As I settle into my third semester at University in Australia, I can’t help but feel restless. I sit back and I question why this is, and I realize quite quickly the problem at hand. I’m bored. Completely agitated with the same old normal Australian culture. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my home country with an intense amount of passion and national pride, but I now feel completely detached from the lifestyle I used to yearn for.
And I try to think back to why this may be, why am I so dissatisfied with my current residence? And it hadn’t hit me until I was given a book by an older friend, who too spent her entire childhood overseas. John Brockman is a man that just gets it. His book ‘The Third Culture’ has become my own personal bible and has explained to me in many ways why I just never and will never fit in with a localized community. ‘Third Culture Kids’ is a term first coined in the 1950’s by researches John and Ruth Useem, whose children followed them on their research projects to India. The term describes children who have grown up and experienced cultures different to the origins of those of their parents and because of this have a blended world view and share multiple cultures.
It explained so much, why I acted so differently and always seemed so much more ‘mature’ than those around me. Having lived in multiple different countries each with their own part to play in the making of the human I am today, I also lost that one thing that creates such a sense of belonging, cultural identity. The question that today I hate answering is “Where are you from?” how do I reply? Well technically I was born in Australia, but I grew up all over the world. I have spent more of my life with a British or African accent than I have with an Australian accent. I know more about European history and geography than I do of my ‘Home’ Nations. My fondest family memories have been trekking Egyptian sand dunes and chasing Nigerian gardeners for stealing my mothers potplants. So how do I reply to such a question without mapping out my childhood in explanation on why I can’t happily say straight up “I’m just from Australia”
The kids I spent my final years of high school with just didn’t understand it. So many parts of their culture I just didn’t understand. While I had been “sipping” my fathers 2 pint of craft beer in Belgium and “tasting” my mothers French Cab Sav, my classmates were hanging goon bags of fruity Lexia off clothes lines that their older brothers friend had bought for them. I never joined a netball team because I was never in a country for long enough that I could settle into one. I didn’t have the primary school private jokes that stuck for years into secondary school, because homeschooling never gave you that comradeship, just a slight hate for your mother’s poor arithmetic skills.
But it would be incredibly unfair of me to complain about my childhood, I would never give it up for the world. In my short 19 years of life I have seen more than most people will in their entire life and I still have so much more to explore. I blame my parents for bestowing on me the curse of wanderlust, the intense need to be a global nomad and travel. It’s strange to think that I feel more comfortable and at home in a completely foreign country than I do walking the streets of the rural town my parents now reside in attempt at semi retirement.
I think the hardest part that challenges me now is the painful awareness of reality, that only a few seem to share with me. How I watch my friends complain about their iPhones not working properly and I think back to my time in Nigeria where I watched my Nanny cry because I gave her my old Nokia phone so I could stay in contact with her. She had never held a mobile phone before, she had absolutely no idea how to use it so we spent the afternoon teacher her how to text. This old mobile which I would have just merely thrown away became her most prized possession. First World children don’t understand, and take for granted what they truly have. It’s not just the old mothers saying “Eat your food there are children starving in Africa” its so much more. To have a roof over your head and to be able to sit in a class room you are wealthier than majority of the worlds population. We see it on TV every day but you don’t understand the true poverty and corruption of a 3rd world nation until you experience it first hand.
I crave for the cultural immersion, I lust for the thrill of being foreign and learning. I’ve realized that no matter where I am, I will always be an expat. The real challenge I face everyday is trying to stay, Australia will always resonate deeply as a place to call home, but I’m not ready to lower my anchor. Quite the opposite actually, so as I sit impatiently in University lectures I long to open my sails and continue to explore, to learn more and to broaden my third culture.