Things You Learn Growing Up Outside Your Home Country

April 10, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

As almost an immediate disclaimer, I want to add that this is not another article about the many plights and quirks about living a Third Culture Kid (TCK) lifestyle. Those are fun to read, but often times, not accurate at all (not every TCK has a wrecked passport from all their travels, is a frequent flyer in 10 different airlines, or speaks 2402830 languages…). Essentially there are many things one learns – and maybe doesn’t appreciate enough – while living out of your “home” country.

Personally, I’ve shuffled between India and Singapore. Both my parents have grown up and worked in India, and we moved to Singapore when I was two years old. I also know many people whose parents might be from two completely separate continents both, from each other, and from the continent their child is growing up in. Understandably, those kids would be confused about exactly what to call “home”. For example, you are never fully integrated in both cultures – your residence country’s and your home country’s. You might even receive scorn from both cultures for never fully being a part of either.

But the one thing TCK’s should, I believe, be mindful of, is droning on about is how they are disadvantaged because of their supposed identity crisis. I completely understand being confused about where you come from, or even being unhappy about it at times. But calling yourself “disadvantaged”, I think, is taking a bit too far. So to dispel the idea of TCK’s being “disadvantaged”, here is a list of a few wonderful things you end up learning when you grow up away from your home country.

  •  CULTURAL ABSORBANCE

This is probably the most obvious and undeniable aspect of growing up somewhere away from your home country. We’ve gotten an immense amount of cultural exposure, and have essentially learnt about another culture (or cultures!) purely because we’re living in it. It isn’t uncommon for you to know a great deal about two or more different cultures. This, I think, is often subconscious. Indirectly, growing up away from your home country, you’re influenced by different cultural elements like art, music, languages, festivals, clothes, media, etc. We take in all this culture without thinking twice, which will inevitably – and curiously – shape our thinking and beliefs.

  •  CULTURAL TOLERANCE

This point pretty much follows the point above, and is very simplistic. Being exposed to so much cultural variance makes you far more tolerant when it comes to cultural differences – idiosyncrasies are more easily accepted.

  •  CULTURAL INVESTMENT

I think this is the MOST IMPORTANT point of all, and possibly the most underappreciated point. Growing up away from your home country makes you crave it more. You will know every ritual, every festival, and every food. You’ll actively keep up with music, or film, or art from your country because you want to be a part of it. Basically, you’re investing as much time (if not more) in embracing your home country’s culture, as you would if you lived there. I know if I lived in India, I probably wouldn’t make half the effort to celebrate certain festivals.

 And honestly, if you’re a kid who has grown up out of your home country, but are still immensely attached to your culture and people, you owe a massive thank you to your parents. Without their efforts and direct influence, you wouldn’t have too many ties to where you come from. It’s amazing how parents will always go the extra mile to instill their culture in you.

Thirdly, you will inevitably find circles of friends in your resident country that are also in your situation. Together, you guys share a bond of belonging that stems from your original home country. And together, you become more and more invested in where you come from, which actually brings you even closer to your home country. If you’re a person who is from multiple countries, this is even more pivotal. Your friends will directly influence your ties back to your home country, and they become a crucial link to your appreciation of your origin cultures.

Given globalization, you really end up being too far from your home culture. I know that if I want to, I can always find a bit of India no matter which part of the world I’m in.

  •  ACCENTS!!

Every language has a unique rendition to it, brought by its speakers who live in different countries. Accents in languages are awesome. Do not feel ashamed of your unique sound (definitely speaking from personal experience here…)!
[Note to self: 2014 Belated Resolution should be to lose whatever “accent” people claim my Hindi carries]

  •  APPRECIATING TIME BACK HOME

Spending time in your home country, as we come to learn, is very important. You’ll never see your family and friends in your home country as often as you should (plane tickets, vacation timings, sigh…), and you’ve learnt the hard way that every minute spent with them is precious.

Trips back to India for me mean capturing every memory, sound, scent, taste and sight you come across. Listening to my grandparents talk, or laughing with my cousins are moments so rare, it becomes a necessity to remember as much as humanely possible. Essentially, I’ve just learnt how paramount it is to encapsulate and appreciate a place as entirely as possible.

  •  THE IDENTITY “CRISIS” – NOT A BIG DEAL!

It’s okay to have two homes. It’s also okay not to flip out (as most TCK articles suggest happens) when people ask you where you come from. So you’ve grown up in one country, and your parents are from another. Just explain that! It’s not complicated. It’s okay to be part of more than one culture, and it’s okay to feel homesick for more than one place.
Try to look at it not as an identity crisis, but as part of our identity. It shouldn’t mean any more or any less if you’re “from” one place, just chill out and enjoy the cultural exposure you’ve had to all these places.
I know it can be tough straddling between two worlds sometimes, but that’s what makes your perspective more personal. It’s a good thing!

 Lastly, just as an added disclaimer, the TCK identity crisis may or may not be overrated; what is most certainly underrated, however, is the beauty of knowing EXACTLY where you’re from, and fully reveling in that culture. The idea of being raised out of your home country has almost become a fad; people think you’re “exotic” or “cool” if you aren’t from your home country, which I think is bizarre. I don’t think being a TCK makes us any more interesting, it just means we’ve had a few different experiences, and our stories are not necessarily better than those of First Culture Kids (FCK’s).

 So in a nutshell, enjoy the cultural variety you’ve been exposed to, enjoy having more than one home, and learn from people all around you. In the comments below, tell us more about your experiences growing up both in and out of your home country!

And as work pressure slowly increases, don’t forget to keep taking those much-needed breaks (check out some of our previous stress-relief posts if you need inspiration!). Hang in there! (:

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