this mean you should live in fear that it will? And worry about it constantly? And keep those random contacts as potential future partners? I don’t think so. You could spend the whole time expecting the worst. Or you could live in the now, hope for the best and work on your current relationship to make it the best it can be. Keeping people on the back-burner seems cynical and a bit mean really. For one, you’re leading those people on you keep on the side. If you’re chatting to them on Facebook. Or sending them a WhatsApp message on a random Sunday evening. They think there’s a chance. That, at some point, you’ll leave your partner and jump into their arms! And what about your current partner? Isn’t that showing disrespect towards them?
What are your thoughts? Do you feel differently about keeping people on the back burner? Does technology encourage it?
A couple of weeks ago, I did an interview on Fubar Radio in London about Adult Third Culture Kids and Dating (picture below). The English host Mark Dolan mentioned that his wife was German. He also spoke about why he thinks that their differences in culture keeps their relationship strong and fiery at the same time!
He explained how their views and opinions are often different and mentioned that this was one of the many reasons why the relationship stays fiery, exciting and unpredictable after many years together. She’ll make a remark that he won’t be expecting. She’ll have a very different view on a topic that comes up on TV, on the radio, in the media. And vice versa.
It appears that for some couples being with someone whose grown up in a different country and thus culture will have picked up different behaviors, customs, and mannerisms. If you don’t see eye to eye about most things or if you are always surprised by what the other comes up with, can this keep the spark going for longer in a romantic relationship?
Although some might say that the flip side means that the person might not always understand you as quickly as someone who has the same cultural background or upbringing as you do. Also, if they speak another language, it can potentially create a barrier in terms of communicating with their parents, siblings and extended family. If you have children, does it make it harder in terms of agreeing about which language they will go to school in or if they should go to daycare? What about deciding which country to live in? If your parents have raised you in a country where they expect grandparents, aunts, and uncles to help out with children in the house on a day to day basis, can this cause friction later on? As the other person may feel this is unecessary as they grew up only seeing extended family once in a while for holidays like Christmas or for a birthday. Alternatively, a person with a similar cultural upbringing might have similar expectations about education, religion, work, and so forth. Of course, this is not always the case. You can meet someone from the same culture who has very different views about politics, careers, and family. But can similar cultural upbringings bring a closeness that cannot exist with two people from very different backgrounds?
Would you prefer dating someone who has grown up in the same culture as you? Or would you enjoy the differences and surprises a different nationality could ultimately bring?