Nationality as Reference Point
Who am I? – is a question that most, if not all, Third Culture Kids find hard to answer. Feeling unsure about one’s identity is perhaps the defining issue in the Third Culture Kid experience. Granted, it is not one exclusive to TCKs as many people struggle with issues concerning their sexuality, religious beliefs, professional identity etc. However, the constant wondering of one’s own national identity and allegiances can be seen as an extra burden laid on top of all the other layers of questions that we force ourselves to answer during our adolescence.
Nationality is a useful tool to create understanding, not only between foreigners but also amongst ourselves. Even within local communities, we use national identity as a quiet form of understanding. We know what is culturally appropriate and what is expected and take comfort in the fact that the people around us follow the same “rule book”. In conversations with foreigners, national identity is often utilized as a way of understanding the person’s values. In a conversation between a Danish person and a Pakistani person, they both know that the Danish person is more liberal leaning, whilst the Pakistani person has grown up in a society that emphasizes the importance of patriarchy and religion. National identity can also be used as a lighthearted way of “breaking the ice” between foreigners. People can reference pop-culture or cuisine relevant to that country and ask questions about it as a way of building a relationship. (E.g. Talking to a Japanese person about sushi, Mt. Fuji, anime, kimono, samurais, ninjas etc.) This is where the problem arises for Third Culture Kids. As someone who has a relationship with all cultures they have lived in, whilst not having ownership of any, the Third Culture Kid will feel awkward about acting as an ambassador of their passport country but will more often accept the role over having to explain their situation and give the curious stranger a long list of all the countries they have lived in.
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This forces the Third Culture Kid to answer a question that the majority of people have already answered for themselves. The question of where am I from? is often thought of by TCKs as the most annoying question ever. Many people tend to ask it to TCKs out of curiosity, but the answer is often so complex that the Third Culture Kid feels frustrated at having to deal with it and can, at times, feel a need to hide their past in order to skip dealing with it.
As displayed on the graph below, Third Culture Kids will move between cultures in what is called a Cross Culture Cycle. They are in their passport culture at home and a different culture at school (possibly American or British) and in the transition between the two and in their daily life in general they interact as a member of a host culture. This cycle replaces the concept of national identity for Third Culture Kids and becomes the building blocks of who they are as people. Therefore when we are forced to make a decision to move somewhere, we are made to break one of the blocks that supports the foundation of our identity. That is why most Third Culture Kids trap themselves in a cycle of constantly relocating to a country different from their passport culture. They do so in order to maintain the third local community block of their identity.
The question of national identity is a very sensitive subject for TCKs and one that has to be faced head-on in order for them to create stability in their life.
Cross Culture Therapy
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Philip Andersson – Life Coach
Philip Andersson is a life-coach who is currently studying to become a psychotherapist. He treats people suffering from depression, phobias and anxiety. Having been raised in Hong Kong and having lived in England and Japan as an adult, Philip also treats people who are overcome with feelings of displacement and rudderlessness associated with a global-nomad lifestyle such as Third Culture Kids, Cross Culture Kids, Migrants and Asylum Seekers.
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Cross Culture Therapy offers 1-on-1 online therapy sessions to people suffering from depression, phobia, anxiety as well as to people who suffer from displacement issues associated with a globally nomadic lifestyle (i.e.Third Culture Kids – people who have grown up in a culture different to their parent’s passport culture – and Cross Culture Kids) Our sessions are conducted via Skype for a duration of 50-minutes and can be purchased in packs of 1-session, 3-sessions or 5-sessions. If you are interested in purchasing a session, click on the Book A Session tab on our menu or click here.