Adults who have been international third culture children are maybe more easily accepted as adults with an unique cultural background, while it’s easy to forget that also adults who moved around lots in own country as child, go through very similar identity issues as the international TCK. My H blog musings is about the hidden immigrants.
As international TCKs you become more aware of the cultural differences between your ‘home’ country and your ‘host’ county. TCKs often become confused about where is home and where is host, and can feel homeless where ever they are. Especially if they lived abroad during development years, when the feeling of belonging to a group is important to shape your identity. TCK often feel they don’t really fit in anywhere, and don’t have a home. See my C post about childhood home. I’ll return to this in later posts.
There are, however, also children who never lived abroad, but who have been forced to move around in their own country, some very often, and have experienced very different cultures. Most of the architecture and physical environment is usually the same within a country. But culturally, it can feel like there are worlds between north and south, east and west. These children have to adapt and absorb their surroundings, just like the internationals, not because they want to, but because they need to.
What was culturally accepted the last place you lived, might be unheard of in the new place. As child it’s important to fit in quickly, to belong, so you must learn to “read” the new place and people at once. Things like what activity is “cool” or not, what food to bring to school for lunch, clothes, hairstyle. What jokes to laugh at, what is regarded as funny. What behaviour is accepted and not. I have moved from big cities to towns and the other way. The huger the city, the easier it was to adapt. Smaller places often have stricter social rules. One place I lived, you weren’t really accepted if you weren’t at least fourth generation living there. Everybody else were considered outsiders, immigrants, foreigners, not one of them.
I have experienced both the international and the domestic variant. Both are demanding. But maybe most the domestic. People accept more that you struggle adapting abroad, I think, but not so much in your own country. So, it becomes a hidden struggle.
Picture is taken by me at Gustav Vigeland museum in Oslo.