Where Are We From? The Third Culture Kid Conundrum

While we were at a chocolate tasting yesterday, a hostess showed us a map of the world’s cocoa producing areas. When she said India Ava piped in, “I am from India and New York.” Not wanting to miss out on the conversation Kayan added, “And Cape Town.”

Sandeep and I always had difficulty answering the “Where are you from?” question. It turns out that we have successfully passed this confusion on to our children. Sandeep and I collectively lived in six countries and eleven cities before we started this trip. New York was home for nine years, the deepest place we ever planted roots. Kayan has spent just about as much of his life on our around the world journey as he did in New York. While Ava still carries many memories from New York, Kayan’s identity is transient and tied to wherever we are at a particular moment. The more we travel, the more we identify with we each new place. As it becomes easier to fit in it is harder to answer the question, “Where are you from?” I’ve always had slight envy for people who still call the house in which they were born home. We can barely identify ourselves with a country at this point.

A few weeks ago, a women asked if she could interview us an Indian family traveling around the world. She just launched desi globetrotter, an indie travel blog geared for the South Asian traveler, and wanted wanted to share our story with her readers. We were excited to participate but nervous that we wouldn’t come across as Indian enough for her audience. It turned out to be a fun interview because we decided to just be ourselves. Here is the link to the interview. Even though this is a travel site geared towards South Asians, I feel as though it could be a great interview from any cultural perspective. I was starting to get a little worried about our family’s lack of cultural identify when I read about Third Culture Kids.

“A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any.” – www.tckworld.com

What’s interesting is that TCK research finally shed light on why we sometimes don’t feel Indian.

“Many TCKs take years to readjust to their [original] passport countries. They often suffer a reverse culture shock upon their return, and are often perpetually homesick for their adopted country. Many third culture kids face an identity crisis: they don’t know where they come from. It would be typical for a TCK to say that he is a citizen of a country, but with nothing beyond his passport to define that identification for him. TCKs’ sense of identity and well-being is directly and negatively affected by repatriation.”

Sandeep and I are clearly TCKs. Ava and Kayan, as kids of TCKs and world travelers are already cross-culture kids or trans-culture kids. Even though the TCK research gave us a framework to understand our cultural confusions, we don’t yet have an answer to “Where are you from?” I’ve toyed with “earth” and now “I’m a third culture kid” but I suspect those wouldn’t make us any friends. For now, “New York and India and Cape Town” seems as legitimate an answer as anything else.

We continued our chocolate tasting today over a game of scrabble. The rules were that we could put foreign words on the board as long as everyone knew what they meant. Cross cultural scrabble.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Filed under Africa, India, South Africa, Travel With Kids

6 Responses to Where Are We From? The Third Culture Kid Conundrum

  1. “Like”. Welcome to TCK land!

  2. shernaz patel

    Never heard of TCK, it’s an interesting phrase. I often don’t know where to say I am from. British born and raised, English accent, Indian parents and identity, and now living in the US!! Enough about me for now. Love your photos they are a mazing as always can’t wait to see you guys in August. Lots of love

    • Diya

      I have also learned that TCK tend to surround themselves with other TCKs since we get each other easier. That may explain why you and I get along like two peas in a pod.

  3. Lisa

    This post totally hit home, as I did a similar post not so long ago. Feel free to check it out! http://melibeeglobal.com/2012/06/reflections-on-being-a-third-culture-kid-tck/

    • Diya

      Thank you for sharing your post! I absolutely related to it, particularly the “You know you are a TCK when…” list. Also liked the little video you shared.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *