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12 Inevitable Experiences That Third Culture Kids Are Familiar With

12 Inevitable Experiences That Third Culture Kids Are Familiar With

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?!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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