A third-culture kid (TCK / 3CK) or trans-culture kid is "someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more cultures other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture."


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Teenage Growing Pains

As we grow older, we tend to evolve in our reasoning, uncovering the world through a series of questions and answers. Children usually ask their elders, as they do not have a previous record – or as they say in the professional world, they lack experience. When they undergo their transformation to adulthood, in that awkward stage known as adolescence, teens are still looking for answers, but this time they are trying to make sense of the world that surrounds them without asking questions. Among the more common behaviour is to develop an anger of some kind, perhaps as the days where mommy and daddy took charge when things get tough are numbered. Who wouldn't be when it appeared imminent that your cartoons will be changed for desk work? The GI Joe collection gets smaller and smaller while you focus on getting the grade and engaging in after-school activities that will make you attractive to a post-secondary institution.

Do you have what it takes for university?

I had a world of questions myself by the time we were living in Lima. Brian and I had accepted the fact we were nomads but clinked on that imaginary and artificial Canadian identity. Our love and loyalty to our country carried us through the tough moments, knowing we would soon return and things would be better. Our trips to Ontario were our chance to reconnect with what was familiar. Of course, not living in a country does not give you a proper perspective on day-to-day reality and this leads you into a whole new world of trouble: assumptions. This is one of the more prejudicial conditions in the human mind as we associate the unknown with the closest tangible concepts we can conceive in our mind. Generally, assumptions occur when there is no person to ask who has previous knowledge on the subject we desperately seek or simply because we are not listening. Many problems come about due to assumptions. When in doubt, ask. A university professor once told my class, there is no such thing as a dumb question and I think he was on to something.

The Japanese Embassy hostage crisis converged with our school vacations and activities, so I faced something of a depression. Most of my friends in school were from abroad and many of them returned to their home countries, leaving me to face significant boredom for a foreseen two months. My father was forced to stay as support to the ambassador, hoping all Canadians and other dignitaries came out alive and Maman was holding down the fort, giving all her support to our leader. Shortly after, in an act of divine intervention, they decided to send us off for a few weeks to Toronto with Uncle John and Kingston with Grandad. This was truly heaven sent. This was also the first time my brother and I traveled alone internationally and had a chance to understand the responsibilities both as travelers and representatives of our country. Although Brian was the older one of the two – and still is, never seemed to close the gap on the age thing – every person of authority questioned me, thinking I was the senior of the two as I was taller and therefore, looked older than him. At first, I felt somewhat uncomfortable, expecting I just had to sit back and let him deal with everything, but after being put on the spot so many times, I began to make sense of the whole bureaucracy of international travel.

The highlight of this trip was definitely Toronto, our point of arrival and departure. Although at first uncomfortable in greater part to our Canada Customs and Border Services agents who are trained to treat even an infant baby as a suspect for terrorist attacks on the mighty frozen tundra, the balance was positive. I remember the agent all high and mighty, telling a 14 year old and a 17 year old that they did not have any diplomatic rights in Canada and gave us a great welcome by searching through all our luggage as if we were bootleggers in times of prohibition. Uncle John was at the civilian end ready to take us to his home. It was always such a great feeling to see him, our Canadian father. As we sat in his car, he asked us if we liked basketball and had two tickets for us to see the Toronto Raptors take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Toronto franchise was surviving its inaugural season quite well, thanks to Damon Stoudamire (often referred to as Mighty Mouse due to his amazing skill while being one of the shorter players in the NBA standing at 5’10”). Then, he provided Brian and I with the best tips for public transit usage and must-see landmarks during the weekday while he and Aunt Amy were at work. It was great for our independence and for discovering the beauty of Canada’s largest city.

Stoudamire taking on the New York Knicks

Most parents have their work cut out raising children particularly when they are in those defiant teenage years. I salute you mothers and fathers out there as I am sure it is not an easy job. At this point, the offspring are still pushing limits, trying to get away with all sorts of naughty behaviour, fooling around with alcohol, chasing boys and girls, all while claiming they are adults. In some cultures, these times are more difficult as “grown-up” responsibilities transition at a slower pace into the lives of the rebellious. In the case of transcultural kids, although some may be more rebellious than others, they are generally mellower. Sure there are some exceptions as in every rule, especially as influences and peer pressure are major factors at play, but the balance is in their favour. Although they are still exploring and understanding the same issues as their age group, they have been forced to constantly adapt to new environments and circumstances. They have been challenged on a regular basis, having to change their friends, homes, countries, customs, and religions. Their nuclear family means everything. Their issues are somewhat deeper and it is easier to relate to mature adults, explaining their ease in interaction with people from an older age group.

Photos courtesy of EducaEdu and Kicks On Cards


  1. You seemed very secure to me at that moment...

  2. You are too kind but everyone has their own path in the road to knowledge my old friend. Looking like you know something doesn't necessarily mean you do actually know. Sounds too much like a fortune cookie! LOL. Cheers!