Hello, dear readers! My name is Farah and I am relatively new to the blogging world, but for some time, I have wanted to ask other TCKs/CCKs/Global Nomads about various subjects and themes to illustrate how diverse people’s views are because of cultural influences and differing personalities. I decided to start with three TCKs I know well: Lenny, Leyla, and Sakshi.
What was your upbringing like?
Lenny: I grew up in an average size family (I have one sibling, a younger brother). I don’t want to call my parents “overbearing”, but they did rarely let me out to do what most kids my age did. We did rely heavily on each other, but at the same time, my parents did want to prepare me to become my own man.
Leyla: My upbringing was a mix between an interdependent and independent family. For long periods of time, my brother and I would be the only children in each other’s lives, so we became very close friends. We would have family dinners every night where we would tell each other about our days and have long discussions. My parents always treated me like I was an intelligent child with my own mind, allowing me to learn from my mistakes and not really babying me. We were encouraged to learn about the country we were living in and explore as much as we could.
Sakshi: I was raised in a small family and my parents encourage a mix of independence and interdependence. My parents were strict and had very high expectations of me. But they were also very liberal. I attended an international school and my life was a fusion of cultures, from sports to food to clothing. We traveled a lot and I experienced the global nomad lifestyle from very early on.
Many TCKs and global nomads face challenges when it comes to building meaningful friendships. What has been your approach?
Lenny: Traveling from place to place has been a blessing, for sure. However, when it comes to making lasting friendships, it does present a fair hurdle to get over. I have made many friends over the continents and years, but only been able to stay attached to a handful of them. There are people everywhere that I know I will be friends with forever, others that I periodically lose touch with but are still good friends, and others that I probably won’t see again, and we’ll forget each other in a few years. My oldest friends are by far those back home in Australia. Some of them I have been friends with for fifteen, sixteen years and am still in touch with them, even though I haven’t seen any of them in ages. When I was living in Hong Kong, I made some of the strongest friends, but also some of the strongest enemies. Most of my best friends from Hong Kong were people who weren’t my age. Some a little younger, some a little older; I just found myself in the middle. When I moved to Paris, I wanted to start it all over, and not make enemies. Even though I wasn’t in the sunny, warm outdoorsy places I was used to, I was still in a school made up of a lot of expats, people who understood being nomads at young ages. I made many lasting friendships there (Farah being one of the strongest, by far). Now, I am in the UK, doing it all over again. Making a lot of friends, some close, some casual, and inevitably some enemies along the way.
Leyla: It really depends on the friend. Many of my friends are the second type, fast friends but it’s never very deep. What is funny is that even if our friendship isn’t as deep as my some of my other friendships, these people still mean a lot to me and I am willing to help them and support them, even though I don’t always get treated the same way. There are very few that I view as basically a part of my family. They know a lot about me, even things that I’m very embarrassed or ashamed of. There is a mutual respect in my deeper friendships and they are the ones that I will support no matter what distances are between us.
Sakshi: As a TCK, I think the concept of making friend is very ironic because I find it incredibly easy to make friends but very difficult to keep them long-term. I definitely only have a few really close friends that I’ve formed meaningful relationships with and most of my other friends are people I’ve quickly connected with but on a much shallower level.
How do you present yourself to others in new settings? How does your communication style differ at home, school/work, and with friends?
Lenny: Everyone’s gotten the question “Do you act differently around different people?” and my answer is “absolutely!” I don’t see how anyone could ever act the same towards everyone, or maybe I’ve just been living under a rock my whole life. I don’t put up a fake image, but I wouldn’t greet my best friend the same way I greet my boss. I try to be open, courteous and approachable to everyone, but the level of respect, amicability or animosity will vary according to whom I’m talking to, and how they view me. I have a bit of a foul mouth, but I know where I can use it freely and where I shouldn’t. I try and be eloquent and well-spoken with everyone, but I don’t like to be overly proper with some people, because it feels fake. If I am at a job interview, that is a different matter, I will be as proper as I can be, but communicating a certain way at times feels like putting on a suit. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t see the point in dressing to impress. Not in day-to-day life anyway. I like to dress in sleeveless shirts, board shorts and flip flops, my tattoos showing and my piercings in. When I have to put on a suit, I feel very strange and a bit insecure. The same is true when I have to discipline myself to communicate a certain way. I am willing and more happy to do so, but it doesn’t feel so honest.
Leyla: In new settings, I project an aura of comfort and friendliness that some people find fake, but I’m honestly excited to meet new people and make connections. When I’m at home, I’m very honest with my feelings and I express them fully. When I’m at school or at work, I’m more professional and I try my best to reign in my stronger emotions. With friends, I can be very rambunctious and energetic.
Sakshi: I’m a very straightforward person and I find myself over-sharing with people I’ve just met. I talk a lot and communicate pretty enthusiastically, especially when I’m in the process of meeting someone new, like at school or work.
Can you share a time when you encountered miscommunication because of cultural differences?
Lenny: The classic one for me is the confusion between Australian slang and real English…the most embarrassing one (and I think any Aussie who travels overseas will agree) is when I use the Australian word for “flip flops”. In Australia, we call them “thongs”. It’s probably the only Aussie word I won’t use outside of Australia, because saying “I wear thongs” leads to some very strange looks. I say things like “Far out!” too. At school in Paris, whenever I said that, people would think I was yelling at Farah for something…my accent is a rare one in Paris, and that made for some confusion.
Leyla: This happens all the time at college. One of my roommates was a big fan of Family Guy, a show that I barely knew existed, and would make references to it. I would watch episodes with them and although I enjoyed it, there were so many cultural references that I didn’t get that I would just feel confused. There are still times when my friends make references to shows or ads, and I completely miss what they are talking about.
Sakshi: Miscommunication due to cultural differences is an ever present challenge for TCKs. It’s not because we struggle to understand people from different cultures, we’re quite the opposite actually. We’re so used to adapting to different cultures and often, people don’t understand that. For example, though I don’t look Indonesian, I was born and brought up there and I consider myself culturally Indonesian. During WPI’s annual International Dinner, I signed up to carry the Indonesian flag for the flag parade and was called out for it because I “wasn’t Indonesian.” I had to explain that Indonesia was a part of my cultural identity and that I wasn’t being culturally insensitive by taking the opportunity away from someone else. Instead, I was merely showing pride for the country I consider home.
Do you see yourself with a steady partner in the future? TCK? Non-TCK? What is your view on romantic relationships?
Lenny: Yes I do. I definitely would like someone I can enter a lasting partnership with. I don’t like coming home and locking myself in my room all by myself. Loneliness is a bit of a poison I’ve had a fair taste of. Whether they’re TCK of not doesn’t particularly matter, but they should definitely be willing to travel. They are definitely harder than they look (my longest relationship has only been around six months), but are absolutely possible. They can be hard to find, but it’s just another thing that demands patience. There are over seven billion other people in the world, it’s unreasonable to think there couldn’t be at least one person out there for everyone.
Leyla: If I were to see myself with a steady partner, they would have to be someone that understands my need to travel and would join me in my adventures, whether or not they are a TCK. I find that romantic relationships are something beautiful, but not the end goal of my life. My passion for the theatre and wanting to continue learning are very important to me and I would only want someone who would help me reach my goals.
Sakshi: I think that TCKs reach emotional maturity much faster than non-TCKs. Romantic relationships are an important part of life but, in my opinion, it’s just more difficult as a TCK to fully connect with someone, especially if they’re a non-TCK. Nonetheless, I definitely see myself in a steady relationship in the future and I don’t care if he’s TCK or not.
Do you want to continue the global nomad lifestyle or put down roots and settle down in one place?
Lenny: There’s a tiny part of me that does want to settle down. It can get very stressful maintaining a connection to people all over the world, but at the same time, there’s a much bigger part of me that tells me that I haven’t seen a fraction of the world as I’d like to. I do miss home; if there was ever a place I had to put down roots it would be back in Australia, hands down. It’s not the picture perfect place people seem to make it out to be, it definitely has its flaws: a corrupt, bigoted and completely apathetic government, unfathomably strict immigration laws, and very high living costs among other things, but it’s home. My ideal life would be to ground myself there, but be able to pack a suitcase, throw a dart at a world map, and just be spontaneous. I want a life of adventure. In a few generations, we will have made the world into a very different place, so I want to experience the beauty that’s left in it.
Leyla: I will probably continue moving the rest of my life. I love traveling, and spending way too much time in one place starts to drive me crazy, so yeah, I would probably keep my nomadic lifestyle. At least for now.
Sakshi: It would be nice to put down roots and settle down in one place and I find myself sometimes wanting the stability that it would bring but I think it’s kind of unrealistic for me. I’m not sure I could give up the global nomad lifestyle. Already I’m thinking of moving out of Massachusetts for graduate school and I can’t imagine my life without constant change.