Third Culture Kid Reflects on Living Between Cultures

In many ways I am very grateful for this upbringing and way of life; and in other ways it was a challenge. 

With my birth in London in 1973, I joined a family and heritage that travelled. Incidentally, it was also the year that the UK joined the European Community and free movement opened up. My mother is South African and her grandparents emigrated to Africa from Scotland and Ireland in the 19th century. She met, married and had her first child with my father, who is British, in Botswana. Each of their three children was born in a different country.

[bctt tweet=”I had a passport full of stamps and we had moved countries 5 times by the time I was 18 years old.” username=”ParentVoiceMag”]

Today, my parents continue to travel in their retirement. Each one of us siblings lives in a different country and we find the thought of Brexit abominable.

In many ways I am very grateful for this upbringing and way of life; and in other ways it was a challenge. We reaped the benefits of all that is precious about travelling and living abroad – understanding and learning about and from different cultures, languages and landscapes that helped us become more tolerant and open-minded; the joy of discovering new places and the richness of the encounters and relationships formed; we learnt how to adapt quickly to different surroundings and make each place “home”.

The experience fuelled my curiosity and interest in people and their ways, and led me to study Social Anthropology at Cambridge University. Travelling has always been a joy. In my early thirties, I spent 2 years exploring other parts of the world.

Struggles of Living Between Cultures

What was difficult about this way of life? [perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]As a child who enjoyed creating attachments to friends, moving around constantly was not easy.[/perfectpullquote]

Remember this was a pre-internet and social networks era. I literally felt “uprooted” like a seedling plant and didn’t have a choice but to do my best in the new land where I was re-planted. It was sad saying goodbye to friends knowing that I might never see them again. I marvel at my partner who, when he goes back to his home town still meets up with his Primary school friends! Sometimes, I wonder about the greener grass on the other side. I wish I could have experienced that.

I also missed my extended family – we didn’t see them very often so I didn’t feel I knew them at all. There was something self-sufficient but also vulnerable in being just the nuclear family unit. Years later I would say that perhaps a stronger sense of being surrounded by community, friends and family over the long term would have brought a stability that was lacking. For me, being international does involve being slightly in-between, and inevitably brings up questions concerning my identity, sense of rootedness, and the idea of a place called “home”. This has been instrumental in my exploration of meditation and yoga, and creating a non-profit association and yoga studio entitled Yogaroots! The nurturing of a strong inner “home” has been important for me.

[bctt tweet=”There was something self-sufficient but also vulnerable in being just the nuclear family unit. ” username=”ParentVoiceMag”]

The family tradition continues, despite the current geo-political climate where some countries are choosing to tighten borders and restrict open-ness. I have passed the legacy on to my son, who is half British, half Italian, and living in Brussels. I hope that he will also benefit from all the wonderful things this diversity brings. Any existential questions he may have later on will bring him closer to better understanding himself and the world.


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