I encountered the article, Third Culture Kids: Citizens of everywhere and nowhere, describing TCKs such as me in a nutshell (Mayberry, 2016). And I thought that it might even give non-TCKs a better understanding of people who grew up in multiple countries. While reading it, I stumbled upon a quote from a fellow TCK:
“Everyone knew everyone and no one knew me.” (Tapp, 2016)
That was exactly how I felt when I moved to Singapore, my passport country, in 2010. Being born there, I felt the expectations of society and myself that I needed to fit in because I was born a local, but I couldn’t.
If I behave 100% like a Singaporean and let go of all the other behaviours I picked up, faking it seems to rip something from me. To me, it was as if I’m denying my life abroad, rejecting the past, and living as if my memories never happened. And I can’t behave like a 100% Singaporean because I didn’t grow up there.
I could try to fake it but it seemed as if I would be lying to myself, people, and God. So I presented myself sincerely.
However, my different accents and behaviours possibly made some locals think I’m pretending to be someone I’m not or that I’m too proud of my background that I refuse to change myself. My lack of patriotism to Singapore (I’m not patriotic to any country) made me feel guilty and that I shouldn’t even own a local identification card.
Moving Back to My Passport Country was Hard
It took me two years to adapt to the place that was supposed to be my “home,” partly because I was caught in between these: being foreign and being a local that I should be. I struggled with my identity.
Additionally, I had an assumption when I moved back: I already have an established social community there. I didn’t. I moved out of Singapore when I was five. I didn’t attend their local schools nor had I grown up in the same socio-cultural environment as them. In other words, I didn’t share the same childhood.
Thus, I barely had connections outside my relatives. I eventually decided to treat Singapore as I would to other countries I’d lived in. By simply adapting without changing myself. Then I made new friends (again) by being the friend Christ wanted me to be.
I Did Not Fit Into My Passport Country
My irregular puzzle shape doesn’t fit in not only Singapore but also any other country. I may not be completely a Singaporean, a Korean, a Chinese, a Czech, or an American (I say this due to my education). The complexity of my background made it a struggle for me to fit into my passport country.
My accent and behaviour may consist of five cultural parts, but I’m not any of them. I’m a person just like you in God’s eyes: a soul who was trapped in sin and was set free by the blood of Jesus Christ.
The Road Led Me to Someone
My rootlessness ultimately drove me to depend on Christ instead of my “homes” and the “national identities” I picked up. That being said, I formed the two statements:
My identity may be rootless, yet my root is in Christ.
I may not call any country my home, yet His Home is my Home.
His Home is the best place because I will be with Him for eternity (Heb. 11:16). After all, everything on earth is temporal, including countries and national identities.
"Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations." Psalm 90:1 KJV
Mayberry, K. 2016. Third culture kids: Citizens of everywhere and nowhere. In BBC Worklife. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20161117-third-culture-kids-citizens-of-everywhere-and-nowhere?fbclid=IwAR39E10Ph1MwyO3EBtwZA7aFInQNvFtMYWBgGKBKRQXeYZsYmq3YwelE96I
Tapp, G. 2016. Quoted in Mayberry, K. “Third Culture Kids: Citizens of everywhere and nowhere.” November 19, 2016. In BBC Worklife. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20161117-third-culture-kids-citizens-of-everywhere-and-nowhere?fbclid=IwAR39E10Ph1MwyO3EBtwZA7aFInQNvFtMYWBgGKBKRQXeYZsYmq3YwelE96I