I spent about seven years (college and seminary) in America as first an International student, and then an “alien” spouse. (why oh why do they use that word to describe non natives?) Then we relocated to China for five and a half years as definite foreigners. Finally, we’ve moved to a place where I was born, spent the majority of my growing up years, and where my parents/relatives still reside – Taiwan. When I went out to buy some bubble tea the other day, the bubble tea maker looked me up and down and said, “you’re not from around here, are you?” I stared the poor girl back down and stated firmly and indignantly: I am a LOCAL. (wo jiu shi ben di ren) Desperate to finally feel like I belong somewhere, hoping my words consciously spoken in the most colloquial Mandarin accent will help convince this innocent stranger that I really am born and raised in Taiwan.
I looked up the definition of a “Third Culture Kid” on the internet and found this:
Third-culture kids are those who have spent some of their growing up years in a foreign country and experience a sense of not belonging to their passport country when they return to it.
I am a TCK through and through. Although I didn’t spend my growing up years in a foreign country, I might as well have since I grew up in a community of expats and was educated in an American school system. I had American teachers and classmates from America, Japan, Taiwan, Europe, India, etc. I’ve lived in four different countries and speak three languages. I have never been able to adequately answer the question “where are you from?” I have lived with a messed up cultural identity from a very young age. Now I have returned to my “passport country”, and am just bracing myself for the kind of cultural impact that will have on myself and my equally global family.
Sorry bubble tea lady, I didn’t mean to be rude, I just want to finally be a local again.