“No, but where are you really from?”
“Okay, but where are your parents from?”
Do you ever find yourself in any of these situations? Do you find it difficult to identify yourself with certain experiences? Take me as an example. I was born and brought up on an island called Saint Martin, but my parents were born and brought up in India. What do I identify myself with? Saint Martin, no questions asked.
You’re most likely to be asked similar questions regarding your identity in your first year settling here in Rotterdam. If you’re a third culture kid or TCK (brought up in a culture other than your parents’ own), raise your glass, because you’re not alone!
You might have experienced some of the following:
1 – Explaining your “accent” in regards to your appearance
It’s natural for humans to categorize certain things with certain phenomena. Similarly, the human brain tends to associate certain accents with specific countries and traits. That first “Hi, my name is ..” is being analyzed tenfold by every new person you meet. It’s possible for people to get your accent right; however, for third culture kids, it goes deeper than just your voice box and skin. You may sound Italian, but you look Chinese. I’ve been told I have a slight American accent or a “neutral” accent (whatever that is, haha!), but I look Indian. Humans tend to get a bit confused when you don’t sound how you look. It may be draining to explain your heritage and solely be categorized based on your accent and physical qualities, but try not to get offended or feel uncomfortable when asked for “further explanation” of your accent. Everyone is just trying to get to know you, which will happen to you very often in your first few months here!
2 – Cultural traditions
Do you celebrate both traditions – where you were brought up and where your parents were brought up? Call yourself diverse! Growing up in a country naturally pushes you to celebrate its traditions and national, cultural events. With your family, you might celebrate their cultural celebrations.