Growing up as a Third Culture Kid: Citizens of everywhere and nowhere

In the days of social media and facebook it is very easy to connect with friends from various walks of life, and for someone like me who grew up as a ‘third culture kid’ with a relatively transient life, this really is a benefit. Up until the age of 14, I was at school in Singapore. Unlike a lot of people who moved every 2 – 4 years, we lived there for 12 years. When I left, I kept in touch with a handful of friends by writing letters.

30 years on with the advent of facebook, I am now connected to over 40 friends from these Singapore days and there is a solid UK contingency who meet up at least once a year. Whilst arranging the 2018 get together recently I wondered what it was that kept us ‘Third culture kids’ together. One thing is clear – we all share a love of Singaporean and Malaysian food! A dinner at C&R cafe or Bugis Street Brasserie is a highlight of our evening, but its the shared experiences that bond us.

Our old school, United World College of South East Asia has grown and expanded throughout the world, but the original campus is still going strong in Singapore.  Their alumni events give us a reason to meet at least once a year with friends flying in from as far as Ohio and Malaysia.

We know we had a pretty special childhood, growing up as expats in Singapore in the 70’s and 80’s. On the flip side, coming back to life in Europe was a sharp shock to reality. Many of us had live-in ‘amahs’ so we had never made our own beds, got our breakfast or had to do chores. Even worse than this, the kids we met in our new English schools were just not interested in Singapore – they didn’t even know where it was and didn’t care. I personally left an international co-ed school with 44 different nationalities and came back to an all girls school in Surrey where being ‘foreign’ was being in the minority… as for the food… my pets had eaten better!

Most of us felt like we never really fitted in, yet we had been brought up to be adaptable. Making friends was quite easy. We were open minded about religion and nationality. School trips to climb Mount Kota Kinabalu or experience the rainforest and jungle in Sarawak set us up to explore the world and fuelled a love of travel and adventure.

Mainly I find that us Third culture kids have spirit. I like to think we are interesting and interested people. I am always amazed the types of jobs we do, from an award winning Malaysian singer or owning a Michelin starred restaurant to specialising in cyber security or running global companies. A shared experience of growing up in an environment which was stimulating in every sense of the word which has enabled us to become who we are now. I love spending time with these friends… They remind me of who I was and where I came from and our relationships are built on the strong foundations which come from childhood friendships.

Sorry that I haven’t given you a recipe on this blog post ¬†– its a shout out to an awesome group of very unique friends. Global Citizens… lifelong friendships.

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