Monday, April 14, 2014

Expat Life: Musings of an Adult Third Culture Kid (TCK)

MsCaroline, adoring the baby chicks at the market in Bangkok.  This was (obviously) before Bird Flu.

Anyone who's read my sidebars (or just the headline on this blog) knows that MrL and I both grew up (more or less) overseas, and identify as TCKs (Third Culture Kids, or 'kids who have spent more time overseas than in their 'passport culture.')

Part of the fun of moving to Asia has been visiting places we lived as kids - not always so easy for TCKs to do - as well as enjoying some of the aspects of the culture that we remember so fondly (MsCaroline, for instance, has re-discovered just how much she loves anything made of sweet bean paste. Anything.)

Of course, as I've mentioned before, our kids are not typical TCKs.  While we did move several times thither and yon across the continental US, Sons#1 and #2 did not have to contend with any international moves until 2011, when we moved to Seoul.  Son#1, a recent high school graduate, delayed his University studies for a semester and enjoyed living abroad for 6 months before heading back to the US;  by the time we return to the US, he will undoubtedly be finished with his studies and living on his own.

While Son #1 spent his entire childhood in the USA, Son#2 moved to Seoul when he was just 14 and starting high school. While he's not exactly a TCK - at least not by his parents' standards -  by the time he leaves for Uni in the fall of 2015, he will have spent 4 years living overseas and attending an international school.

Like his parents, his high school experience has been one spent very interestingly - but far from typically for the average North American.  His teachers come from 6 countries;  his schoolmates, from at least a hundred.  His speech contains a mix of Canadian, British, and American terminology, (sprinkled liberally with Korean slang.)  When he says goodbye to his friends in the graduating class this year, they will be heading for universities on at least 5 continents.

It's not a typical sort of school experience;  in fact, it will undoubtedly set him apart for the rest of his life.  Not in a bad way, but in a way that will make him recognize other TCKs and international school students as 'kindred spirits' of a sort;  fellow travelers who've experienced a life outside the norm and who can't always identify with the shared cultural experiences of their fellow citizens.   Even all these years later, I found myself relating very strongly to this slideshow;  if you attended an international school, or your child does, I know you will be nodding your head in sympathy.  If you aren't, it's a great little insight into a world that's completely different - but, at the same time, maybe not so different at all.

 22 Signs You Were an International School Kid