Once I came across the phrase ‘too foreign for home, too foreign for here’ and ironically, nothing hit ‘home’ harder. As I sit here writing this as a way to procrastinate the French assignment hanging over my head, I’ve been thinking a lot about a Digs mates project for media where she asked me a couple questions about home, identity and third culture kids.
For those of you who don’t know, a third culture kid is a person who spent a significant portion of their developmental years in a place they would not usually associate with being from. This doesn’t mean getting shipped off to boarding school in the midlands whilst your parents lived their Johannesburg life, it means that for a part of your life you are raised outside of the culture of the country on your passport.
I am currently twenty-one years old and hold a British passport- I would usually say winning here but Brexit amongst other nationalist-focused dialogue has me questioning my passport-based loyalty to the UK right now, especially since British or any form of nationalism isn’t really something I can relate to. However, despite my passport, I have lived for a total of 6 months in not-so-sunny England. 6 months out of 21 years. Now, my maths is bad, but that’s approximately 2%. When answering my digs mates generic ‘where are you from’ question, I automatically thought to say England, to avoid a long winded discussion to which minimal people appear to relate to on an intrinsic level. Now here’s my question, how can I be from a country I’ve spent 2% of my life in, and neither of my parents or my sibling were born in?
Here are the stats:
England: 6 months
Germany: 8 years, moving every 2 or so.
The Netherlands: 2 years
Spain: 3 years
Kuwait: 4 years
South Africa: 4 years and counting.
So am I German? I mean I spent the most time there- and both my dad and brother were born there? Or can I say Spain is home because I speak Spanish and have an infinite love for Spanish culture that feels like home? What about Kuwait- before South Africa it was the longest I’ve lived in one place and thus spent the most significant amount of time? Or is it here? (Though whilst writing this, South Africa is kicking me out of the country in 2019 at the end of my degree so I’m not feeling a super warm home-y vibe from you at the moment…)
Identity is something I struggled with when I had to move away from schools where everyone kinda just got that the lifestyle is like this (shout out to Afnorth and army based schools in Germany). It wasn’t weird that you were in a class full of people where next year half would have moved away, and it wasn’t weird to know things were temporary. Shit got real when I was pushed into civilian school as a 10 year old where for the first time, people I met didn’t want or need a new friend -cue the ‘aws’ for a poor little chubby Holly who couldn’t speak a word of Spanish in the playground- just kidding, but really it was a wake up call to the fact that what I perceived as normal, wasn’t. And this wake up call memory twitches every time the question of who I am is asked. I think as I’ve got older, my identity has become fused with the meaning of a third-culture-kid (TCK) and I’ve accepted that I am a melting pot of ‘stuff’ that kinda has a finger in every pie, but never fully commits to eating the dessert where most of you are happy with you paella, steak and kidney pie or milk tart.
To this day, I don’t understand why people look at me with fascination as I explain this back story, like some human myth which people just look at from behind a glass separation which they can never really break through. No offense to anyone reading this, it’s just a sentiment of disconnect I feel. And to a certain extent, there’s even some jealousy, for where you are watching me behind this glass separation with everyone else, I’m pretty much alone in the box. The best friend since I was 3 who’s been with me through thick and thin? That kind of relationship is on the other side with you. The person I’ve known the longest consistently I met at 10 years old, and they moved 2 years later. I am still in contact with them and whenever I see them its seeing family, but my point is they aren’t down the road and in honesty, I’ve seen them twice in almost 10 years. Truthfully, I think this impacted the cold hearted ice queen you all know me to be (haha) because actually, having to pack up your life to move away gets tough so you get tougher. That said, it also means you leave behind a lot of the people you don’t need in your life which really is letting go of a lot of dead weight.
I wonder if some of you reading this are questioning my parents’ decision to drag us around the globe but wow- if they’d have sent me to boarding school I think I’d never forgive them. Yes, it was tough having to move around and feel like you’re always on the edge of the friendship pool (though for those that offered some floaties I am forever grateful and happy to have had you swim all this way with me) but you know what- at 21 years old I have seen an odd 54 countries and there’s more to come, I have been exposed to cultures I would never have been able to connect with without being there, I’m not scared of any country/person/culture, and I know how to plan a hella rad trip taking into account which airports have the best layovers or which airlines got the best in-flight entertainment system. My parents exposed me to something I couldn’t have gained any other way and it’s so been worth missing out on a couple things for it. Also, they’re the OG TCKs given that my dad also an army brat and my mum is also a gypsy of some sort or another, so they really do know what’s cracking. The only issue they’ve caused me is having to listen to my father’s attempts at the Spanish language, or having to pick a country to support in any sporting event.
Home, for me, is not a geographical label, or a brick house or a city. Nor is it a person because, as someone once said to me- we actually aren’t made out of soil in which other people should plant their roots. Home is a feeling inside yourself. And home for me is a global feeling. To be able to make wherever I am home may mean I always will be too foreign for home and too foreign for here, and I may be eating multiple pies on the edge of the friendship pool, but that pool is so full of life and being able to eat dinner at any table is a gift and actually, being too foreign for anywhere is so okay with me.