Changing times always present newer challenges. Third culture kids have such a wider exposure to life and its challenges, leaving them empowered with a higher level of cross-cultural competence, sometimes exhibiting more understanding than their mono-cultural counterparts. However on the flipside, they experience ‘cultural jet lag’, opines Suveera, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
There is a bit of early morning frenzy in the house, as we all are rushing to get ready and out of the house in time for my son’s open morning at school. It is his first year at the ‘big’ school, and I am longing to see how he has fared.
We enter the classroom with a host of other excited parents, smiles beaming from ear to ear. I am excited to see his silly drawings and perhaps a few scribbled words.
Every child has tried to write a paragraph about themselves, along with a flag of their home country. I scan through the wall of twenty-five odd slips of paper, looking for my son’s masterpiece. However, when you are looking at handwritings of five-year-olds, it is difficult to tell one from another. Even the names look like a drunk ant that decided to dance on the paper with painted feet.
I look up and down for the Indian flag, but there is none to be seen. Finally, I see his name or something that looks like it! But to my surprise, it has the Hong Kong flag pasted next to it. I am amused as I ask him, “Why have you put the Hong Kong flag next to your name instead of the Indian one?” “Because I am from Hong Kong,” said my 5-year-old son. “India is where I go on vacation, but I live here and belong to Hong Kong,” he explained.
That innocent remark got me thinking. He is not to be blamed. We moved here when he was all of one year old, still learning to talk and walk. Most of his first experiences have been here in Hong Kong. It has given him his first childhood memories. Like he rightly said, “Hong Kong is where he lives, and India is where he goes on holidays.”
We are raising third culture kids, who do not live in the passport country of their parents, have moved to a foreign land, and have developed a third culture of their own, having imbibed from the culture of their native place and the culture of the country where they now reside.
My children are a great example of this fusion. They celebrate the Chinese New Year and Christmas with the same fervor as Diwali or Holi. My dear daughter enjoys eating dumplings as much as jalebis. I send her for Mandarin lessons, but she also recites the Gayatri Mantra at bedtime. She is now moving towards her teenage years but realises the cultural differences between her and her peers, and gracefully accepts the slightly more stringent rules of our household. My son, sometimes much to my embarrassment greets his uncles by their first names, while at the same time, respectfully touches their feet for blessings. It is such a fascinating amalgamation of two cultures and lifestyles. I hope it leaves them enriched, and better able to adapt to newer environments, with an inclusive nature.
A few days ago, I attended a talk on internationalism, which was so apt for a community of expats like ours. The speaker highlighted some valid points. The world is fast becoming smaller with connectivity increasing both in the real and virtual world. Many children now complete their education in two or more countries and then as adults, find work in a completely different one. A complete contrast to earlier times when a person could lead their entire life in the same city.
Changing times always present newer challenges. Third culture kids have such a wider exposure to life and its challenges, leaving them empowered with a higher level of cross-cultural competence, sometimes exhibiting more understanding than their mono-cultural counterparts. However, on the flipside, they experience ‘cultural jet lag’. Due to their multiple referential points, they sometimes feel like outsiders or spectators on issues like sports, patriotism, national pride or political interests, lacking a deep sense of belonging to any one place.
I think the most difficult question for them to answer when they are older would be, “Where are you from?” Are they from India, where they were born, where their parents come from, which is also now with every passing year away from it, becoming like an alien friend? Or do they belong to Hong Kong where they are being raised, and are learning their life lessons, making friends from all over the world? Do they not now share more in common with other Third culture kids than they do with their peer group from their passport country? What is their permanent address?
I think they are global citizens, not bound by boundaries. And the world is their oyster. Go, Shine!
Photos sourced from the author from the Internet
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Suveera Sharma is a postgraduate in English and a qualified software trainer. She is an avid reader and writer. Being the daughter of an army officer, she spent her childhood in various cantonments all over India. At present, she is settled in Hong Kong. She runs storytelling sessions for little kids and writes in her spare time.