Being everywhere and nowhere at the same time – La Rotonde

Visual Credit: Nisrine Nail – Artistic Director

Article written by Camille Cottais – Editor in Chief

Third Culture Children (TCC) grew up among several countries and among a mixture of cultures. This increasingly common experience offers great opportunities to the people who experience it, but it also has its limitations and disadvantages.

According to the International Baccalaureate Community blog, ETCs are people who have lived and been raised in a country or countries other than the one in which they were born or where their family originates from. They are often the children of diplomats, missionaries, or expatriates. The phenomenon has increased since globalization and the development of transportation, but the term was only theorized in the 1950s. over there sociologist American Ruth Hill Useem.

Tell me where you come from and I’ll tell you who you are

“Where do you come from?” is one of the first questions asked during a new meeting according to the ETCs interviewed. However, the ETCs often have a hard time answering them, as they generally do not identify with a single culture or a single country. They have a hybrid culture, the result of a mix between the culture of their country of origin and that of their host country(ies).

However, as research shows, without knowing where they come from, it is difficult for a person to know who they are. In fact, 27% of ETCs are considered “ inhabitants of the world instead of a specific country. These identity difficulties make them At risk to experience loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other health problems mental health.

The parents of Alexandre Marie, an 11th grader in a French high school, are French, but he and his family lived in Germany, Libya, Ethiopia, and then Indonesia, before returning to France. According to him, the question “where are you from? It is complex, because his childhood was made up of all these countries.

The difficulty is the same for Lyeth Tchitembo, a sociology and feminist gender studies student at the University of Ottawa, whose parents are from the Congo, but who grew up in Burkina Faso, Benin, Ivory Coast and Guinea. Although she feels more Burkina Faso than Congolese, she prefers to identify with the term “West Africa” ​​to encompass all the countries that today do what she is: “I feel African and not a citizen of a single country,” she says.

Being a foreigner in your own country

Many of the FTEs interviewed feel different from others, even misunderstood, especially the case of Gwen Ar Foll, who hails from France but grew up in the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Kenya. She explains that her anglicisms, as well as her accent, have sometimes been teased by the French, like a tourist.

Guillaume Koffi Yobou was born and lived in Côte d’Ivoire until he was six years old, then grew up in Cameroon, Kenya and Jordan, before coming to Ottawa, where Architecture studies at La Cité College. Back in his country of origin, he too felt like a foreigner, realizing that his way of speaking and seeing things was different from that of others. This feeling has diminished over time, and today he feels completely Ivorian.

As for Tchitembo, although he is of Congolese origin and his mother tongue is Lingala, he says he feels more comfortable in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. “People don’t understand why I don’t just say I’m Congolese. But I know little about the Congo, I have been there very little, I did not grow up there”, he explains.

This feeling is called reverse culture shock, which describes the feeling of disorientation experienced by people who return to their country of origin and discover that they no longer fit in there as before. About 75% to 90% adults who have experienced an intercultural childhood feel culturally different from people who have not lived abroad.

An advantage in the labor market?

The FTEs interviewed state that their intercultural experience has allowed them to develop language skills and acquire cultural knowledge, as well as a good capacity to adapt.

Ar Foll’s experience in Kenya allowed him to become bilingual in English. He also developed a fondness for the Arabic language and some grounding in Amharic when he was in Ethiopia and Swahili in Kenya. He also speaks Spanish, a bit of Breton and is learning Russian as part of his studies. Similarly, Ella Marie herself speaks French, English and German and is learning Japanese at the same time.

Many mention that their childhood has sharpened their curiosity and broadened their open-mindedness, qualities that can be useful in the job market. Koffi Yobou mentions that having seen different cultures and architectural styles gives him a lot of ideas in her studies, and that having visited different countries is an asset on a CV.

However, this can be a disadvantage, as many FTEs find it difficult to establish themselves in a country in the long term. Tchitembo admits to feeling this need to constantly move. Therefore, he explains that in the future it will be imperative for her to work in an institution that allows her to travel.

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