Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Third Culture

I woke at 4.30am, my nose in full flood and so I came here to webwander a while.

I started with Alison's blog and I came to an interesting article she had linked to.

I had posted a little about the 'third culture concept' recently but this article, titled Defining Expat Culture Today took the concept further and made the theory more personal to me.

Sarah Steegar wrote: While the subject is certainly too rich for just one study, or one article, this much was obvious: even though expats come from a million different directions (both figuratively and literally), our lives are remarkably similar in the most personal of ways.

Along with obvious answer patterns over 27 subjective questions, the results even went so far as to profile an expat 'life cycle' that seemed to emerge from their stories.

It intrigued me to read that 'Most significantly, the concept of 'home' blurs; it and identity are perhaps even realised as somewhat of a choice. This is a very special kind of freedom.

I could relate to it, knowing how Istanbul became a 'home' that I miss and how 'at home' I felt in Rome, knowing I could have lived there ... the more recently being tempted by Spain, a culture I wanted to slip into immediately, enjoying the taste of all I experienced there ... the people, the food, the architecture and landscapes.

There is no doubt that my roots go deep into the New Zealand landscape - my love for my first home is unquestionable but something made me fly, and sometimes I wonder if it was an unconscious desire to find like-minded souls, the people I had named 'internationals', with my personal definition being those who could live anywhere in the world and who were open.

Sarah wrote: Toss me in a room full of expats and I am just as sure, if not more so, to find things in common with them than if I were in a room full of random people from my home country.

For example, choosing an international life requires not only an active tolerance of human difference, but a certain affinity for it. A majority of us also hold similar political leanings - to a greater extent perhaps than we can say for our home cultures.

In the past, it has occured to me that if people like politicians came from this so-called third culture grouping then nationalism and small world views might disappear, countries could be 'guided' by people who have an international awareness and a tolerance for difference, who share an excitement about the evolution of human development and the possibilities of change.

My recent exposure to European politics, my observations of American, Iranian and Israeli/Palestinian politics and of the developing fear and hatred for the 'immigrant' has only confirmed that things need to change in the world.

It was a good article that took me further down this path I began to explore way back when I picked up and devoured my first really good travel book and recognised a 'type' that I could relate to and wanted to be.

I'll leave you with a song Alison posted. I liked her explanation of why she likes it.


V-Grrrl said...

I read that article on Expatica too, and while this is my first expat experience, I could relate. I knew when I moved here that I would eventually move back to the U.S. We still own our home there and yet from the moment we decided to leave, I knew that it would never be "home" again in the same way. I think repatriation will be difficult--

Mark J said...

"countries could be 'guided' by people who have an international awareness and a tolerance for difference"

Majority rules Di. Unless you get everybody to experience this "tolerance" - I'm afraid it would just look like another bunch of politicians telling us how to live our lives - and NZ'ers really hate that - remember.

rob said...

Ok, you convinced me--I am an expat ...

Toss me in a room full of expats and I am just as sure, if not more so, to find things in common with them than if I were in a room full of random people from my home country.


Manic said...

In a way the European Union works is lead by people from the third culture. People working for the EU work together with so many different nationalities that they are bound to find common qualities or misbehaviour. Many Europeans still think inside nationstates, but they don't realise how far Europe already is integrated. Image a Europe today where one would need a passport to travel to France, or Luxemburg?

The Internet makes people communicate even over a greater distance. If you look at your blog visitors you will find them from anywhere in the world. Malasia, the US, Australia, Europe...only Africa is behind.

What Mark says about democracy is true, but sometimes democracy can and should be questioned. Because what we here inside the EU are facing isn't so much a lack of the majority disagreeing, it's about them not knowing. Politicians aren't honest about the EU, we should ask ourselves why. First of all, if the EU becomes bigger, it means it takes power away from the same people advocating the EU. Something which brings in a certain ambiguity. The same goes for politicians pleing against immigration, they fear that they will loose power because of the newbies who will probably vote on somebody else. Democracy isn't always about the people, but more about the power.

Okay did I type too much?

woman wandering said...

I wonder about 'home' too v-grrrl, will it be enough after being out in the world ... a question I often asked people who had lived abroad before returning to settle in NZ. They seemed to appreciate all that was there so much more.

Mark, NZers were colonials 6-8 generations ago, a spirit that's difficult to douse. So far we've been lucky, as far as I know there hasn't been a Kiwi version of that nasty little right wing Pauline Hanson but politicians do win elections when they play populist games and incite fear amongst the voters ... it's bad here in Belgium, Austria and Germany. It the ugliness of a small worldview that I fear.

Welcome expat Rob ... we're international-types for sure. Gert has to be to put up with me and then the guests from all over the world :)

You didn't type too much manic. It was a good read ... thanks for making time to reply :)

Cristina said...

It reminds me of the concept of Third Culture Kids (TCK). A new way of growing up and living is emerging in a planet where geographical barriers are becoming less and less significant.

woman wandering said...

Hi Cristina, I blogged about the TCK's in January ... liking the concept, curious about what I was, since I lived in the same place until I was 20 but had moved a lot since.

You can see what I found here:

Tanya said...

Hi Di...
My cousin has just returned from overseas.. she has been travelling the middle east and europe for 7 years.. If she didnt have to be here at this time I think she would prefer to be back out there.. I told her to visit your site.. although Im sure it wont help her itchy feet :)
Im going to go and read that article now...

woman wandering said...

Hi Tanya, I'll be curious to here how your cousin does with being back ... curious for myself and how it is to return to the beautiful wee country at the bottom of the world.

Sometimes I want to go home more than anything, find a place near a beach or a lake, with hills and/or mountains, other times I think I'll stay out in the world a bit longer.

Wish her luck :)

ML said...

HI! Its ML AND Al right now. We just read what you wrote and agreed. Remember when we were there.. 4 people from 4 continents, Europe, Oceania , NOrth Am. and Asia.. all getting along harmoneously. People around the world have more commonality on socio economic level than on national/political lines (Al said the last). I remember being AT HOME in Aust, NZ, Turkey, and Canada and feeling that way. Amazing comments on here.

woman wandering said...

Hi ML and Al :) I think that's one of the things I really enjoy about the guests who pass through my life ... we're often a mix of nationalities and there's so much in common oftentimes.

I'm looking forward to having the mix of us together again in 2007 :)

harvey molloy said...

When I lived in Singapore, I met a number of adolescent kids of ex-pats who defined themselves as 'third culture' Singaporeans. Singapore was home but what connected them to other 'third culture' kids was their immigrant parents and their education in ex-pat schools.

woman wandering said...

I like that this way of defining self exists and I imagine those kids found a certain comfort or relief in knowing 'what or who' they were.

Thanks Harvey.