“where are you from?”
“oh I dont know, I feel at home in airports.
I know the term ‘third culture kid’ has been used repetitively and its articles being overused but this is about my side and experience of the TCK life.
Being a third culture kid means you grew up in a country different from where your parents and majority of your family grew up in. In simpler words, if you are a TCK you’ve lived overseas at least once or have moved around several times, travel a lot and go to international schools (whether it be the American, British, German or French school in that country) which means you have friends from all over the world, can swear in different languages blah blah you get the deal.
As interesting as it sounds to move around, the third-culture-kid-life is actually a very lonely world. Not lonely as in we don’t have friends, because, we have friends from everywhere and wherever but lonely because a lot of our childhood and youth is filled with the loss of friends. Like a lot of people who grow up locally, they are able to go to school with the same people from elementary to high school but for TCKs, their school life was filled with people moving in and out of their lives.
watch my TCK video
My family first lived overseas in the busy city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and then to Saudi Arabia for 5 years, to Thailand for 2 and now we are back in Saudi. Here are my experiences of having lived and living in 3 of the top 30 countries to live in for expats.
Being Indonesian, Malaysia was perfect for my family. For Indonesians living overseas for the first time, adapting in Kuala Lumpur wasn’t hard; language, culture, food, the lifestyle was all similar. The only downside to Malaysia (for my family) was the way lots of Malaysians looked upon us. A lot of Malays look down on Indonesians due to the overflowing of Indonesian immigrants in Malaysia so we are usually perceived as drivers or maids. It was highly offensive at first but we eventually became friends with lots of locals and left the country having met some of the most respected or coolest Malaysians ever.
I was only in primary when I lived there so I never really cared much about school and so the fondest memories I had of KL were the food, the kids I played with around my condo and weekends in Port Dickson and Genting Highland or the ‘makan-makan’s in downtown KL with our family friends.
If you love skyscrapers and the blend of street food, souk markets, and modern buildings, Kuala Lumpur is definitely your city. Kuala Lumpur is the only city in Southeast Asia to be made in the middle of a jungle. I can’t remember everything from Kuala Lumpur, all I know is that the country made us happy. My days in Kuala Loco was definitely created by saying lah after every sentence… hahaha.
Saudi Arabia was a lot different than Malaysia. My family spent about 5 years in Saudi before we moved to Thailand. Saudi was something different, it was something special. Saudi is an experience I can’t really have anywhere else. It was ‘something special’ that made us come back.
We moved to Saudi because my dad got hired a job at the biggest oil company in the world, Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia-American-Company). To anyone who doesn’t know about the expat life, living in Saudi is far from what the media portrays. Saudi is peaceful, Saudi is community. Maybe I meant to say Aramco, Aramco is.
Before anybody gets confused, when living in Saudi and working for Aramco, employees and their families get placed into gated communities so it is like living in Saudi without having to live in Saudi. So there it was, the gated community that made Saudi feel like home to me. We had our own movie theater, olympic size pool, soccer fields, baseball fields, you name it, it was there. It’s every Aramcon’s litte country, little-big place. (Of course, this is quite different for expats choosing to live outside of gated communities and live in apartments or villas downtown, but either way, expats still hang out around other expats and are given similar facilities)
Some of my best days were spent in this country. There’s not much to do here but when you have people you love so much around you, it doesn’t really matter the place and what you’re not doing, sometimes you just do, or live. It’s the people. It’s the people that make you feel like you belong.
A lot of my Arabian days consists of hanging out at the commissary (where else), other people’s compounds (gated communities), backyard chillings, midnight strolling (just walking around and passing trees, houses, trees and houses again), walking by the beach, restaurant hopping, or shopping at Dhahran Mall.
Saudi’s the kind of place that makes you fall in love with the place not because of its view or scenery but because of the people you meet in this desert. There is no other place like this one.
And as for Bangkok- everyday was vacation. Life was chill and easy going.
Thailand made me feel like a tourist every single day, no matter what day it was or where I went, everybody thought I was a tourist, which was kind of nice in some ways except when they overprice everything because they think you’re not from there.
There were so many things I could do in Bangkok. It was the city. It was the city life. Nobody ever slept. It wasn’t like Saudi, there were just so many things to do, so many places to see, so many new food to try, and so many new people to meet. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve lost friends or have nobody because you can still roam around the city and meet strangers and become friends with them. It was an easy city to socialize in, you could go anywhere and everywhere.
I spent a lot of time in rooftops or by the pool. There were so much green to see. Transportation was so easy too, especially when my condo was right in front of the BTS. Thailand was the place that made me go out there , it was the place that made me feel confident, the place that pushed me to meet new people of any age and do everything I’ve never done. Thailand was full of firsts and experience.
meeting thai celebrities was just a casual thing when so many of your Eurasian friends were models, ha.
because you’re friends with the businessman’s son or the diplomats daughter or whatever, bkk kids hang out at embassies, really fancy condos, all that.
but at the same time…. bangkok kids love the whole street food, buying fruits from the fruit-man, night markets, and wearing flip flops to 7-11. TCKs in Bangkok are a little bit of fancy and exclusive but also adaptable and fun. Compared to the other 3 countries I’ve lived in, I think expat kids in Bangkok have the more fun time. Bangkok kids are the life of the party.
me and my 2 best friends: Lanna (a Brazilian half Chinese-Thai/half Sudanese) and Reo (Japanese)
The other great thing about being an expat in Thailand is experiencing all the different festivals, which doesn’t make you feel any less of a tourist HAH.
Other than Bangkok was extremely cheap, you get to hang out in markets like Chatucak if you have nothing else to do.
So where am I from?
Maybe I am from all these places, maybe I am Indonesian but part Malaysian too, and Saudi and Thai. But maybe where I’m from isn’t a place, maybe where I’m from was never a place but where my people are at. And maybe home isn’t a place, it is a person.
“To me, home was never a place; it was a feeling. It was the way the people I loved said my name.”