I just found out today…

Posted: 12th December 2009 by admin in Uncategorized

…that I am a Third Culture Kid. I’m fascinated by this, and also a little relieved that there is actually a term for someone like me! I’ve gone through many stages of feeling out of place and foreign, both in America and in the Netherlands, and have always figured it was something in my own character. Now that I’m older, I’m realizing it does have a lot to do with the big culture-switch in my life when I was 15.

I’ve only ever lived in two countries, America and the Netherlands, which makes me wonder if I possibly belong to a separate category of Third Culture Kids. I also tend to surround myself with people who have also had a nomadic lifestyle growing up, they are the people I relate to the best. Most of them are classmates from the international school, and they have moved around a lot more than me though, have had to deal with more cultures than I did.

When we moved to Holland, I was a teenager, and I felt a very strong urge to fit in culturally here, to speak the language and assimilate to the point of being virtually indistinguishable from a Dutch native. This caused a lot of conflict for me growing up. Am I American? Am I Dutch? This cultural split in my personality led to a lot of problems in the fundaments of my character, which I am now trying to iron out. I still feel foreign here, even though I have been here almost twenty years, and became an adult in this country, had my children here. I speak the language, my kids go to school here, but my mentality is still fundamentally different to the Dutch mentality.

I feel a sense of insecurity about my language abilities, even though I know my Dutch is excellent. In a group, I still feel like I stick out like a sore thumb, that everyone is very aware I am not Dutch. I have a very hard time making friends with people who were born and raised in Holland who do not at all relate to my nomadic experiences. Most of the time, I am found to be too extravagant to a people who have a very Calvinist history. Unfortunately for me, this has lead to a life of undesired social isolation.

I also see the effect of my ‘cultural split’, if you will, on my role as a parent. I’m still fairly new to motherhood, and am bringing my kids up bi-lingually. My mentality is very much like my dad’s as far as living nomadically goes. I do have that ‘anywhere I lay my hat is my home’ attitude, am not at all attached to material, cumbersome belongings. Fortunately, my husband has a similar mentality, even though he has only ever lived in the Netherlands.

My parents’ attitude towards a nomadic lifestyle has had a huge impact on my life and evn how I solve everyday problems. I have a very lax attitude towards things like having a steady job or a savings account, or worrying about making rent or mortgage payments, things others tend to get uptight about. I know it has to do with the way I was brought up. My parents invested their pay-cheques in living in the here and now, they spent energy in making the things we needed instead of purchasing them (I was lucky enough to have an industrial designer for a father who wrote a series of books about Nomadic Furniture). This taught me the value of recycling, using what there already IS, that solutions are often easier to come by when you look at what you already have! Although I do not have the technical insight my dad has, my husband does, and together we can come up with all sorts of creative solutions.

I am beginning to understand a lot of the big decisions in my life now that I am learning bit by bit more about Third Culture Kids. I hope by joining the TCK community, I can connect with others who can help me learn more about myself.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your story in such detail Lizanne. I am dumbstruck by the connection between your father’s books and how I defined myself through them long ago and then you being a TCKID, too; the Nomadic Furniture books were a huge part of how I constructed my own nomadic identity (plus inspiring me to a lifelong pursuit of making useful things from available materials). I’m so glad the books are coming out again. I have pulled them out again and again to help me design. The simplicity and light footprint of those designs so reflected what I still yearn for today.

  2. Anonymous says:

    ooooo Brice! 😛 That’s a challenge. Let’s see.

    Artist. TCK. Orthodox Christian. INFJ. Classic Nobody.