10 Signs You Grew Up As A Third Culture Kid

Annie Spratt

1. You never know how to answer the question “where are you from?”.

Uh, what exactly do you mean by that? Are you looking at my name and recognizing it as foreign and wondering which country my family comes from? Are you asking where I was born? Are you asking where I grew up? Because all of those places are different. Third culture kids routinely stumble over this question.

2. You have to explain your culture to other kids from a young age.

Yes, I call my dad “Babi”. Yes, it’s pronounced “Bobby”. No, that’s not his name. It’s how you say Dad in Albanian.

3. No one knows how to pronounce your name.

If your parents gave you a traditional name, you’re always having to explain it to other people. You even have an “American pronunciation” for it so that it’s easier. People always ask you what your name means and even though they’re just curious, it’s kind of irritating. You don’t ask Sara what her name means.

4. You always brought “weird food” to lunch in elementary school.

Your mom would pack your lunch with traditional dishes leftover from dinner the night before. While your friends were snacking on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you were eating burek and fielding millions of questions about what it was.

5. Your other language is like a secret code for you and your family.

If you need to tell your mom something private in public, you just speak Albanian. Or if you’re with your siblings and want to laugh about the ridiculous thing you just saw on the subway. But sometimes there are other people around that understand your cursing. Oops.

6. You feel pulled between two worlds.

Sure, you were born in America but your parents are immigrants and raised you in their culture. Like, I identify as Albanian first but I was born in America (in Texas of all places), so I guess I’m actually American? It’s really confusing.

7. Summers are spent going “back home”.

The country your parents are from is considered “back home” even though it’s been 30 years since they lived there. When you go back home, you’re considered the American kid even though in America you’re considered the Albanian kid. So basically you don’t completely fit in anywhere.

8. You know every detail of how your parents came to America.

It’s basically family lore by this point. You know all about the struggles they faced to give you the life you have now. And you’re grateful.

9. You’re used to Americans stereotyping your culture.

Yes, I’m Albanian. Yes, the gangsters in Taken were Albanian. No, my family is not like that. No, they’re not organ traffickers. No, they don’t own a ton of goats. No, it’s not like that SNL skit.

10. You have more than one home.

You have the place you live, the place your parents are from and whatever other place you choose. “Home” isn’t one place to you.

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