The third culture kid experience in a way is most similar to being the new kid at school— constantly. I should explain. I have been going back and forth between two countries and was born in a third. I was born in Pakistan and five months later I moved to Brunei. There, I met so many friends that would grow to experience the third culture kid experience with me. A few years later, I moved to Canada and a few years after that, I moved back to Brunei and kept switching back and forth between the two countries.
From speaking with friends and my own experience, we’ve come to some conclusions. There are entirely contrasting sets of norms, beliefs and cultures in both countries, enough to give one whiplash. That being said, it’s so eye opening to meet so many different types of people with such varied interests and skills based on the country they were born. In Brunei, none of my friends have had jobs or work experience, preferring to do volunteer work with friends as that was the norm. In Canada, I have friends renting out apartments and starting their own small businesses. To meet such wonderful people with varied skills, passions and ways of thinking broadens my own view of the world and my place in it. That said, I feel as though with the number of possibilities it is difficult to narrow down what I would like to pursue, where I would like to live, the ease and comfort of one place compared to the excitement and opportunity of another.
There are several aspects that encapsulates the third culture experience, more good than not, but what is determinant in making it so special is the people and connections in each place. So, as you can imagine, creating deep meaningful connections and having to move around just as quickly puts a barrier in the extent of time spent. At first, it used to make me sad to have to move from school or country so often and as I got older I realized that the memories made were worth it.
From high school dances, sport games, sleepovers, to hikes, prom and graduation, I still managed to remain in contact with everyone I’ve known since grade one. I have also made several new friends that I can tell will be best friends for years to come. One of my favorite things is being able to share stories with my friends that live halfway across the world and hear of their lives, all the good and bad. One of the most spectacular stories of living in different countries is that I saw a cheetah on the road while driving to school. Not a lot of people believe it but it’s a really great way to show the contrast in environment and expectations between countries.
The main downside to moving around so often would be the slight sense of alienation from the culture or society. At times, we recognize that ethnically, I have barely been in my birth country and yet I feel such a strong devotion and love for my place of birth. However, there have been instances in which people, cousins back home too, have tried to invalidate my identity and affection for my country. That has left me to wonder whether I actually belong.
I’m told that I should not articulate my opinions on politics because I’m not there to experience any of the aftermath of the decisions or that I’m not cultured enough. Being told this repeatedly, I used to find myself shrinking away from discussing matters so openly. It wasn’t until I got older and more knowledgeable that I recognized that just because I don’t live somewhere does not mean that I cannot care for the people, community and country that do live there. I find myself actually quite passionate about political affairs and legal reform, hoping to eventually be able to study and create research regarding it.
I’m excited to curate more memories, keep in touch with and visit several places and friends along the way. It is a beautiful thing to be able to see so much of the world in just two countries where I grew up, leaving little for the lacking. I feel as though I’ve seen the country with the best sunsets and the country with the most magical snowfall. There is little left to desire in terms of visiting places. As for a home, I find that wherever my family and friends are, as I find many other third culture kids feel.