I recently came across an article that I found extremely relatable about the Not-so-glamorous life of a Third Culture Kid. This article was forwarded to me by my best friend of whome I grew up with in Hong Kong but now currently lives in Scotland. Like myself, we are part of a culture that involves travel, change and constant new beginnings. Having lived in Hong Kong for 15 years, England for 1 year (university), Melbourne for 7 years (5 at boarding school) and having travelled most of the world both with family and alone, I can definitely say I have lived a very fulfilling life and I am only 23.
Common questions I get asked all the time are things like ‘Why do you sound American?’ ‘If you grew up in Hong Kong, do you speak Japanese?’ ‘Where do you call home?’ To answer those questions, my accent is a hybrid of every accent in the world due to my ‘International’ schooling in Hong Kong of which both teachers and students were from all corners of the globe. Do I speak Japanese? No. I’ve not even visited Japan. The native language of Hong Kong is Cantonese (A chinese dialect) and no I don’t even know how to speak Cantonese other than simple food ordering, taxi directing and swearing phrases. Schools in Hong Kong teach Mandarin as it is the main International Business Trade language if you want to make your millions in the Chinese market. But honestly, you could live in Hong Kong without a knowledge of the language and you wouldn’t have a problem. And lastly, where do I call home. This is what brings me to write this blog.
One of the phrases from the article I read this morning really connected to me. It was that of ‘we travel through so many places and so many cultures that we simultaneously belong to everywhere and to nowhere.’ Having travelled much of the world before I had even turned 20 and travelling on at least 4 plane journeys a year since I was a baby, as privelidged as that may seem (and I am so grateful for all that I have seen), I have never really felt like I had one place to be ‘home’. My ever changing life of travel and exploration was born into me making it hard to see how I could settle for just one place. I used to say home is where I am sleeping that night often saying “lets go home” but in fact reffering to the hotel room or friends house I was staying at for the night. I now have come to realise that for me, home is where I feel loved by friends or family. Home is an internal feeling rather than a physical place. As long as I feel welcome, I can feel comfortable and at ‘home’.
Another phrase that got to me in the article was that of ‘We can never be a lasting part of anyone’s life.’ I have always found it hard to meet new people or to fit into ‘groups’ because my love of travel, change and new environments never kept me planted in one place long enough to form a strong enough bond to anyone. Constantly meeting lots of people and sharing experiences with everyone but not connecting with anyone in particular. I am lucky to have best friends that don’t need constant reminders that we are friends. The type of friends that I don’t see for 4 years, dont talk to for months at a time but knowing that they are there unconditionally if you need someone.
You could almost describe the life of a third culture kid as the life of a gypsy. Floating from this to that, moving from here to there, loving everyone but noone in particular and resting our heads whereever the wind blows. This is how I feel my life is, with no major triumphant life goal to achieve, no real focus on just one project at a time and no real vision of how my life should or is meant to be. Natalie Jones (author of the article) wrote ‘We are only temporary players in everyone else’s permanent existance.’ This is the gypsy life. This is my life. I do not belong, I just befriend.