Thursday, July 4, 2013

Acquired TCKism

Someone posted a link on Facebook recently to an article called 31 Signs You're a Third Culture Kid (and I am totally cracking myself up here, because I just accidentally typed "Kind", not "Kid", because a capitalized noun makes me think of German rather than a title...), which I then shared on my own page, maintaining that I have Acquired TCKism. I am not technically a Third Culture Kid, because I grew up monoculturally and monolingually, in the home culture of both of my parents. However, I have now lived outside of my passport country for over half of my life and have spent significant amounts of time in at least four countries, perhaps more, depending on what one counts as "significant", and I relate to the vast majority of these statements. Then my friend Sue commented that she thinks Extroverts in general would probably relate to a large number, as well. I don't know--I'm an Extrovert, and most of my friends are internationals or Introverts or both, so I don't know whom to ask!

Sue, who is neither an Extrovert nor a TCK (although as an adult she has lived and now lives outside of her passport country), then listed exactly why she does NOT relate to the majority of the items. So now I'm going to go through them, one by one, and think harder about whether I do, how so if so, and whether that would have been as likely if I'd stayed in California all my life.

1. You can curse convincingly in at least five different languages.

Well, no, I can't actually curse convincingly in any, or at least, I've never tried. I HAVE gotten angry and yelled in four different languages, and I do know curse words in five different languages, four of them through exposure to natives, French only from reading...

This one also includes a pie chart showing over three-quarters of "the first words you learned in a foreign language" being curse words, which isn't true for me in any language, followed by slices saying "let's get drunk" (okay, so I can say that in the three languages I speak, but I never have...) and "Hello, how are you?" with only a tiny slice for "I don't speak your language". My reality is that I can say "I don't speak X-language" (and/or "Do you speak English?") in English, German, Spanish, Greek, French, Japanese, and Italian. If I'd never left California, it probably would have stayed with English and possibly Spanish.

2. To everyone's confusion, your accent changes depending on who you're talking to.

My accent, not so much, although my family in the U.S. says that I don't speak like they do anymore. When Katie was born and I called my parents to tell them the baby had arrived, it was a girl, and her name was Katie, my mother was silent for a moment, then said something like, "Oh...that's, um, a nice name. What does it stand for?" When I spelled it, totally confused as to what she meant, she said, "OHHH, Kay-dee! My grandmother used to call me that!" (My mother's name is Kathryn.) The confusion came in because I had pronounced it Kay-tee, actually pronouncing the "T", which U.S.ians generally don't do. When I'm speaking with Americans, I usually pronounce it Kay-dee, when speaking with anyone else, Kay-tee. And while my British friends might not think so, U.S.ians assure me that I DO enunciate considerably more when speaking with Brits than U.S.ians, and I certainly speak even more carefully, both with accent and vocabulary, when speaking English with non-native speakers.

My vocabulary does change, usually not intentionally, depending on with whom I'm speaking, and that had caused confusion many times, because it's not always obvious whether, when I use a word that means one thing in American and another in British, which I'm speaking.

3. And you often slip foreign slang into your English by mistake, which makes you unintelligible to most people.

I'm assuming a certain amount of hyperbole here, with "unintelligible" and "most". I know I've gotten better about it since living in Cyprus, because I speak mostly English here (sadly), but over the years, I've had countless incidents of misunderstandings or simply not being understood because of unintentionally using the wrong English or a foreign word. And what they don't list here is how incredibly frustrating it is when people think that's showing off, because it is NOT. Nor do they list that one may have friends with whom one can speak a mish-mash and be totally understood, but not understood by a monolingual speaker of any language. When my friend Anita from Mexico was living in Germany, we managed to get together a few times, and spoke what we called Espeutschlish.

4. You're really good at calculating time differences, because you have to do it every time you call your parents.

Well, yes. Not much else to say there.

5. But you also have your computer programmed to help you out when your math fails. (This is accompanied by a graphic of clocks showing 12 different time zones.)

My math doesn't fail. :-) However, I DO have a map of time zones bookmarked, so that when I can't remember which time zone someone is in, I can look it up quickly.

6. You start getting birthday wishes several hours before your birthday, from your friends farther east than you.

Yep. Likewise, I find it fun to give them before someone else's birthday, because I'm the one farther east. My sister called me a cheater for doing that on Mother's Day. :-)

7. Your passport looks like it's been through hell and back. (Or more likely your passports, in the plural.)

No, not really, because I take good care of it and my current one is only four years old and we haven't traveled much since moving to Cyprus. This one only has stamps from Cyprus, Germany, U.K., Austria, Czech Republic, U.S., and Costa Rica. My last passport had a lot more, from five continents. And my children do all have two passports, one German and one U.S. But they ARE bona fide TCKs, so I shouldn't be mentioning them anyway.

8. You have a love-hate relationship with the question "Where are you from?" You have both a long and a short answer ready, and you pick one depending on who's asking.


9. You run into your elementary school friends in unlikely countries at unlikely times.

Technically, no, definitely not elementary school friends. However, I do have several really cool stories of meeting people I've known in the past, in a totally different country, and not because they were visiting us.

10. You've spent an absurd and probably unhealthy amount of time on airplanes.

I don't think I can deny that one, even by claiming that it's certainly a whole lot less than either of my brothers, neither of whom are TCKs any more than I am and I would say have less claim to the label! (One brother is a pilot and the other travels a lot for work.)

11. And you definitely know your way around jet-lag recovery.

"Knowing" and "enjoying" are not the same thing. And having children likewise on jet-lag seriously hinders the process. But I certainly know all about it.

12. Your list of significant others' nationalities reads like a soccer World Cup bracket.

(You can tell this was put together by U.S.ians...I would have called it "football".) much do I want to say on this blog? I can only list three nationalities, and none of them are U.S.ian, and I married a German. Does that count? A very small tournament.

13. And your circle of best friends is as politically, racially, and religiously diverse as the United Nations.

I don't have a "circle of best friends" and don't like the term. My Facebook "friends" would fit that, though. And without thinking too hard, the five closest friends I think of ARE from five different countries...

14. Which is great, except that you "hang out" more online than in real life.

True, even excluding Facebook-only friends.

15. So when you do see your best friends, you lose it a little.

Yep. (Oh, I had the most wonderful birthday party in Germany this year, with only a very small group of people from when I lived there, but representing half a dozen or so countries!)

16. You've had the most rigorous sensitivity training of all: real life. (Always take your shoes off in a Thai household, but never show the soles of your feet to an Arab.)

I don't understand the "but" in that parenthetical sentence, because one should never show the soles of the feet to a Thai, either! At least we were told that before we went to Thailand, so we didn't have to commit a faux pas to learn it. But yes, although I can be rather oblivious to many social cues, I think I'm more aware of them than I would have been otherwise, because of my international experiences. (I'm still most lost in the United States, actually.)

17. You get nervous whenever a form needs you to enter a "permanent address".

Yes, it gets very confusing. Sometimes we need to use the address where we're registered in Germany, sometimes our street address here, sometimes the work P.O. box here, and sometimes my parents' address in the U.S. (And since they moved a year ago, it just occurred to me that maybe I should change that, but on the other hand, my sister and her husband now live in our parents' house, so I guess I can still use that one?) I don't necessarily get "nervous", except when it has to do with German authorities and schooling...

18. You know that McDonald's tastes drastically different from country to country. And you can rank them from best to worst.

I do know from experience that french fries in European McDonald's are slightly more edible than in the U.S., but I really don't like McDonald's at all and generally completely avoid it, so certainly can't "rank" them, beyond saying "McDonald's is my last choice to eat. Period." (Or "full stop", if speaking with a Brit.) The last meal I had in a McDonald's was at a friend's birthday party two or three years ago, and getting something like souvlaki was admittedly kind of cool, if not filling. And when my Costa Rican brother visited us in Germany, he wanted to know if it was true that one can get beer in McDonald's, and got some there just to prove it. (I made him drink some through a straw for a photo. :-D )

19. You're a food snob because you've sampled the best and most authentic of every possible cuisine.

I wouldn't say I'm a food snob, really...except that Italian pizza is the best and why would anyone want Pizza Hut after that; Mexican food in Mexico is NOT the same as Mexican food in the U.S. and is much, much better; in Japan I can eat sushi but not anywhere else; halloumi is the most amazing cheese; Costa Rica has the best coffee; and Germany has the best bread. Cypriot bananas are also the best, but so is any fresh, non-GMO fruit. I never cared for tomatoes much before coming to Cyprus.

20. You convert any price to two different currencies before making a significant purchase.

Well, since having the Euro (2002 in Germany), we do a whole lot less converting, but even after 11 years, we sometimes comment on what a price would have been in DM, and we often have to convert GB£ or US$ to Euros, but we don't make a whole lot of "significant purchases." Or "none", really. Whenever I buy books, I compare prices in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, so that does involve three currencies.

21. You don't call it "home", you call it "passport country."

Considering that "home" is NOT my "passport country", no, of course I don't call my passport country home.

22. You often find yourself singing along to songs in languages you don't speak or understand.

I certainly did that in South Africa, not so much here, but some. I understand some Greek, but I can sing along with a lot more of it than I understand.

23. You miss BBM, but Viper and WhatsApp will do for now.

I don't have a clue to what this refers.

24. You're the token exotic friend in your non-TCK crew.

Umm...don't have a "non-TCK" (or at least "non-international") "crew" here in Cyprus, but there was some of that going on in Germany and a lot of that going on in Mexico, when I knew I'd been invited just because of being a foreigner, not because they actually knew ME.

25. Love it or hate it, you have a strong and well-informed opinion on the I.B. system.

Since this was accompanied by a graphic saying " IB people problems #44: You panic when your backpack weighs less than 40% of your body weight because it means you've forgotten something," I thought I had no idea what it meant, since the only thing I know of I.B. standing for is International Baccalaureate. So I googled, and that's all I can find. I don't get the "IB people problem" and I'm not the slightest bit informed on the International Baccalaureate system, except that I know that it's roughly equivalent to German Abitur, British A levels, or U.S. AA/AS degree. And if the I.B. here refers to something else, then I obviously have even less of an opinion.

26. The end of the school year was always bittersweet because so many people moved away.

Not from the point of view of a student, as I wasn't an international one, but referring to my life in Germany, very much so, because OTHER people were always moving, most often in summer. And the end of our DTS (Discipleship Training School) in Montana and my husband's SOIP (School of Intercessory Prayer) in South Africa, both with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) were certainly difficult because of everybody dispersing.

27. And, no matter how many you say, good-byes never get easier.

I'm better at DOING them, so maybe that means "easier", but I don't LIKE them any more than I ever did. We all still really, really miss the VR-G family, who moved to South Africa nearly a year and a half ago.

28. But the constant flow of new friends more than made up for it.

I disagree with this one. I love having good friends, yes. However, NO friend can ever "make up for" any other friend that is no longer there. Makes it easier to deal with, yes. Makes up for it, no.

29. Now you feel incredibly lucky to have loved ones and memories scattered all over the globe.

Part of me would like to say, "No!! I want them all HERE!!" But I don't want to have missed out on any of them, and I AM very happy about the loved ones and memories that do happen to be scattered all over the globe, and it's cool that there is such a long list of countries I could visit and not have to stay in a hotel.

30. You know better than anyone else that "home" isn't a place, it's the people in it.

My friend Sue contested that this would be true of anyone, but I don't think so. At least, not from the number of times I was asked, when we lived in Germany, "Are you going home for Christmas?" No, usually, we were staying home! Visiting my parents wasn't "going home", it was visiting my parents. But hopefully, a lot of people, non-international, DO understand that it's the people, not the place, that makes the home. As well, for me, the place where I am being my home...but that does have to do with the people in it.

31. And you can't wait to see where your life adventure takes you next!

Totally true. We don't think we're in Cyprus forever, but although we do hope that it's for a long time yet, it's true that it's fascinating to think where else we might end up, and my life is definitely an adventure.

Conclusion: I forgot to continue to explicitly comment on whether staying in California my whole life would have had similar results, but I think it's pretty conclusive that it wouldn't have. Maybe an Extroverted TCK will identify with more of these than an Introverted TCK, but I still think a TCK, either E or I, will likely identify with more than a non-TCK of either persuasion.

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