Third Culture Shock

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Where Are You From?

That question is probably the single hardest one for me to answer.  Why?  Because it’s an incredibly complicated question and there is no short reply.  Over the past year or so as I began to tackle the issue of my own TCKness, I heard from dozens of other people who grew up away from their “home country” and all of them…all of them…said the same thing. 

If you are a guy in the Starbucks on the turnpike and ask me “Where are you from?” my answer will be “Pennsylvania” since I’m pretty sure you’re only making small talk.  If you are actually trying to start a relationship with me and really are interested in where I’m from, I’ll probably just look at you with a blank stare on my face for a minute while my brain zips through the list of possible answers trying to find the one you’ll understand.

I was born in Richmond, Virginia and immediately placed for adoption. Several months later I went to live with my adoptive parents who whisked me off to Hong Kong where they were living as missionaries with the Mennonite church.  While living there, I attended a British primary school full of kids from all over the world.

When I was 13 years old, I went off to a Christian boarding school in Malaysia and would come home to my parents in Hong Kong for Christmas and Summer breaks. Within a few weeks of high school graduation my family left Hong Kong and permanently moved to Pennsylvania, which is where I now live. 

During the years between 1972 and 1989 my parents were given a furlough to return to the United States. This happened every four (and once it was five) years. Since those trips were usually just a few months long, that time was spent traveling between relatives in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania.  We lived in Indiana long enough for me to attend preschool and then half of 3rd grade. I think I spent a grand total of two-and-a-half years in the United States during the most formative part of my life.

Where am I from?  I have no flipping idea!

September 19, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Audrey,

    As an American born Chinese who moved from California to HK when I was 8. I experienced this culture shock of moving to HK and suddenly going from a minority to the majority (on the surface). Yet I still felt like a foreigner on both shores. I didn’t speak nor read Cantonese. It took the deep immersion of living there to become verbally fluent. Reading is another story… After finally becoming comfortable w/ my new surroundings, I was thrust back to the US when we moved back. I then experienced another shock (pop-culture shock). I can totally relate to you my sister!

    Comment by Daniel Choi | December 21, 2010 | Reply

  2. I lived in France for a year in college, and I thought that was interesting… Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

    Comment by autismmommytherapist | September 19, 2010 | Reply


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