Compared to thirty-forty years ago, being a third culture or cross cultural child is something quite different today. My I blog musings is about Internet and its impact for children growing up in other cultures.
As I’ve written in earlier posts, there is a world before the Internet and a world after the Internet. With Internet came easy access to information, and possibilities to communicate with e-mails, chat on Skype, and connect on social medias like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. I think I also can say that Internet together with the cell phone has been one of the main reasons that the world seem smaller today. We chat with people across the globe, exchange films and videos. Aero plane tickets are available and also cheaper: people travel more. You can order or download books online, search in giant databases etc. Well, you know all this.
When I grew up abroad, but also the years I lived in Norway with my dad still living in Africa and huge chunks of my family in Iceland across the North Sea, the distances seemed vast. Letters to and fro Africa used at least one month, if not more. Phone calls were extremely rare and they were very expensive. I don’t think my dad got a phone in his African home until the 1990s. His satellite phone was to be used just in emergencies. Travels to other countries were very expensive. When you left your home country as missionary, you were out for years. Though the rule in more modern times is three years out, one year home, my dad skipped this rule on many occasions. When I was a child and lived in Norway, I experienced that it could be as much as two years before I heard anything from my dad in Africa. But I know that missionary kids in generations before me were left behind in Norway (at orphanages) and didn’t see their parents for many years. So I shouldn’t complain.
The feeling of distance is one thing that seemed to have changed in newer times. See also my D post about distance. Another thing is that you have the opportunity to stay in touch with your friends in other countries. If you, as child today, is forced to move abroad, you can stay in touch with your friends and family and culture at home. I’d say this is both negative and positive. The adaption to another culture might never happen or it will happen more slowly, because you can compare the new place with your home country all the time. It can also increase the cultural confusion in the child, dependent of its age. But it might also help. As teenager I thought it was very helpful to see my home country from the outside. For those children born abroad, however, the social media contact with a family in a country your parents call home country, but not you, might be confusing today.
Third culture children and cross cultural children are well-known in their ability to adapt to other cultures, but also to create own cultures (often a mixture of the different cultures) which might lead to a feeling of never being fully home in any cultures. If you also attend an internation school abroad, there are not only many more cultures you meet, but also a culture on the school itself, created by all the different cultures the pupils, teachers and parents bring.
When I grew up, I knew few other children with the same background as myself, and the feeling of loneliness thus became stronger. I sent letters to a few of the children I met in West-Africa and also visited a few of them in the States, which helped some. It wasn’t until Internet arrived and especially when Facebook and Twitter came, that I increasingly could connect with them, but also when I became aware of the theme ’third culture children’ and that there were others out there, even books on the subject. Which has helped me to understand myself.
So, I think, if the children, at least the youngsters, know there are other children like themselves out there, even groups on Facebook, it would help them a little when shaping their identity. Instead of becoming confused, at least they can say they are third culture children or cross cultural children. But it require some awareness about the subject with the parents and teachers the children meet.
The picture is taken by me at Gustav Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo.