A simple, innocuous little question, easy enough for most people to answer. Not so much if you were born in Singapore, hold an American passport, but have spent much of your life in Indonesia.
I’ll never forget being in Singapore a few years ago at the Night Safari, sitting with several hundred other people at an animal show. The emcee called out the names of different countries, and we were to stand up when our country was called and shout a greeting.
Our son, Luke, looked up at us, panicked. “Where are we from??!!”
Such is the life of a TCK – third-culture kid – who grows up in some country other than his passport country, and who might never fully feel at home in either one.
I’ve overheard my younger two kids tell people they are from Singapore, and I’ve had a hard time explaining to them that just because they were born there, doesn’t mean they’re from there.
To tell them they are from the U.S. is equally confusing. The U.S. to them is Vacationland, where they go every few years to visit cousins and ride horses at Grandpa’s farm and go to Disney World, and get drug all over creation (30 states this past furlough – I am still recovering). Instead of labeling themselves as “American” they usually tell people they are English (as in, we speak English).
Closely connected to the “Where are you from?” question is the “Where is home?” question. One day, recently, I asked Zoe how she liked living in Papua, now that we had been here for a few months.
“It’s okay, but I can’t wait to go home,” she said wistfully.
“Baby, what home do you mean?” I asked.
“You know, home. Tarakan,” she replied, incredulous that I didn’t know that “home” meant our former location in the other side of Indonesia. I hugged her close and reminded her, once again, that we weren’t going back there, and that for now, Papua is home.
A few days later she told me, “Mom, I thought about it. It doesn’t really matter where we live. Heaven is our real home.”
Right on, baby girl.
I’m a 31-year-old TCK (MK) and I’ve been state-side since 1996. I still have a hard time answering this question! Great post, Natalie.
I’m a bit of an odd ball when it comes to cultures.I am Indian by passport. My mom’s Indian and my dad’s Sri Lankan, we’ve been in Sharjah, UAE for 9 years now, carrying out the Great Commission. I go to school in Jackson,TN. Hence, whenever someone asks me where I’m from, I jokingly answer with: “lets meet over coffee and I’ll tell you!!” because the answer to that, for me, is my life story and testimony. lol
Right on indeed! Thanks for sharing.