A few weeks ago, I was on my phone reading up blogs as usual as that’s what makes my long commute way more manageable. I stumbled across two posts that really piqued my thoughts. They were written by fellow TCKs on subjects that we are all too familiar with: assimilation and friendship. The two subjects literally are constants in our unique lives and also what defines us as third culture kids.
The first post I read was Delectable‘s “TCK Tuesday: The Biggest Mistake You Can Make.” Delectable is by Hannah, who from reading this post and the rest of her blog is our lovely TCK-type that we are familiar with. She writes about her experiences and shares information on returning home and assimilating. This particular post caught my attention because it highlighted the divisiveness of one’s home and host culture and how you deal with molding the two without alienating the other. This resonated with me so much because as someone who has recently returned to her home country, the cultural differences and the adjustments you have to make isn’t really a walk in the park. I am guilty of such offenses. I am constantly comparing Korea to the U.S. and China and wishing Korea would be more like my host culture countries. It’s those kinds of thoughts that will put me at risk of pushing myself away from assimilating to my home country. I know I sometimes form those type of thoughts out of self-defense, as if to protect myself from the reality of me being different from the rest of Koreans. However, I realized that will only hurt me in the long run. I think sometimes us TCKs get stuck on focusing on our differences that we fail to see that we’re special in that we are bridges to different cultures. We are so accustomed to soaking up other countries’ culture and customs that our motherland culture becomes so foreign to us – and of course, this is the defining characteristic of a ‘third culture kid.’ Fine. If our home culture is foreign, why not try to learn it like we’ve been doing at all the new places we went to? It might not come naturally at first, but we’ll learn it. Isn’t that what we excel at? We need to take advantage of this special ability we possess. We need to learn to accept both cultures without sacrificing our opinions, but rather enriching your opinions with multiple perspectives.
The second blog post I read was Nampelkan‘s “Short-distance Friends.” Nampelkan’s Daniela is also a TCK who has returned to her home country after long years of living abroad (like me!). “Short-distance Friends” discusses Daniela’s problems of developing friendships with those who are close-by (meaning, not with those who live thousands of miles away from you), dubbing them as “short-distance friends.” It’s funny how that’s a thing for us TCKs. We’re so used to having friends all over the world that “long-distance friendships” are the norm and rarely faze us anymore. Whereas short-distance friendships, as Daniela further explains, become a bit problematic for TCKs. At one point, I thought I was suffering from what I would call, “relationship development handicap.” (I really don’t know if this is a thing or not) It’s pretty self-explanatory. Because I had to constantly move around, and I had to always say good-byes and move on to make new friends in new places. I’m pretty sure I can speak for many TCKs that this has somewhat become problematic in how we deal with making friends nowadays. Sometimes, I have fear at the back of my head – “when will I have to say good-bye to this person again?” Although I know very well that such thought shouldn’t hinder me from nurturing relationships, it’s inevitably there. I know in one of my earlier posts, I talked about how I deal with long-distance friendships and what type of mindset and effort are needed in order for it to work. However, I have to admit that when I see those who literally grew up with one or more friends, I get curious and want to know what that’s like. Because I never had that before.
So what does all this rambling mean, in conclusion? It means that us TCKs must accept these circumstances and try to look at the bright side. Maybe you already are. Some of us are not. I always try to see my situation as a privilege, because it is a result of enriching life experiences that most people only dream of having. I am going to continue to tell myself to change gear and look at the bright side, because the more you focus on the negatives the harder it is for you to crawl out of the rut.
Lastly, I want to thank both Hannah and Daniela for their posts, and how they’ve inspired me to speak about my opinions on just being a TCK, and this common subject that revolves around us.
How are my fellow TCKs faring out there? Are there any particular challenges you face?