Wednesday, February 5, 2014

{Third-Culture American}

{Kinda creepy, eh?}
In the missions world, there are kids we like to call MK's, which means "Missionary Kid" - they are the children of missionaries in other countries.  Often times, these kids are easily identifiable; some of them choose to walk around barefoot; they wear the native attire of the country they were raised in; if there are others from their region of the world, they speak in another language whenever they get a chance to; most of them don't know anything about music or movies in America, or much of the Western world for that matter; and they often times don't understand why Americans are so loud. Another term we use to describe these people are TCK's, which means "Third-Culture Kid".  These kids (or young adults) are technically "American" by birth, or because their parents are American citizens; they also clearly speak English as their first language.  However, they don't feel like they belong here in America because they didn't grow up in America.  They grew up in another country; they know the local language fluently and have many friends there; they understand the customs and tradition of that culture; they call that place home.  However, they are not the same skin, hair, or eye color; they are not actually native of these places; they don't have roots there; their friends don't understand American culture; and plenty of people avoid them because "they're not one of us."  These kids, whom we call TCK's, are a culture of their own.  They don't feel they belong anywhere.  They are familiar with two different lifestyles, two different cultures, two completely different experiences, religions, worldviews, and so.  But they don't feel that they belong here or there.

What does this have to do with me?
No, I didn't grow up in another country.  Sadly, I have never had the opportunity to leave the United States!  However, I feel like this a lot.  Here in America, as many of you know, not all Americans are the same.  Things that make sense on the West coast, don't make any sense on the East coast, and vice versa.  Each region of the country has it's own way of life.  America is a melting pot in that sense.  

I was born around the Chicagoland area and lived there until I was almost 8 years old.  I still have friends and family there.  I moved with my family to Hartsville, South Carolina and lived there for most of my life.  Chicago is a huge city, and could be a state all to itself with a population of almost 12 million people.  The people live fast-paced lives.  People in the Chicagoland area are either from somewhere else in the world or are the children of immigrants.  There are many international accents, but most Chicago and Chicagoland people have what you call "an invisible accent" - a standard American-English accent.  There is always something to do in Chicago; it never sleeps; there is never a dull moment.  Then there's Hartsville.  Population: almost 8,000.  The city sleeps from 5pm-8am, with the exception of the one and only 24-hour Wal Mart.  Most people who live here have roots that go back 4 and 5 generations, and most of those ancestors were farmers.  Every now and again, we get a new family from somewhere else in the country because of the military or because of work.  Often times, there's nothing to do in the downtown area, but people take that as an opportunity to be creative.  There are some rednecks (not everyone in the South is a redneck - do not mistake that).  There are plenty of people who have Southern accents of some sort.  The culture is much slower, and more hospitable.  Southern folks like to take it easy and enjoy what's going on, not zoom through it.

Here's my problem: I don't sound like a Southerner, I but I live a slower life like a Southerner.  I sound like a Northerner, but I certainly don't act like a Northerner.  I know of some customs of the North, but I don't necessarily follow those customs.  I am pretty familiar with Southern customs, but I don't follow those customs either.  I call Hartsville my home, it's where I did most of my growing, made my closest friends, and learned what I know now.  I act more like Southerners than Northerners.  When some Northerners talk poorly about the South, I get offended, even though I am not actually a Southerner.  In high school, I was treated differently by some of the Southerners at my school because I sounded like one of "them."  There are people I have encountered from the North who treat me differently because I act like one of "them," and because I live here with "them."

Certainly I am not saying that I have no friends and everyone hates me.  What I'm saying is: I am used to two completely different cultures, to two completely different ways of life.  Sometimes I'm not sure where I belong, geographically, because I don't entirely fit the lifestyle of anywhere.  While I don't have experiences like the TCK's I know who are from other countries, I consider myself to be a TCA, or Third-Culture American.  I don't belong here for certain reasons; I don't belong there for other certain reasons.  It's finding the place I do belong that's the hard part.  A lot of people don't really understand this, and maybe that's a good thing.

Have any of you ever felt this way from any situation?

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