TCK – a cultural identity crisis?

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Third Culture Kids, ‘home’ and identity

I can be brown, I can be blue, and now I’m a TCK, too!

I have been reading about TCK’s, Third Culture Kids for a while now. Those are children, who followed their parents to another country. TCK’s often ask themselves the questions: “Who am I? Where is my home?

Turns out, I am a TCK, too! However, while I sometimes did feel that I was different, I was always comfortable in my own country. But I also felt at home wherever I went.

A cultural identity crisis?

When I was little, I followed my parents to Germany. I went to a German daycare, and learned to speak perfect German. After 2 years, we came back to Poland and I felt at home again. But I my interest in the German language and culture remained, and I later went on to study German at the Warsaw University.

At some point, I decided to take part in the Socrates Erasmus exchange program. I went to Hamburg, and again, I felt at home. I adapted extremely quickly, and met a wonderful German man. The feeling I had when I went back to Poland to visit my family was a very weird one: “I am going home”, I thought. But I was going home from a place that to me, felt like home as well. And I didn’t see any problems with that.

I then moved to Germany in order to be with my then-boyfriend. And again, I felt at home. I spoke the language, and understood a lot about German culture. But my parents- in-law said to me: “You speak perfect German but your intonation is funny. But it’s OK, this is a part of who you are.” And yes, I do embrace my “funny intonation” in German, and I don’t care if it’s not perfect. On the other hand, when I visit my family and friends in Poland, they sometimes tell me that I’ve started speaking with a German accent. I don’t care about that, either.

Home is where the heart is

Now as I’ve been living in the Netherlands, I call the Netherlands my home. Symbolically, it is also the place where we bought an actual house. But the house doesn’t matter. Home is where the heart is. Home is where my husband is. It is where my children are. If we moved to another place, I’d call that home as well. I’ll always call Warsaw my home because that’s where my parents and my brother are. I am also wildly, madly in love with this city.

The heart is the key. Love is what makes me feel comfortable wherever I end up being.

Sometimes you just have to ask your children and they give you the answer

One day, Klara wanted to put on a beautiful, silken dress that her grand-cousin had bought for her. I explained that this dress comes from China. And then I said: “and I am Polish, and daddy is German”. Then I asked: “And who are you?”. She said: “Klara!”

Such a simple and yet complex answer: she is Klara. She is 2 years old. She is a blond, happy, clever girl. We are more than our country of origin. We are more than our culture. Wherever I am, I am myself. Do you know this poem by Whitni Thomas? It is called “Colors” and deals with the difficult topic of cultural identity crisis.

In the words of this poem, I feel green.

“Colors” by Whitni Thomas

I grew up in a Yellow country
But my parents are Blue.
I’m Blue.
Or at least, that is what they told me.
But I play with the Yellows.
I went to school with the Yellows.
I spoke the Yellow language.
I even dressed and appeared to be Yellow.
Then I moved to the Blue land.
Now I go to school with the Blues.
I speak the Blue language.
I even dress and look Blue.
But deep down, inside me, something’s Yellow.
I love the Blue country.
But my ways are tinted with Yellow.
When I am in the Blue land,
I want to be Yellow.
When I am in the Yellow land,
I want to be Blue.
Why can’t I be both?
A place where I can be me.
A place where I can be green.
I just want to be green.

via The European Mama: I can be brown, I can be blue, and now I’m a TCK, too! [Source no longer availble]

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