Colors by Whitni Thomas, MK (1991)
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.
I chose this poem because it expresses a concept that I think about often. This poem describes a third culture kid. A third culture kid is someone who has lived outside of their parents culture. My kids are both third culture kids. By passport they are both American but if you ask Aubrey she will tell you she is from Vietnam, which she is in some ways. She was born in Hanoi and has lived her entire life here. Yet, she is not really Vietnamese. At the same time she isn’t really American either.
This is obvious to me when we go back home. Things that are normal to me are strange to her. For instance in the U.S. she was really confused by the oversized grocery stores and walk-in closets. When she is in Vietnam she is much more comfortable with some things than I am. For instance she eats Vietnamese food like a pro. I am a bit more wimpy when it comes to eating squid or fatty parts of meat.
I love that about her. I love that she can navigate foreign countries so well. I love that her best friend is Swiss. I love that she can say hello in 5 different languages. I love that she knows exactly how to navigate her way through an airport. I love that when she plays in the park, it doesn’t matter to her if the person she plays with speaks only Vietnamese or only French. She can play with anyone. Because deep inside she understands what many adults don’t. She gets that people are just people, no matter where they are from. We have differences but we are similar in the ways that count. For her all she cares about is that her new friends from the park can climb trees with her and play tag. She doesn’t care that they don’t speak the same language.
So there are many positives for having my children grow up as TCK’s but there are also big negatives. I worry about how often people move in and out of my children’s life. Even if we decide to stay in Vietnam for the next 30 years, not all of Aubrey and Ian’s friends will do the same. It is inevitable that they will have numerous friends move in and out of their life. I worry about how that will effect them.
I also worry about how they will adjust to life in the United States one day. It is most likely that at some point in their life they will move back to the states. How will my kids adjust to living in a country where they have never lived. A country where so many things surprise them, a country where they look like they should fit in but they might not?
So I would love your feedback. You might not all be TCK’s by definition but all of you have experienced a lot of change and experience with cultures other than your own. What do you think? What are your experiences? Do you think being a TCK is worth it or not?
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