The concept of third culture kids is a consequence of globalisation. This short 9 minute video powerfully communicates the experiences of a number of teenage children who have grown up in a variety of different cultures.
The opening question of ‘where is home?’ is very telling. One of those interviewed describes how a third culture child lives in the grey zone between the culture they grew up in and the culture they are from.
I can certainly identify with that. I was born in India but left with my parents for England just before my 3rd birthday. Growing up in an English environment I was told that India was my home. However, I never actually returned to India until I was 8 and found myself while there very different from my relatives around me. India certainly did not feel home although I was desperate to want to belong there.
The warmth of extended family, the bright sunshine and opportunities to play outside with cousins and friends till late in the evening was such a contrast to the cold climate, single child, unfriendly grey upbringing of London where the main companion was the television. This was well before the time of the Internet and advanced global communication and connectivity, which just added to my sense of isolation while growing up.
Language was another challenge. When my parents came to England the advice at the time was that you should only speak to your child in one language or they might get confused. So although I was speaking Hindi when I arrived in England, I quickly replaced it with English and forgot my Hindi, except for a few phrases and comments when my parents were upset with me!
Growing up in England then for me was an on-going question as to where is my true home? I longed for India and those longings became very intense as we could only afford to travel approximately every 4 years. However, when I went there I realised that I did not completely fit in. My mannerisms were very English and I could hardly speak Hindi very well. My relatives and the locals, although very loving, would laugh at my accent or grammatical errors that I made. I longed to fit in, but knew deep down that I was different. That search for my true home became incredibly intense in my first year at university which I talk about in the video Just As I Am.
The first significant shift in my longing for home for me was coming to an understanding of Christ in the Biblical scripture. More specifically it was reading the following passage from the book of Hebrews chapter 11. This chapter talks about a number of characters in the Old Testament who lived by faith in God. It carries on from v13. I have highlighted in bold the words that most struck me:
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Suddenly 16 years of searching all made sense! The longings I had for India were never going to fulfilled in this life, because no place in this world can match the intensity of the longing within my heart. I like the Old Testament characters could count myself as a foreigner and stranger on earth! At the time this was an incredible paradigm shift that sent a tingle through my spine that I can remember to this day. (I also refer to this time in the posts Awareness part 1 and part 2).
C.S.Lewis echoes this same sentiment when he writes:
“These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
This was it! As much as I loved India and its culture, it could not fulfil these longings. My true home is elsewhere!
I will continue this exploration of our true home in the next blog post, but for now its over to you.
How does the video and my own experience resonate (or not) with you?
What questions and answers does it raise in your mind?
It would be great to have your thoughts and comments below.