If you have a large family you’ve probably experienced a variety of customs and celebrations growing up. You might have relatives spread all over the world. Your parents might be from two different cultural backgrounds, but your grandparents are from another. There are so many beautiful ways to experience life, but not everyone gets that. Unfortunately, there are some experiences that third culture kids know all too well.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the humorous parts of growing up in a multi-cultural family.
1. You dread the question: “Where are you from?”
This is an all too familiar scenario. You are meeting a bunch of cool new people and small-talk ensues. “Where do you work?” “Where did you go to school?” Your heart starts pounding. It won’t be long now until they ask the Origin Question. You wonder how you can condense your life story into two sentences: “My parents are from Location A, but I was born in Location B, and now I live in Location C…” Can we just skip to the next person, please?!
2. Holidays are always a big production.
Ah, the holidays. The cheer in the atmosphere, the nippy air, the how-do-I-divide-myself-across-the-continents-this-year? Remember, you gotta send those Christmas cards to your friends in Australia, your relatives in Europe and America, and somehow find your way into your mother’s arms in Asia come Christmas Day!
3. You spend a lot of time on Face Time, Skype, and WhatsApp.
Your phone isn’t running your life, your phone is your life! How else are you going to keep in touch with your mom, dad, brother, sister, childhood best friends, and everyone else without these lifesaving apps? Whether it’s just to say hello or send a picture of that new beau you’re dating, you better be sure everyone’s waiting for a mobile update.
4. You’re always in the state of missing.
When you’re in New York, you miss pochero the way they cooked it in the Philippines. When you’re in the Philippines, you miss the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, or the cafe con leche in Spain. You become attune to things you didn’t even know you noticed: the smell of lavender powder your mother always used, the inflections of speech, the way sweat would cling to your legs on those summer days your spent by the beach… It just makes you wax poetic.
5. You pick up accents like the Talented Mr. Ripley.
You’re a con artist in the way your accent magically switches depending on who you’re talking to. Most of the time, you sound like a regular American, but your friends think it’s hilarious how you sound glaringly different when you’re talking to your dad on the phone, or whenever you just got off the plane from some exotic locale. Which brings us to the next point.
6. You are bilingual.
Or most probably multilingual. You were modest about it, up until that one night when you had one too many margaritas and started talking to your friends in Spanish/French/Arabic.
7. Travel is like second nature to you.
You absolutely cannot relate to people who say it is their first time on a plane. What’s the fuss all about? You’ve got your neck pillow, a glass of wine, and hundreds of movies to choose from. Chill out. The airplane (and the airport) is your home. Mi casa es su casa, right?
8. A part of you will always feel like an outsider.
No matter where you decide to hang your fedora, you always feel a teeny-tiny bit on the outside looking in. You’re not completely from the place you’ve currently decided to call home, but you’re no longer from the other places that you used to call home either. The truth is, you’re not completely from anywhere. However, once you get over the violin music you started hearing when you had that thought, you realize that “home” and “belonging” is less about physical location, but how the people in your life make you feel.
9. You have friends on almost every continent.
Airbnb? Who needs that? Since birds of the same feather flock together, you have friends in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Korea, Singapore, France, etc., etc., etc.
10. You suck at goodbyes.
Even though your life has been a blur of comings and goings, nothing can make you tear up faster than someone saying the G-word. If you’re anything like me, you probably substitute the hated G-word for “See you soon,” even though you know full well that you probably won’t see that person for the next year – or three.
11. You’re pretty open-minded.
Stinky tofu? Get in my mouth. Need to cover myself from head to toe to enter the temple? It’s handled. You’re taking me to the club in that little rickshaw? On it. You are very much aware of different cultures and traditions and know that what’s faux pas in one country may be the opposite in another. You’ve learned to go with the flow, keep your mind open, and appreciate the differences.
12. You’ve learned that it is indeed possible to have both roots and wings.
For better or for worse, life has been one crazy, global adventure. Even though sometimes you wish things were simpler (and fantasize about shipping all your family and friends into one town), you know that you wouldn’t exchange your experience for anything. Because all the places you’ve been, all the weird food you’ve eaten, all the different people you’ve met – they all make up who you are today.
That just got deep. Mic drop.
Featured photo credit: Travel Necklace via flic.kr