26 February 2016

On Being a Third Culture Kid: Part II

Three years ago, I wrote an article here about being a third culture kid. At that time, I remarked how we third culture kids have no sense of belonging, and I wrote about the fact that I have been a foreigner more than a local for the majority of my adult life. I guess three years later, I have come to terms with that, but I suppose I am writing about it again because some of my close acquaintances still struggle with it.

See, the friend that I mentioned in that older post, we still keep in touch. Recently, he moved to Berlin with his wife and two children, and like me, he is a third culture kid. I had coffee with him the other day, and he said something that made me think.

See, he has German citizenship. Yet for all intents and purposes, he isn't German. Hence there is this weird almost irrational feeling that he doesn't belong here in Berlin. And even though he just moved, he has a strong desire to move away somewhere else. Except that first of all, it's hard to find where that somewhere else is, and second, one isn't sure how receptive that somewhere else would be to his existence.

So we were talking the other day, and I realized that I think I have made some survival strategies and implemented them, mostly because of the fact that I am a third culture kid. See, I have always been a foreigner. I've always been the odd person out. But I guess that doesn't bother me anymore. I guess during my stay here in Berlin, I have implicitly built a very international social network, so all of my friends are from all over the place, and I don't feel different anymore. Berlin after all is not representative of Germany, and there are plenty of features in this city that cannot be replicated in other German locales.

I also realized that I gave up on trying to fit in. I figured that would always be a failure. Instead, I have decided to stand out, and so instead of trying to be German, I am trying to co-exist with the norms and mores of my adoptive society. There are German characteristics that I like and don't like, as with any of the other cultures that I have immersed myself in in the past.

I seek differences. Even though I don't mind eating German cuisine when I eat out, I also know plenty of good places where one can have good international food. I know where to get the best Japanese ramen, the best Ethiopian kitfo, the best French steak tartare, the best Peruvian ceviche, here in Berlin. I guess somehow I have been internationalizing my outlook more and more, so instead of feeling like I have been trapped in a German city not fitting in, I feel like I have the world in a miniature and manageable size, right here in Berlin.

Anyway, I guess what I wanted to say is that being a third culture kid isn't bad. It presents a few unique challenges, but overall, once one has learned how to deal with these challenges, it actually makes for a more interesting life.

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