I’m what is known as a Cross-Cultural or Third Culture Kid. The terms are used interchangeably, though I prefer the first one. Third Culture Kid always makes me think of kids whose parents were sent abroad and sent their offspring to international schools, where many of their peers were in the same position. Still, the term doesn’t quite cut it, I’m not a kid anymore, though my childhood was spent moving around as a product of several different cultures, with the passport of a country no one really seemed to feel connected to.
Then there are the Missionary Kids, Army / Military Brats, and Expat Kids. I’m not sure that last term actually exists, but I use it, since it conveys that at least one parent is from another country and strongly identifies with their place of origin. It also implies that at some point the family ( or the kid) may return to their passport country, as though they were on loan, so to speak.
Even so, with all these options, and sub-categories, I still don’t fit in clearly. My parents were never in the military, though my godfather (my father’s best friend, who was my godfather in every way that counted) was in the army, and my cousin in the navy. Living in Germany, all my close American friends were Army Brats. The Missionary Kid one was also tricky. I was raised in my mother’s faith and exposed to the traditions and beliefs of the faith my father grew up in before he became atheist. On top of that, the concept of reincarnation sounded extremely logical to me when my best friend in second grade mentioned it. So converting, reverting, or saving other people by suggesting they follow only one religion would be impossible for me.
The best term that fits is, Cross-cultural Individual. Cross-cultural Individuals – to me at least – differ from the other categories and labels in that they frequently give off the impression of being more connected to their community: children of immigrants perhaps, or eternal nomads, maybe not necessarily in frequent contact with others who are in a similar position, but able to recognize them just the same. Over the phone, or when our faces aren’t visible, we can easily be mistaken for a local. Looking the part is a whole other matter, that’s always going to be hit or miss.
And this is what I want to convey with the blog, and especially this category. I would never presume to speak for everyone in any of these groups as a collective. We are individuals with our own interests, hobbies and ideas. A lot of which you will find here. When it comes to my passion for Art Deco, the 1920s and early ’30s, the ’50s and ’60s, not to mention certain musical styles, I have more in common with my friends who’ve stayed in the same place all their lives than with other “Cross-Culturals.”
But it can’t be denied that every individual has a unique way of looking at things, and sometimes those things stem from a mutual experience. And perhaps something you find here will resonate, whether you’re a permanent local or an eternal nomad. Because while it’s a great life – and I wouldn’t change it for the world – it comes with a few side effects as well. For one, there’s the eternal question of who am I, followed by where exactly do I belong? I don’t think that ever goes away, though it can lie dormant for a while. At present, both Helsinki and Budapest represent that eternal quest for me, but the names of the places don’t (really) matter. Five years later, possibly even less, it could be two entirely different places, and most likely will be.
As the song says, “this could be Rotterdam or anywhere . . .”