I was standing in the middle of a shoe shop with a snapped flip flop in my hand. “Oh, so where are you guys from?” If only I had a penny. I looked at the sales assistant and tried to get a clue as to what answer to give her.
The answer always depended on who I spoke to.
Actually, I have a long and short answer which I tweak a little here and there. “I am from around, but we live in the UK”. Immediate relief on the sales lady’s face.
Sometimes, I envy the simplicity of being able to say “I’m from a small town near London”, or “I just live down the road. To me, the question where I was from was like a Frank Gehry building: Beautiful and twisted with shiny surfaces and edges, a symphony of cultures and identities.
Lets put it this way: Are you looking at my nationality, where I was born, where I am living now or where my parents are from? I have always seen myself as somewhat of a global nomad, a cultural chameleon. I was born in Hamburg, Germany, raised in Split, Croatia, then moved to Germany again where I graduated, then decided to pursue my studies in the UK where I have been ever since.
Growing up as a cultural chameleon
That’s what I like to call myself: Cultural chameleon. Looking back, I’m amazed how much time I’ve spent trying to fit in and trying to please people. It’s like a never ending spiral of playing catch up with my friends: the music they listen to, or the places they would go to. Things that I would take for granted in Hamburg, like taking the train home at 3 am in the morning, were done differently in other countries.
If I could go back in time however, I would tell my 20 year old self to stop worrying about everything. To be my most authentic self. Because being your self is enough. If being a cultural hybrid has taught me anything, it would be that rootlessness, that feeling of being lost in a crowd of people, is not necessarily a bad thing.
I might be rootless, but I am free. There are many places I can call my home. The possibilities are endless. To you, I look like I have spent an absurd and unhealthy amount of time on airplanes. I might even be your token ‘exotic’ friend.
Nevertheless, what all these experience have taught me is: I can talk to anybody. Some of my most outrageous experiences in life are memories I hold dear. I will always remember spontaneous island hopping with an American girl I befriended in a Croatian chocolate shop. Drinking rum on the beach waiting for the sunrise. Being a commentary assistant for the world cup 2004 and meeting people from all over the world.
“Being rootless has given me a sense of freedom, I am grateful for the experiences that I have had.” Ndela Faye
Yeah, I might tell the odd white lie to make my answer to your question more palatable. Over the years though, I really have come to appreciate that home to me isn’t a place, it’s being with the people that I love and care about.
I have loved the continuous reinventions, in fact my accent has changed from German to American to somewhat southern British, then moved up to Mancunian, and now it is at home a little closer to Liverpool. A mix of everything here there and in between.
Maybe I am a bit of a food snob, because I have sampled some of the most authentic, beautiful foods the Mediterranean has to offer.
If you asked me where I was from now
I would probably tell you that I feel like a citizen of the world.
Ultimately, when I look at my little daughter, I am proud and grateful, because I can wholeheartedly say that I have finally arrived home.
Have you ever met a third culture kid? Or maybe you are one yourself? Comment below or take it to twitter@fabulousmummy1!