Photo: Viktoriia Hnatiuk/Shutterstock

How to Piss Off a Third Culture Kid

by C-M "Spike" Daeley May 19, 2015

Imply that we don’t have roots…

At one time or another most TCK’s probably feel like Leon’s plant in The Professional — “No roots.” Fortunately, we make up for it with an extensive international network of friends and connections. Two of the real advantages of growing up as a TCK are learning to skip most of the surface stuff and bonding deeply with people in a relatively short time. Another plus is the ability to pick up right where we left off with close friends as if no time has passed. Thankfully, social media has been especially useful on that front.

Sigh and say, “Wow, growing up must’ve been really hard for you…”

The Empire didn’t blow up my home planet, friend, I just moved around a lot. That said, in her book, Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging Marilyn Gardner has a brilliant essay where she links the Portugese word “saudade” to the way TCK’s often pine for experiences of a time and place we can never quite return to. It’s like a corporeal twist on the old adage, “You can’t take it with you,” that carries it’s own special significance for us.

Show your ignorance…

When I moved from Okinawa, Japan to Washington State for college, a bro-in-training asked me if I’d had running water in Japan. I smiled and complimented his Sony Playstation. (I’m old)

Hang out with us because we’re “exotic…”

My university took it one step further. Despite the super-Anglo name “Christopher-Michael Daeley,” they put me in the “international” dorm.

Brag about living in the same place your whole life…

You can’t go to the grocery store without catching up with 10 friends from elementary school? You live in the same house your great-grandpa built with his own two hands using wood from trees his great-grandpa planted? Ummmm, I can say, “I love you” in 3 languages?

For a little more insight, James R. Mitchener at TCKlife has a particularly eloquent description of the internal back and forth we experience when asked about our upbringing.

Assume we’re familiar with the cultural norms of our home country…

Despite driving in Okinawa since I was 16, when I moved stateside it took 6 months for me to get used to driving on the “right” side of the road. Using the freeway took an entire year. I swear, driving 70mph felt like I was going to break the sound barrier.

Talk about how much (insert city name) has changed since you were a kid…

It really sucks that all the good restaurants, coffee shops and venues closed up BEFORE I moved here. Want to tell me where I CAN go?

Ask why we don’t support the Home Team…

Which home?

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