Being a Third Culture Kid
Image Credit: Flickr user Ludovic Bertron via Creative Commons
The other night as our WYV team had our weekly video review meetings, my editors and I happened to talk about how diverse Wear Your Voice is. We were also discussing new ways to integrate the voices that represent diverse demographics. In that moment, something strange occured to me. I realized that I could never completely represent the “Indian” voice or the “Arab” voice because my upbringing shaped me in a different way. What I could do, however, was represent the Third-Culture-Kid (TCK) voice.
When I type in “Define Third Culture Kid” on google this is what shows up:
My whole life, the hardest question for me to answer has been:
“Where are you from?”
I was born in Berkeley, California, but spent the first 10 years of my life moving between Mumbai and Delhi, India. After this, my family and I moved to Kuwait, where I spent the next 6 years in a culture completely different from my own. I attended an international school and made friends from all over the world. When I moved back to Berkeley my junior year of highschool, I felt more Middle Eastern than I did Indian. Moving back to California was an intense experience – I constantly questioned my identity and what “home” meant to me.
Every time I visit India, there are tiny details that always feel like home. Chai always tastes the best there, it’s always a little too humid, and the streets around my house always remind me of my childhood.
Each time I visit Kuwait, I am reminded of just how much I miss the peculiar and pungent smell of Oud, a traditional Arab perfume. The people are always dressed well, there are sheesha (hooka) cafes everywhere, and nothing beats spending time with my old friends.
And the Bay Area has this sense of tranquility and peace. Everything is so simple here, the vibrant flowers on the streets are so beautiful, the people are so curious and open minded about the world around them.
Home, to me, is a mixture of these three places.
When I started attending UC Berkeley, I realized that the TCK concept applied to many more people than I would have guessed. I made friends that had stories so similar to mine; it felt like we could relate to things in a way.
Most of my life, I navigated through the world feeling like everybody but me had a strong community to identify with. I’ve always felt extremely awkward singing the Indian National Anthem, the Kuwaiti National Anthem, or the American National Anthem. I will probably never relate to American patriotism, Indian customs, or Arab traditions.
What I realized, in the past four years of living in California, was that my upbringing has given me a different type of identity and voice. So even though I will never be able to completely identify with any one culture, I have three completely distinct cultures that have shaped who I am. My accent is a collage of these three places; the way I dress, the snacks I like to eat, and the way I view the world around me is a culmination of these three cultures.
And the awesome thing about this is that I’m actually not alone, even though my personal experience feels so different from those around me – there are many, many TCK’s who constantly struggle and embrace different aspects of their identity on the daily.
Let’s continue to embrace not watching a certain TV show as a kid; let’s continue feeling excited when we speak to a stranger from a country we used to lived in; let’s continue to live outside the box.
Reaa Puri is a filmmaker, student and the Senior Editor of Cinematography at Wear Your Voice Magazine.