An awkward silence filled the air between us. You wouldn’t think such a simple question would cause anxiety to fill me and a lump to rise in my throat. Instead of answers, questions arise in my mind. What do they really want to know? Is there something specific I should say? What part of my life should I divulge?
There are 2 Questions that can create such havoc in my brain!
“Where Are You From?” or “Where Is Your Home?”
Four years is the longest I have ever lived in one place. From the time I was born, we moved quite frequently. I was 9 years old when we first moved overseas. Our family moved to South Korea as missionaries. Now, my husband and I are continuing the tradition. We still have not lived in one spot for more than 4 years in the 16 years of our marriage. It makes me wonder where I will be when the trend is broken. Is this it? Is this the place I will live more than 4 years? Are my children destined to the same fate as I am? One of my favorite Bible verses is Hebrews 13:14 (NLT),
14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.
I am so looking forward to that permanent home with my Lord!
The dilemma is real.
You can ask many different TCKs (Third Culture Kids) what the hardest question they hear is, and 9 times out of 10 they will say, “Where are you from?” You see, most people want a tidy answer. My husband can give one. He lived in one place his whole life, and 26 years in one house!
When I give my answer, I have to ask myself a few things…
- Do they want to know where I grew up?
- Do they want to know where most of my family is now?
- Do they want to know where I was born?
- Do they just want to know where I live now?
- How much of my moving history do they really want to know?
Now you can see why there is an awkward pause!
The Positives & Negatives
As a child I hated moving so much. Now that I’m older, I still don’t like moving, but I can appreciate how it impacted me. Some of it was positive and some wasn’t. I learned a lot from moving around. Some of the lessons I learned were from living in a foreign country, and some were from moving and having so many different experiences.
For instance, I never learned my multiplication tables! I moved in the middle of my third grade year. The school I was going to in the U.S. hadn’t taught them yet. The school I went to in Korea had already finished them! Not good for this math challenged girl. To this day I still have to count up.
- Seeing Different Sides of a Situation – When you are moving to different places, you are introduced to many different ways of doing things. Eventually, you learn that doing things different is not wrong, just different! This gives you the ability to look at all sides of a problem before making a decision.
- Independence & Maturity – Having a wide range of experiences create a good level of independence and maturity. It didn’t bother me to travel outside the country by myself, because I had done it many times in the past!
- Heightened Social Skills – Being able to make friends anywhere you go and interact with local people is a very beneficial skill. There were times I chose not to use that skill…but I’ll get to that later!
- Geography Comes Easy!
- Willingness to try new things – I learned early on that trying new things didn’t have to be a bad experience…sometimes, yes. But it was usually worth the risk!
*There are some great books available to help understand cross-cultural kids. You might want to check some of them out!
- Culture Shock – Unfortunately, no matter how many times I have traveled, I have had culture shock. This is a tough thing to deal with, and I have had as much culture shock returning to my birth country than I have going to a foreign country!
- Not Knowing Where Home Is – Sometimes I think that my home is everywhere. Sometimes my first reaction to that dreaded question is nowhere. It is hard to choose just one place!
- Saying Good-bye Never Gets Easier – No matter where I go, I hate saying good-bye!
- Lack of Social Skills – Yes, I know…this contradicts what I said in the positives! There have been times in my life where my social skills are amazing, and then there are times I let them slide. I went several years early in my marriage where I didn’t make friends. I didn’t want to make friends. I was tired of making friends just to say good-bye again. It took me awhile to realize that making friends was important to my emotional health, even if I had to say good-bye!
- Being misunderstood – This was a hard one to swallow, especially as a teenager! I think people by nature want to be understood, but when someone doesn’t have the same experiences, it is almost impossible! This is what has caused generations of judgment and prejudice. It is hard to be the one that is misunderstood.
There are so many arguments to living cross-culturally, or as a modern day nomad. There is no right or wrong answer to the arguments! I do know that it can be done well and have great results for kids. I also know that it can be done poorly with disastrous results. One of the most important things you can do is to have a community. This community can be physical, where you are, or even online! In our day and age, it is easy to become a part of a large community of people who are like-minded with a simple internet connection.
I have created one online community that you can be a part of and hope to have more eventually.
The Expats Moms Around the World Facebook Group is specifically for moms who are raising their kids in a country that is not their passport country.