Monday, March 31, 2008

Third Culture Kids

I learned a new term to describe myself this week. Third Culture Kids (TCKs).

I've been reading a book called Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. If you're like me and grew up in two or more different countries or you're a parent of a child like me, then I highly recommend this book.

One description that I read on a Facebook group called Third Culture Kids Everywhere, was this:
"My teacher took a glass of lemonade and cranberry juice and mixed them. Then she asked if anyone wanted to try to separate the two flavors."

That describes it pretty well. You can't try to figure out what "nationality" we are. We're blended together from all the places we've lived. For me it's the U.S. (or The States as we TCKers say), Cameroon, and Nigeria.

One of the things that gets discussed endlessly by TCKs is the question, "Where are you from?" For most, that seems like a normal question to ask with a fairly normal answer. The reason we discuss it so much is because for us, it's often long and always complicated. "From" implies a place to which you are tied and where all your roots (relationships, emotional connections, experiences) are at.

Most TCKs have a response that would be similar in structure to mine, although different in details:
I was born in the US but we moved to Africa when I was 5. We lived in Cameroon for 4 years and Nigeria for 2 years. However, I went to boarding school in Nigeria for 3 of those 6 years. We moved back to the US when I was 13.

Some would look at that and say, "You were born in the US so that makes you an American." However, in response to that I would ask you to revisit the lemonade/cranberry juice illustration I mentioned above. My life is a mix of the US and Africa, two completely different places and cultures. I am a mix of both of these places and so, strictly speaking, I am "from" both.

So, to make life less complicated my response is usually something along the lines of, "I currently live in...." Most people are satisfied with that.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kem,

    Thanks for your comment. You are right. The athlete agreed to that pose and it is worrisome. Link Aachrnony to your blog. I'll do likewise. Cheers and congratulations on your Nigerian experience. It is important so don't let go of it.