Expat Life

Everything a Third Culture Kid would understand

Being a Third Culture Kid means that you’ve grown up in countries that are different to each of your parents’ home culture. If you’re a TCK like me, there are certain things you’ve experienced that not many people have, and it can make us feel more alone in this world. And no matter how hard you try to explain to your friends, they still can’t seem to understand our struggles. So to show that we’re all in this together (casually dropping in the HSM reference), I made a list dedicated to us global nomads with things we go through on a daily basis.

You have a hard time coming to terms with your strange hybrid accent

Having been to different international schools, you absorb all the accents around you. From watching Hollywood movies to going to a British school, you’ve formed a weird accent that no one can put a finger on. It can actually make you feel insecure. This leads to the ultimate mind-boggling question, ‘Where are you from’? Which you don’t really know how to answer.

You’re shocked at people’s lack of cultural awareness

The fact that people don’t know that it’s totally normal to take your shoes off in an Asian home stresses you out, or that they don’t know what Xiao Long Bao means, or that there is a difference between Hong Kong and mainland China. You don’t know how to use chopsticks? Can you please not pick up that sushi with a fork? And no, people don’t live in huts in Vietnam. I mean, come on?

You have friends from all around the world

Since you’ve traveled to so many places, it was inevitable that you’ve made some friends in that country or built close relationships with them, so whenever you book a flight to your next destination there’s always someone that could put you up in their home or could give you other contacts for accomodation. The best thing traveling with a local is that they can take you to the best places and show everything you need to do to sort you out.

Constantly missing out on cultural references

Sometimes in conversation you miss out on the joke or you don’t recognize someone on TV that people are raving about or understand why they’re a national gem. When my friend was going to ‘Iceland’, I thought he was actually going to the country, but in the UK it’s a popular chain store. You’re basically unaware of all the popular cultural references because you’ve never lived in that country long enough to learn what they are. And this can be annoying, because people could just think you’re plain stupid. The struggle…

You’re torn between two spelling systems

In school, you’re taught to spell a certain way and it can change as soon as you leave the country. At an English uni, you can be taken off points for using the American spelling and it’s so annoying because I feel more comfortable using the American spelling rather than the English one. The same goes with words, do I use soccer or football? Lift or elevator?

Not knowing which ID to take with you

As a TCK you have collected a lot of IDs, and it might be a driver’s licence from a country no one’s ever heard about. I had someone who told me ‘interesting’ when I showed my Hong Kong ID card to a bouncer in Paris, because I was probably the only one in the queue who had one.

You’re a food expert

You have a special relationship with food. Since you’ve tasted the best authentic cuisines in the world from street food stalls to Michelin-star restaurants, you’re a really tough critic when it comes to food, to the point where most restaurants you go to are not up to par.

Airports feel like second homes

I can’t even count how many airports I’ve been to. I love it: the soothing sound of boarding announcements, the cozy airport bookstores and trolleys and suitcases making a zip-like sound on the moving walkways, the packaged airplane food… (it tastes surprisingly good) I got used to the endless queueing and the rude tourists at the airport, which makes me feel like home. And the best thing? Going on a flight means that you can watch an endless amount of movies that you want to catch up on.

Saying goodbye to people you may never see again

Cutting off relationships and friendships can hit you really hard. And you think you’ve gotten used to it by now, that saying goodbye won’t hurt anymore because you’ve said it so many times. But somehow it just gets worse. Or maybe you have a tough time watching movies or listening to music because you’re reminded of “someone” that you felt a special connection with. Loss and heartbreak are commonplace for TCKs.

Memorizing time zones so you can Skype with your friends and family

I always remember that Thailand is always 7 hours ahead of the UK, or that Colombia is 7 hours behind, or that Vancouver is 8 hours behind.

You don’t watch football games or Eurovision because you don’t know who to support

Do I pick China, England, Vietnam, Thailand or France? Shit.

You fit in everywhere and nowhere at the same time

Know how it feels to be in a constant state of culture shock? Welcome to my world.

Any Third Culture Kids out there ?

Chloe xx