Friday, April 19, 2013

Third Culture Kids

I'm sitting here this morning with Z, eating pancakes and watching Dora The Explorer, as she's saying the Spanish words and I'm thinking about what the world will look like to her.  For the past few weeks Z has been saying these "gibberish" sentences.  She was speaking so clearly though and it didn't sound English at all that I didn't even want to respond with my own gibberish in case she was actually speaking in another language and I would confuse her.  So after some investigation, I asked Melody if she was speaking Tagalog and Melody said no.  Then earlier this week Melody was out front with the girls while I was getting ready for work and she told me that Z has been speaking Nepalese!  Karim is a man that works on our compound and the girls like him.  So she's learned some phrases apparently from him.  That caught me so off guard, I know she speaks some Tagalog because Melody has spent a lot of time with her and of course she would pick things up, but they maybe see Karim for a couple of hours a week and she's picked up a lot in just that short amount of time.

Then I think about what will be "normal" to the girls.  Men wearing thobes and women in abayas will be a totally commonplace, having kids in her class from Japan, Ethiopia, Australia, Jordan, Egypt, Brazil, etc will be just how it should be.  We had a friend who went back to the US to visit and told her daughter the name of a friend they were visiting.  The daughter thought the name was hilarious and just kept laughing while saying it in the back seat.  The name...Matt.  She thought it was hilarious, "Maaaaaatt, Mat, Maattttt."  She doesn't blink at Abdullah, Mineko and other names like that, but Matt was hilarious.

While all of this is really great, I can definitely see why first generation kids in the US can have so many issues with their parents.  And I can empathize with the fear that parents have that their kids will lose thier identity in a new and different culture.  I guess, the almost helpful thing about being in the Middle East is that American culture is so pervasive it's not as though they are missing out American culture as a whole.  It's a little harder with Liam and making sure they feel their Irishness.  We don't have many Gaelic speakers around and the only other cultural thing would be Irish dancing, which they can't do for a few more year.  It's something that all of our friends talk about pretty often.  It's particularly important here where it isn't as if we were immigrating and becoming citizens (you can't) and were going to live here forever (also not possible, you can only live here while you are working).  So it's really strange where you have people who have lived here all of their lives and possibly are 3rd generation here, but they still consider themselves Indian or Egyptian, partially because they can't be from here.  But we want to make sure our girls don't feel like they are American/Irish by default.  I think starting after the summer we're really going to make an effort to celebrate some of the holidays that we have let fall by the wayside and a creating a few of our own to help the kids learn about things that you just take for granted living in the US.

And now I'm getting really excited for our summer trip! My mom has said she'll take off the week we are there to take us all around, so that's a pretty good effort on her part to actually spend time with us.  We will also have a non-birthday birthday party for both the girls where the whole family can come and we will get 8 bags and 184kg of luggage to bring home!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! This is something I've been wondering about when I observe expat families with little ones here in Japan.