For as long as I can remember I have lived between worlds.
My first memories of life are from a rooftop in the southern area of Pakistan. The high, flat roof surrounded by walls was a perfect place to keep cool when the hot months came in early May. We slept on rope beds covered in mosquito netting, able to feel an almost cool breeze after sundown.
Mosques surrounded our house on all four sides, their minarets stately and tall against the desert sky. While on the inside prayer times and Bibles sustained us, on the outside we were minorities in a Muslim world where the call to prayer echoed out over the city five times a day and ordered the lives of all those around us.
When you grow up between worlds the research on identity formation does not apply in quite the same way. Instead, you move back and forth as one whose identity is being forged and shaped between two, often conflicting, cultures. “A British child taking toddling steps on foreign soil or speaking his or her first words in Chinese with an amah (nanny) has no idea of what it means to be human yet, let alone “British.” He or she simply responds to what is happening in the moment” (Pollock and Van Reken, 2001).
There is now documented research that identifies some of the strengths and weaknesses that are part of growing up between worlds.
Here are some of the strengths that the third culture kid develops through living between worlds:
From their early years, third culture kids interact and enjoy ‘difference.’ They often take on various characteristics from the cultures where they have lived. They don’t see difference as good or bad – just different. This gives them a huge advantage in our global world. To be able to interact across cultural values and differences is a gift that is inherent to who they are.
Third culture kids show amazing ability to adapt across cultures. They are as comfortable in a crowded bazaar in a large city in Asia as they are in a pub in England. They blend with seeming ease into whatever setting they are thrown into – as long as it is outside their passport country! Read the rest of the piece at A Life Overseas.
I would love to have you add your own thoughts to either the comments over there or here. I will take the comments and suggestions and compile them into a blog post. Thank you!
Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging is available here:
Read reviews of Between Worlds here: