Whenever I meet new people, there is that one dreaded question that always comes up within the first ten minutes of conversation. “Where are you from?” I’m American by accent, British by bank account and Czech by birth – but answering questions about my cultural identity is not as easy as ABC.
Third culture kid or TCK is someone who was raised in a different country than the one they were born in. Personally, I only moved once – to Austria at the age of 13 – but many of my old international school classmates, most of whose parents were employed by the UN, moved to a new country every five years or so.
It seems swell, doesn’t it? Your life sounds and looks like a permanent exotic vacation and your Facebook check-ins are full of names most of your friends cannot pronounce. But being a TCK also has its disadvantages. From constantly feeling a little homesick to never quite feeling at home, being a TCK makes you a little different from all of your “normal” peers.
Buzzfeed ran two popular articles about TCKs – one about the things they have in common and the other the hard decisions they have to make. In my article, I want to give a balanced – albeit inevitably subjective – account of what being an international baby jetsetter is like. First, let’s look at the positive things and then delve into the deep dark abyss that is a TCK’s restless soul. Don’t worry, I’ve included gifs to make it less terrifying.
It’d be hard not to seem at least a little bit cool with all your globetrotting adventures. You may be a dime a dozen among your fellow TCKs, but regular mortals will find your stories from abroad oh-so-worldly.
You are immune to jetlag, no longer experience culture shock and you’ve been to places no one’s ever dared visit before (yes, that tiny McDonald’s in Jakarta counts). Face it – you’re basically a real life superhero.
Foreigners with their quirky accents and unfamiliar features just have that je ne sais quoi that makes them at least three times sexier than your average Joe from back home. Jose > Joe. Fact. I’m sorry, Joe.
All those stamps tell exciting stories of love, laughter, loss or… something! Your passport is like a little travel diary and is probably more fun to flick through in the queue to border control than the person’s behind you.
This might not be an advantage for them, but it is for you. From your new university flatmates to the lady who sells bananas on the corner – no one is safe from you and you will make them your BFFs, whether they want it or not.
7. You can impress people with your grasp of foreign languages.
Oh, and now for the more depressing half of this article! Growing up in different locations is cool, yes, but it also leaves you a little confused about your place in this world. You’ll never be British/Russian/Chinese/whatever enough to truly fit in anywhere in the world.
17. Explaining where you’re from takes inappropriately long.
The Internet is a mysterious land with no borders where you and all your international friends can live happily ever after. Unfortunately, living online makes you slightly antisocial and requires you be glued to a screen of some kind 24/7.
TCKs are more likely to suffer from depression, because their lives are filled with constant loss and unfamiliarity. Moving to a new place is always exciting – saying goodbye to your temporary home and all the people you met there less so.
21. Your stories can make you come off as pretentious.
It’s not your fault you have to preface most of your stories with “when I was living in xyz”. No, that doesn’t mean you’re a spoilt heir(ess) or that you exfoliate with crisp dollar bills. Not that you’d particularly mind either.
Many of your jokes fall flat because they require knowledge of location-specific trivia and, perhaps, a different sense of humour altogether. Either that, or it really is just me and I’m just not as funny as I’d like to believe. But obviously, that’s nonsense. Right?
24. In fact, people don’t really get you half the time.
Fancy a plate of authentic Indian fish curry or Sichuan dan-dan noodles? No problem – just pack a bag, shell out hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket, spend half a day criss-crossing the sky and… voilà!
Your strange accent and foreign lingo are confusing enough, but the fact that you pronounce certain words differently based on who you’re talking to just takes it to a whole new level of weird. On the bright side, you’re kind of like an undercover spy. If only you could figure out which country to work for, that is.
Oh no! You just keep doing you, you fabulous little creature. Keep trotting that globe and just doing you. You can bet I will – and you can continue to follow my adventures right here, on Girl vs Globe