About thethirdculturekidproject

Founded by 2 TCKs, the TCK Project aims to bring together TCKs and share our stories. " Many losses are often not acknowledged even by their own parents, and the main problem is unspoken, unrecognized, shunted aside." Through our story sharing, we want to speak of this main problem and cope together. If you're in Singapore, email us!

#2017

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By Rebecca Coleman

               This year I wrote New Year’s resolutions. For those of you who might be asking “so what?” This is a huge deal for me. As a Nomad from birth, it’s always been hard for me to envision a future much beyond the next week. Between moving more times than I am old and never really having any stable or long lasting relationships outside of my immediate family, the future seemed more of a mystical realm, kind of like heaven. This thing that pretty much everyone agrees exists, but not really something that we, as humans can prove the validity of. Whenever younger me thought of the future, I always thought of events falling into place almost magically, everything woking itself out. Essentially, I thought the future wasn’t something that could really have an effect on in the present. Okay, so maybe I sound a bit fatalist, I might be, I’ll chalk that up to one of the effects of being raised in a Muslim country.

Anyways, back to my point. I’ve never been able to make any real, concrete new year’s resolutions. Some years I’d make a mental note of wanting to work out more or read more books. But those thoughts would be forgotten by January 3rd at the latest. Obviously the way I was approaching things was all-wrong.

2016 was definitely a “growing up” year for me. I had to face reality in a way that I’ve never had to before. Last year changed me in many different ways but think one of the largest, most important ways that it changed me was that I became a lot more realistic. As my entire fellow Nomads know, we’re dreamers. We dream of traveling, while simultaneously dreaming of having a stable home, of having friends that live down the street instead of on a different continent. We wish we had more money so we could travel more. We wish we had a flexible job that would allow us to jet off whenever we feel like it. We also daydream of being stable, getting married, having kids, buying a house and never moving again. You get my point. My mind was a constant juxtaposition between growing roots and taking flight. It was almost as if I lived my life out in my head and not in real life. So if 2016 taught me anything it taught me that while dreaming is nice and is sometimes the only thing that keeps you sane, reality is, well…reality. It’s important.

For my whole life I had never thought any further than graduating college. Can you imagine? I had never realistically thought about a real life beyond graduating with my degree. Then before I knew it, it happened. College was done and I freaked out. Cause now what? So instead of facing reality, I went right back to school and got a Masters degree. Phew, two more years of not having to think about the future. But then I graduated again, just 6 months ago. Again, “all of a sudden” I had nowhere else to turn, no other rock to hide under, I had to face reality, something I had arguably never had to think about before. Growing up, I floated wherever my parents’ jobs took us. Thailand, Canada, Guinea, and a whole slew of places in-between. All I had to worry about was making sure I packed plenty of reading material and a few snacks. Changing scenery, friends, and houses every other year made me really value the present. But it caused and imbalance. Before I realized how it affected me, I had no appreciation or real understanding of the importance of preparing for the future. It was something I ignored because I felt it was something that I couldn’t control. In my mind, well everything will just fall into place. Que sera sera or whatever.

So yeah, I graduated last July and I started applying for jobs, cause thats what you do after graduation, right? Well a month went by and nothing, two months went by and nothing. Guess what? Here we are in January of 2017 and I’m still jobless. Now, I could blame my predicament on a lot of different factors; my major, the economy, my location, my ill preparedness, but the fact still stands that whatever the reason may be, I have no job and boy, was I not prepared for that. You mean things don’t work out in real life like they do in our imaginations?? All my daydreaming of landing that perfect job right after graduation hadn’t transferred into real life for some reason. Oddly enough that was quite a shock for me.

I’ve taken many personality/strength weakness tests and one aspect that has consistently been my biggest opportunity for growth throughout my life is my inability to “manage a purpose or vision”, basically I refuse to speculate about an unknown future. Until very recently I had just accepted this weakness as everlasting (how defeatist is that?). But after many tears, a lot of denial, and finally some deep soul searching I realized that I had to take control of my future. I finally understood that despite the fact that I may not be able to control everything, I still have a duty to both my current and future self to make sure I am always in the best state of preparedness as possible.

So on December 30th, 2016 I set out to write my first new year’s resolutions of my entire life. Honestly, they came to me a lot more easily than I thought they would. I saw so many aspects of my life that I knew I needed to change. I saw so many opportunities for growth and future improvement. When I was done I showed my list to my boyfriend. His first words:

“It’s so long.”

In my determination I had written a whole page of detailed goals, resolutions, statements, and affirmations that I made to myself in 2017. Well, yeah, of course its long. They were 25 years in the making!

This year, I feel like for the first time in my life I have a sense of purpose. I’m beginning to find that balance between daydreaming about what you can’t control and actively pursuing your personal zenith in those things that you can control. Its a really good feeling. I don’t feel overwhelmed by my resolutions, instead I feel a drive to reach these goals and improve this person that I’m representing for the rest of my life. Does this make me feel less Nomad? Yes, yes it does. Having this sense of purpose makes me feel slightly more “normal” you know, like a regular person who was born and grew up in the same city. But hey, that’s okay. I’m not losing myself in the process, I’m just becoming a better, more prepared me. I never thought I’d reach this point of planning and preparedness, because honestly, I’d never done it before.

But I never want to be in the place that I was in last year, where I was doubting myself and my abilities simply because I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to put some failsafe in place in case of unexpected life turns. If you’ve been able to follow my ramblings thus far, thank you. If you’ve made it this far but still have no clue what I’m saying, I’m sorry, let me help. So what am I saying here? Simply this; I’ve finally found the value in actively pursuing the future that I want for myself. The dots between the decisions that I make today and the affect that they have on tomorrow have finally connected for me. All in all, I’m thankful for the lessons that I learned in 2016. I’m starting this year out as a more balanced individual. I’m still very much a daydreamer; just a slightly more goal oriented one.

And for those if you who are wondering, no, I haven’t thought past 2017. Geez, baby steps, guys.

That One Thing We Don’t Talk About.

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The whole of a sum.

Whether you’re a TCK, multicultural or biracial, you must have felt it. Having no real sense of belonging. Or, maybe, not the same sense of belonging as some of your peers which live where they were born. And they’re probably going to be get married, have kids and retire in the same place.

There’s no good or bad. They say the grass is always greener on the other side and this is exactly why I wanted to write a blog post today. I want to talk about that feeling of envy I get when I see people who are a single number. Not a sum of cultures, various heritage and traditions. Just people who are a single number.

On a side note – I don’t think no one is ever truly a “single number” or made up of a single culture. Watch this beautiful piece to see what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw7FhU-G1_Q

I guess I’m referring to people who feel, act and believe with one culture. Sure, they’ve perhaps traveled a few times  here and there but they know where their comfort zone lies. Well, I’m going to be honest, I’m jealous. I wish I had that kind of stability. That sense of belonging you must feel. Your everyday of a lifetime. You’ll grow, experiences a lot, disappointment like the simple joys of life but you’ll always be anchored to a single place.

I wish I had that friend that has been there from the start. The friend I grew up with. Not a friend who I see once every 5 years for an hour. Not a friend that is becoming someone else, simply going along with whatever environment they are now. Like a chameleon.

I wish my family was next door, in the same town or even the same country. I wish I would be able to have dinner with them every Sunday night or maybe every two weeks. Give them a simple call to catch up. Now it’s all likes and comments, some private messages and perhaps pokes to spark up a conversation that should have happened three weeks ago.

Everyone thinks you’re just strolling through life, achieving whatever and being totally independent. Truth? Sometimes, you feel so lonely and wish I had a constant in life.

What hurts the most is people who have had that group of friends since they were kids. I wish I had that too.

But you know what? Like written earlier, the grass will always be greener on the other side. Perhaps people with that stability seek that wanderlust you think we portray, or maybe they’d like to experience something different. Another language, another culture, another country.

There will always be pros and cons to everything. 

Third Culture Kids Are The Best Chameleons

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I’m done pretending I’m on a single side.

Truth is, I’m in-between and I’ve always been. On the surface, it seems like we connect and don’t get me wrong, we do connect on several points. Yet, there are moments where it’s like a cold shower, I realise how far apart we are on some points.

And it’s scary, in a way. It’s scary to feel so disconnected all the sudden. Worrying even. Being in-between, you’ll never fit in. If you’re in between cultures, you’ll never truly escape one or truly follow one.

There will always be this part of you, slowly creeping in when you least expect it. You remember that you’re kind of lying to yourself, all over again. You will never “totally fit in” one culture or escape another.

Multiple cultures are exactly what’s making you, you. And it’s not easy when you’re surrounded by people who might not get it. They speak one language, have a certain way of life they’ve had since the start, a country they’ve been in their whole life and feel truly attached to. Yet, you sometimes feel obligated to duplicate yourself just so a part of you can feel truly apart of whatever culture you’re surrounded with.

That sense of belonging you’re looking for? You will never get it by trying to mould yourself into a certain person. They say TCKs are the real chameleons, and they are. If you’re constantly looking to blend into whatever environment you are in by denying parts of you, you’re simply lying to yourself.

We’re all constantly trying to build our identity but the trouble for third culture kids is that we’re juggling with multiple identities, all with the potential to grow. How do you make the perfect blend of these identities without feeling like you are a total outlier?

TCK Project #4 – Lily

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What do you usually say if someone asks you where you’re from?

Singapore! Having grown up here for 18 years it’s where I’ve made most of my childhood memories so it’s only natural to call myself Singaporean.

What different cultures are you “made up of”?

American, Australian, Chinese, Singaporean

How has that impacted your education/career? 

Depends on who I talk to – It’s very much the opposite for me. My education and career were what has allowed me to meet people from different cultures and brought me to different countries all over the world. Since young, I was sent off to boarding school every other summer. I bounced around between Australia and China most of the time where I usually attend intensive language school classes. It was really uncomfortable in the beginning cause I never fit in with the kids of either countries – to them I just wasn’t Chinese enough nor Australian enough. Communicating was hard even though I spoke both languages – I didn’t sound like them or spoke as fluently as they did. But I eventually got over these hurdles and was able to assimilate into my respective boarding schools, through changing the way I spoke to adopt their accents and their lingo.

Then during high school, a similar thing happened where I got pulled out of local school in the middle of Sec 4 and transferred to an international school for 2 years. This was another rather difficult transition period for me as high school teenagers were much more unforgiving and unfriendly. Again, I had to go through the whole process of changing the way I spoke, acted and presented myself in front of my classmates. At first I was worried this would change me a lot and I did feel uncomfortable and unhappy at one point but after finding a group of friends who were going through the same in-between experiences as me, it made me feel a lot better.

All of these combined experiences did, however, help me assimilate a lot better when I went off to America for college.

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Have you ever felt the “need” to fight racism? Or counter ignorant statements about different cultures?

Yes and no. I’ve haven’t really experienced outright racism and neither am I a really vocal person about racism but I do experience racially-charged micro-aggressions from time to time, and that’s something I’ll be vocal about if it angers me personally. For example, it’s commonplace for people to hate on Chinese nationals because of the different way they talk and act, and this is especially so in foreign countries. The most frequent display of this takes form of shunning the “unruly, rude Chinese tourist”, and it bothers me when someone speaks ill of “Chinese tourists” or treats us differently out of biasness and presumptions about my race. Having been brought up with strong Chinese heritage and roots, this stereotype is extremely harmful and hurtful, especially when I see my family being treated poorly while travelling abroad on holiday. I’ve seen both my mom and dad having to speak up against waiters and customer service reps for overlooking service towards us on certain occasions, and I’ve had to verbally tell people off for using racial slurs or making racial jokes towards my Asian friends and I when we travel in groups.

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What country is “home” to you currently and why?

Now it’s pretty split between LA and Singapore. A huge part of my identity is split between these two countries and I have a strong longing for LA because the city is just so exciting and new to me, and with a large portion of my college friends still working and living in LA it’s a no-brainer to want to be back in LA. With Singapore, it reminds me a lot of my childhood and the nostalgia associated with the country is what makes it my other home.

Which TCK are you?

Somewhere between (1) “A TCK who fits the system” & (2) “A TCK who doesn’t fit the system but attempts to conform” . Attempting to conform (2) definitely relates strongly to the first half of my life, growing up between China, Australia and Singapore, and also through high school. Whereas I’ve morphed into a full (1) after years of fully assimilating into a multi-cultural individual. It’s almost like I have an on and off switch – I act differently and speak different in different setting, countries, and around different people. I blend so well into crowds that I feel like I can fit in anywhere now!

Do you picture yourself settling in a specific country? Why?

Yes, probably LA or London. I feel a strong connection to LA and in my head it’s always like a dream land for me. I’d love to go back if I could and settle down there. London will be my second choice just because my best friend is there. It’s always been part of our life plan to just live with each other for about a year or and fully experience life and growing up as adults together.

TCK Project #3 – Oreal

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Meet Oreal, a TCK born and raised in Singapore.

1.What do you usually say if someone asks you where you’re from?

Before I start, I just want to say that I’m a different type of TCK. I’m Eurasian – few generations of mixes. So I’m pretty much as Singaporean as Singaporean can get. So of course, I’d say that I’m from Singapore. Some would look at me funny, and that’s when I try to explain to them the very concept of a Singaporean-Eurasian.

2. What different cultures are you “made up of”?

I don’t even know anymore – pretty much every race you can find in Singapore – Chinese (Surname’s Goh), Malay, and I think I’ve got some influences from Goa. And there’s Dutch, British, Irish even, and Portuguese in the bloodline. Who knows I might I have been a Royal, I’d like to think that I’ve got some in me. Explains why I’m such a princess.

3. How has that impacted your education/career?

Hasn’t really negatively impacted my education/career much because I AM Singaporean. But I would say being mixed has given me some opportunities. For one, people I meet remember my face, and that’s something you want when you’re in school, and when you’re working – to be noticed and remembered, no?

I meet a lot of people now from all over the world, and one positive thing about being a TCK would be that I can get along with different people, I get along with Singaporeans as easy as I get along with people from all over the world. Some Singaporeans tend to be a little less open to mixing around, I must say.

I guess at work, people like the mix in culture because I can think like a Singaporean but I’m not totally foreign to the western as well. Best of both worlds.

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4. Have you ever felt the “need” to fight racism? Or counter ignorant statements about different cultures?

YES DEFINITELY. Think this might be my cause in life. I’ve been struggling with this for a long time now. Because even though I’m Singaporean, I sometimes feel like I’m in no man’s land. Even when I was growing up, I’d often get different treatment from the people around i.e. taxi drivers, service staff etc.… My friends were lovely though.

Some people think I’m ‘ang moh’, or some think I’m Singaporean Malay, it’s just basically hard to look and figure it out – but why does that matter? I’ve been treated rudely, been cheated, given bad service, been called ‘Stupid ang moh’, heard someone ask ‘what’s this Asian girl doing here?’, been outcasted in social settings… because I was either too ‘Asian’ or too ‘White’, or neither ‘Asian’ nor ‘White’.

And because I have friends who are Singaporeans and friends who aren’t, I listen to both sides of the story, and my god do I hear the most ignorant statements and mindsets ever. It makes me angry and sad.

I’m passionate about this because I’m a victim of this in my own country, and I do my part to stand up for the minority and the different cultures.

5. What country is “home” to you currently and why?

Singapore is home, of course. My family is here and my friends are here and I can’t imagine my life without Roti Prata. But lately, as I’ve grown older and am exposed to the ‘outside’ world, I’m starting to see a lot of discrimination and narrow mindedness, and I’m starting to feel like maybe I should find a new home?

When I was in school, my friends loved me for who I was and there were others like myself, so I didn’t think there was anything wrong. I’ve heard my dad complaining about this then, but I never really understood, until I started seeing it for myself… it breaks my heart.

6. What kind of TCK would you say you are?

A TCK who fits the system. My family culture is a little more open/liberal. We’ve got a mix of the western and asian culture, beliefs and mindset – sometimes not very acceptable to Singaporeans as they’d expect me as a Singaporean to be aligned with them. But apart from that, I don’t see myself struggling to keep up. I don’t exactly fit in the system as much, but I don’t stick out like sore thumb, so I’m all good.

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7. Do you picture yourself settling in a specific country? Why?

ANYWHERE WITH FOUR SEASONS PLEASE. You can’t have summer all year round. Seriously, I’ve thought of UK in the past, maybe Australia. I just need to be somewhere with a slower pace of life, somewhere where I can stop to smell the roses (hate roses lol) and somewhere my children can play and enjoy their childhood the way my parents made me enjoy mine. I want to be able to sit on the grass and admire the sky without people walking by and wondering if I’m crazy. Also, there are a lot of ants on the grass in Singapore.

 

 

A Different Kind of Christmas

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Spending your Christmas far away from your family is not unusual for TCKs, although it does remain surprising to others who have never spent a Christmas away from their loved ones. I still remember the look on my college’s face when she asked where I was spending Christmas. It’s during these kinds of times where you might end up questioning your choices. Although I’ve spent a total of 3 Christmas days away from family in the past 23 years, the most painful one was this year.

I feel that it’s because, as you grow older, you tend to realise how important family is and that feeling echoes in everyone’s hearts whether they are a TCK or not. Especially if you have a religious background, Christmas is a time where you are bound to reunite with the family, no questions asked. The first two Christmas days I spent apart from the family seemed like no big deal.I was used to this whole moving around thing. However, as a TCK, it feels like the more I’ve grown older and have had the possibility to make my own choices as to where I want to live, the more I’ve realised that I could define home as wherever my family was.

This year, I’m about 7,364 kilometres away from home. In a country where it doesn’t snow and where they don’t actually celebrate Christmas. My family got together and had a nice home cooked Christmas dinner. Any regrets? None. It’s painful only because I simply miss them and because, well, I’ve realised how important family is.

When you move around and change cities, countries or school, family is the only constant you’ll have which is why, they’re pretty much your “home”. And you realise that even more when you spend Christmas with a loving family who is extremely close with one another. 

The 12 Fish of Christmas

By Isabella 

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As a TCK, naturally traditions collide.

On the 8th we decorate the house with lights, holly, ivy and mistletoe, the tree and a nativity set, as time goes on, more and more characters fill the nativity.

December 13th comes la Befana (the good witch) to children, who showers them with gifts, or coal if they have been naughty. Adults just give each other chocolate.

As school holidays begin and there is time before the Christmas rush begins, the family goes to various Christmas markets in Germany and France in search for Scandinavian gnomes (Nisse) to decorate the house with and unique baubles to decorate the tree with, so our collection from Kazakhstan, Poland, the US, Italy and Britain may grow.

My Christmas starts on the 24th, with the appearance of the first star. This is when everyone will sit and have dinner together. This is called Wigilia. Under the tablecloth is hay, essentially from the manger that Christ was born in. No red meat is served under Polish and Italian tradition, only 12 different fish dishes to symbolise the 12 Apostles and beetroot soup. If one was to look around the table, one chair is always empty, in case a lonely wanderer was to be in need of food. This all being tradition in Poland brought to the household by my mother. Who will end the meal with gingerbread cake – Piernik, a favourite.

The 25th starts with the exchange of gifts, but also Italian liquor, Bombardino, traditionally served in the Alps. Then a tour of the presepi, various nativity sets set up by all the towns in Italy and of course we prepare for dinner. This being a mix of Italian and British tradition, naturally we have turkey, mince pies, Christmas pudding, Brussels sprouts, mulled wine, but also pannetone, chicken liver canapés (a Tuscan tradition), polenta and chicken soup. A harmonious British-Italian Christmas dinner, needless to say everyone is happily as stuffed as the turkey.

The 26th all tradition stops and the family happily eat left overs while watching films such as The Grinch and play Christmas music. With any luck snow has fallen and everyone is gathered around the fire content with another family Christmas filled with a range of tradition, new and old.