â€œNo, but where are you really from?â€
â€œOkay, but where are your parents from?â€
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.
Youâ€™re most likely to be asked similar questions regarding your identity in your first year settling here in Rotterdam. If youâ€™re a third culture kid or TCK (brought up in a culture other than your parentsâ€™ own), raise your glass, because youâ€™re not alone!
You might have experienced some of the following:
1 – Explaining your â€œaccentâ€ in regards to your appearance
Itâ€™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 â€œHi, my name is ..â€ is being analyzed tenfold by every new person you meet. Itâ€™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. Iâ€™ve been told I have a slight American accent or a â€œneutralâ€ accent (whatever that is, haha!), but I look Indian. Humans tend to get a bit confused when you donâ€™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 â€œfurther explanationâ€ 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 â€“ 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.
We TCKs are open to so many more experiences, values, and morals that mold our upbringing and perspectives on life into something truly unique. And who doesnâ€™t like the extra food and social gatherings that come with being multicultural?
3 – Feeling of belonging to a community, but not really
I recently visited family in India, and I can confidently say that I went through this. I celebrate similar traditions and my ancestors come from this country, but I donâ€™t think they will ever accept me as a full-fledged Indian nor will I ever consider myself one. The same goes for what I consider â€œhomeâ€ (Saint Martin). Itâ€™s a constant struggle as we find ourselves hanging in the middle between all the countries weâ€™ve been brought up in. Itâ€™s only natural for us to want to be part of a community, and having this experience can be a real setback for some people. But remember, thereâ€™s more food and celebrations involved when youâ€™re a TCK, so whoâ€™s really losing here?
Hear me out. If you change your perspective on things, label yourself as unique. Youâ€™re international, youâ€™re multicultural, and most importantly, you belong. Even if youâ€™re not a TCK, you may have experienced some of these things. Carry your pride as a badge on your shoulder, because Rotterdam is one big international family. You would fit right in here.
Yashita here! This blog is more personal to me, and I hope you can also relate to some of the experiences Iâ€™ve had. Cheers to being a TCK!