#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.

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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 #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.

 

 

My TCK Journey by Serena

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By Serena Ewe

Nationality wise, I have a Singaporean passport simply because I was born there. But by blood, I am half Singaporean, half Malaysian. My dad used to jokingly mention how unfair it was that my passport could not represent the other side of me; little did he know that in years to come, there wouldn’t just be two distinct sides to me, but several more.

My TCK journey began when I moved to Sakhalin, a small island in Russia at the age of 7. My dad was an engineer so logically speaking, he went where the oil was. I was enrolled in an international school for expat families and enjoyed my wonderful childhood, filled with memories of my first snowfall, first Halloween and first Christmas. My previous years before Russia were located in Sabah, a part of Malaysia (I moved there right after I was born) and as it is an Asian country, Christmas was not as festively celebrated as Chinese New Year.

Anyways, four years later, much to my horror, my dad’s work contract ended, so it was time to leave. For educational sake, my mum decided it best that we returned to Singapore and for two years I had to endure acquiring Mandarin as a new language but managed to learn it in time to complete the PSLE (primary school leaving examination). However, before entering a secondary school in Singapore, my dad who because of his job ended up in Miri (another region of Malaysia) wanted for the family to reunite, decided for us to move back to Malaysia again. Once more, there was a change of education and I was enrolled in an all Chinese speaking private school. I remembered crying on the first day of class; it was hard. Eventually, I adjusted, but sadly after four years, we moved again. It was as if there was this four-year ticking time bomb, counting down the days before I had to pack up and leave once more. This time, my dad was offered an overseas job in Muscat, Oman. Much to my resistance, he took it and suddenly I was living in my fourth country by the age of 15.

There, I took the IGCSE and subsequently IB, in an international school and discovered that self-expression was encouraged. By then, I had assimilated the “quiet, do not stand out but blend in” Asian personal (unlike my boisterous character during my Russia days) and so throughout middle and high school, I found it extremely hard to voice my thoughts in class, for fear of looking like a fool. Perhaps that had nothing to do with moving around, but instead an awkward transitioning through any teenage years, but I began to adapt again and realized how easy it was to do so. Not surprisingly, after 4 years, it was time to go; however, this time, the reason was not due to another one of my dad’s job posting but mhy time for University.

And so, by age 18, I arrived excitedly in Vancouver, Canada all by myself, away from my family for the first time. Little did I know the culture shock I would experience upon reaching there. It was one I have never experienced before. The reason wasn’t because Vancouver was anti-cultural; in fact, it was teeming with Asian immigrants from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and so on. However, that was the problem. With my Asian features, I blended in, and because of that I as a TCK felt like an invisible minority. Unlike my days in the international school where Asians were not abundant, I suddenly felt bland, boring and as funny as that may sound, non-special. I grew tired of having to explain where I was from when someone else would mistake me as Korean/Japanese – and even if they thought of me as Chinese, I felt uncomfortable when I was expected me to speak in fluent Mandarin just because I look Asian. I guess it was around this time when I became fully aware of the impact TCK had on my life.  It was around this time when I experienced my first identity crisis.

Throughout my undergraduate years, nostalgia for my other TCK friends would fluctuate. Although I encountered a few TCKs, it wasn’t like we became close from it. I felt lonely but slowly I grew resilient and appreciative of what I had. I knew that if I could change things, having this culturally opulent experiences was something I would still keep. Reading stories of other TCKs kept me going, as it reminded me that I wasn’t really alone in this position. Thus, as my four years of undergraduate life in Canada came to a close, I began to ponder on the new places I could go for my masters. US? Scotland? UK? Australia? Or should I continue staying in Canada? Settle down, and create more stability? I am still unsure, but I guess that is what it’s like to be TCK!

TCK Project #2 – Louise

Louise is Chinese, born and raised in France. She currently lives and work in Singapore – 

I’m technically a second generation Chinese. My dad was brought up partly in France while my mum grew up in China. Their own parents were friends. It was an arranged wedding. My mum always knew she was going to marry the son of her parent’s friends. They grew up knowing that it was all planned out. They split up a couple of years later. My mother re-married a Chinese man who arried in France at around the same time as her. I grew up with them. My mum is strict on too many things but not on the aspect of marriage. “Find the man you love” she told me. Perhaps it was in regards to her arranged wedding that did not work out.

Even though I spoke French, had French friends and went to a French school, I’ve always felt I had a different way of seeing or doing certain things. During my studies, I decided to explore the gap and travel to Shanghai for a gap year. The first couple of months were extremely hard. The shock was not only cultural but physical. Looking Chinese, I would have locals come up to me and speak in Mandarin. When they figured out I didn’t speak Mandarin, they’d pull a strange face. I was split between the French community in Shanghai that did not fully considered me French and the Chinese who thought I was one of them because I only looked Chinese.

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After a year and a half, I went back to France to complete my studies but I felt the urge to travel to Asia. I felt more open and curious during my Shanghai trip and I seeked that feeling. The values and traditions I had been brought up with stuck to me.

I’ve only heard about the term “third culture kid” about 2 or 3 years ago. To me, the one thought I had was the issue of looking like you’re from a certain culture but being another culture. France wasn’t the same as today when I was young in terms of immigration. I often had questions like: “oh you’re French? Your French is very good.” or “Why are you French?”. Nowadays, the mindset has changed but before, being French was clearly not “looking Asian”. There’s also the values: I argued with my folks to be allowed to go out while my friends were arguing with theirs to stay out a little longer. My brother, on the other hand, had a lot more freedom. It’s these little daily issues, linked to the culture.

I think, as a teenager, I saw this as a problem. On a daily basis, what strikes me the most, is that I sometimes forget I’m Asian. We only want to fit in, and I didn’t want to be seen as different. For me, the topics of relationship, friendships, habits, lifestyle were a different conversation with my parents. They express themselves better in Mandarin while I expressed myself better in French. My parents did not necessarily understand certain ideas or ways of thinking.

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Today is easier. I see them less often but we get along better now. My parents have been in France for over 40 years and they are a bit more flexible. However, they have a lot of Chinese reflexes or traditions but China itself has evolved. They left China at a certain time, when it was more traditional.

Our search for a complete identity is never over. There’s no end. I think it’s nice to feel like you truly belong somewhere but third culture kids don’t have it easy. I can’t just say: I feel French or Chinese. When you feel something is imposed, it’s not necessarily a pleasure. For example, it was the Chinese values that my parents held which were the hardest during my teen years. It’s the reason why I did not have the same freedom as my friends

There is no pre-defined frame for third culture kids; it’s an endless search. I think all third culture kids feel the need to explore their roots, the question is: are you willing to take the leap? The third culture itself can only start developing itself when you’ve accepted your other cultures. I think you can never truly reject your roots, they will always stick around.

TCK Project #1 – Hang

Originally from Vietnam, Hang was born in Belgium. She has also lived in Canada and Singapore.

To me, a third culture kid is growing up in different cultures, not just one. You’re exposed to many kinds of culture. I’ve always been a TCK but, I don’t know… It’s always been a part of my life, I never really questioned that. I love traveling and I always knew that I wanted a job that would take me to different countries. I guess being a TCK has led me to develop an international mindset. When I moved to Asia at the age of 26, a lot of people asked me:

“Why did you move so far away? It takes courage!”

For me it was normal, even natural to do so. I think a lot of people make excuses not to leave their country because they are too comfortable even though they say they want to travel more and discover other cultures. I think they just don’t want to, that’s my opinion.

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You actually have cultural clashes all the time but it becomes your reality, it’s a part of your daily life. I just got used to it. For me, maybe the biggest clash was when I went back to Vietnam. I lived in Vietnam for 1 year, 3 years ago. My parents are Vietnamese so I guess I’m supposed to be Vietnamese but I don’t know the culture. I was anxious, I didn’t know if I could integrate. They still consider me as a foreigner, but the way I dress, I walk or talk. I’m not really part of the culture, I’m an outsider. Home is not Vietnam or Belgium, I can live everywhere. I’m a global citizen.

I find it’s difficult to keep a friendship when you don’t live in the same place. I kept in touch by email or Facebook but now, we exchange messages once a year. It’s tough to keep in touch when you don’t interact daily. I used to have best friends as a kid but when I grew up, it didn’t get easy. Also when you move to another place, very often, the people you meet already have their circle of friends so it’s actually difficult to get into their circle because you don’t have the same kind of connections that they have developed with their friends.

When I go back to the country I lived in, I would definitely contact them and meet them again. If I don’t head back, we don’t have much to talk about. A written message is not the same. It’s easier now to communicate but not being in the same location, is still tough. I don’t have a strong base of friends because I changed location a few times, you can’t be deeply connected with someone when you move so often.

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You get used to saying goodbye after a while. Maybe the connections were not so strong, so it is sad but you kind of get used to it. Even though we say goodbye, the world is a small place. I know I can connect with them when I say goodbye. I’m not cynical in regards to friendships but I don’t have a best friend. You just have a good time with them and yeah, there are actually friends I have met before. A friend I met 7 years ago, during my university years, that I’m still in contact with. I know some day, if they come to Asia or I go back to Europe, we can see each other again. There’s no need to talk or see them everyday.

For my final advice, I feel we all have our issues, but it’s part of us. I never actually see it as an issue (being a TCK), you get so used to it after a while and being a TCK actually has many advantages in the way you think (open minded), you learn to accept things more easily rather than someone who has lived in the same country their whole life.