With this blogpost I am answering a very common, yet very curious question. I speak five languages. But is that so uncommon? I’m not sure. It’s definitely quite common in the culture I grew up. In the third culture.
I am a third culture kid. Quoting Nicholas Brealy “third culture kid is a term used to refer to children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years”. The third culture refers to the mixture of the original and the “new” culture – even though I would be a fourth culture kid then. My significant part has been about 20 of my 23 years of life and I haven’t lived in one different country, but in three.
During my journey I haven’t liked being a third culture kid. Okay, I didn’t have much to say when we first left my home country, Finland. That’s when we moved to Germany. I was two back then and remember communicating with my first German friend through “woof woof” and “meow meow” sounds. It isn’t hard for little children. Nor did I mind our first or second move inside Germany either. To me it just meant new exciting places and new friends.
But my first shock of living a TCK life hit me when I was fourteen. I had three amazing friends and we were a super cool girl gang with a secret headquarter, a secret language, weekly picnics and all that. And I had my first crush who used to send me little notes during classes at school. I was a happy kid and my parents broke my heart by telling me that we were moving to China in two months.
Why did we have to move? Well, we didn’t have to. But my dad has always been very ambitious and striving for growth. And each time the paper covering company he works at (they make Coca Cola cups and such) opened a new branch, they sent my dad there to get it rolling. He had worked in the Netherlands and England while we lived in Germany, but China would mean a change for all of us.
I’ll make it short. When my parents told me that I was moving to China, I called an orphanage and asked if I could live there. But in the end I of course moved to Shanghai with my family. We stayed there for four long years and despite the advantages that an expat has in a development country (a driver, a house keeper, a pool…), I missed home (read: Germany) everyday. And I hated the culture. The staring people. All the traffic. Even my new school with the snobby kids. I hated it a lot.
The time passed by and at some point China was over. But then next shock hit me at the age of 18, when we had been back to Finland for half a year. I thought moving was bad. Now I can tell you that your family moving without you is even worse. My family moved to Poland due to my dad’s next job, and I felt all left alone.
That was four years ago.
Today I see the things quite differently. I am not homesick anymore. I am a world citizen who enjoys travelling. I love seeing my family just as much, but it doesn’t break my heart to not be with them. I have spent amazing times in Poland during the last few years. Before that I was able to travel a lot of South East Asia (mum and dad, I am so thankful for that opportunity!). I love Asian food (not the one in Europe though!). I speak Finnish, German and English fluently, studied Latin up to my A-levels (yes, German schools are crazy!) and know 1200 Chinese characters, and speak it as well of course. I am good at sign language as well. I can understand what it means to have a laptop and go to uni. I appreciate efficient plumbers. I appreciate it, when things actually work. I feel home in very many places. I always find friends in very many places. I think about people differently. I’m brave enough to adventure. And as I said, I speak five languages. And I don’t mind anymore.
Sometimes I’m even thankful.
P.S.: If you’re a third culture kid, check out this link!