A while ago, someone introduced me to the concept of “Third Culture Kids”.
“Third culture kid (TCK, 3CK) is a term used to refer to children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years.”
I remember identifying with some of the aspects, of not knowing where is home, and observing, “I did this to myself”.
There have been many things that I have found weird about returning to the UK. The biggest one is, that is does not feel like home. 7 years is a long time to be away, I guess. Not that I ever identified with many aspects of British culture – the drinking, the football, the somewhat xenophobic attitude to Europe. I do, have always, identified as European. But still. I do not feel British. I also do not sound British, so whilst some people ask where I am from (“Australia?” “America?”, something that I find hilarious as in those countries people always found me extremely English-sounding), sometimes people just give me cultural tips, and express concern about how I’m coping with the weather.
But still. London is not that British a place, it is very multicultural and people from all over the world live there. It looks British, though, the architecture. The large houses carved up into oddly shaped apartments, that’s British. The weather is decidedly British.
The hardest thing for me has been to cope with this feeling of displacement, of not belonging. I loved being an expat, I loved the adventure of it and the feeling of potential. I thrived on the slight feeling of uncertainty, or opportunity – I can leave. The knowledge that I probably would. The extra thrill, when it seemed like everything in my life is in place – I came away and found this, I didn’t settle. Falling in love and thinking, I could stay for you (of course the flip side of this is the pressure it creates).
I guess when I was an expat, it was OK not to belong. Now, I just feel lost. When I was an expat, I had an idea of where I would go next. Now I wonder, is this it?
Unless I move to America, which if you work for an American company comes up regularly. I have never wanted to live in America, either.
I feel this sense of loss. Being an expat was part of my identity. As well as a sense of failure, a dash of resentment to circumstances conspiring. I feel like I used to be a more interesting person, I miss that.
I don’t know how to deal with that. It’s been 6 months. Do I grieve? I think I have. Career-wise, it’s been the best decision I have ever made. Life-wise, I still don’t know.
But I come back around to the Third Culture Kids. Yes, I did this to myself. But these feelings are normal. That is the price you pay for adventures, for knowledge – you know what’s out there, and where you are not.