GCD – My experience as a third culture kid

I have a Chinese family background and I was born in China. When I was still an infant I moved to Japan, then I started preschool in the United States but then moved back to Japan after living there for 3 years. I basically grew up in Japan and YIS was my school since ELC.

I grew up in an international environment, which I am really thankful for. But sometimes I have mixed feelings. There are times where I feel like I don’t belong, I can’t find a stable voice in any culture. What I mean by this is that I feel as if I can’t consider myself part of one specific country. This is mainly related to cultural identity. For instance, when I visit China, people introduce me “She came from Japan” or “She’s Japanese” but really I am Chinese!!! I grew up in Japan and my home is in Japan but I am not Japanese so people in Japan consider me as a foreigner. I grew up with a western style education and the language I use the most is English, but obviously, I am Asian.

Answering the question “where are you from?” ––– can I consider Japan my home? The concept of “home” is such a struggle for me. I feel like I fit nowhere but everywhere. Answering “I am Chinese” or “I am from Japan” is all very awkward. I panic whenever I am asked this kind of questions and every time I answer, my answer always ends up being a long explanation ––– I am Chinese but was only born in China, I grew up in Japan, but I speak English…..

I don’t remember much of my experience living in America because I was too small, but I do remember that I could not understand or speak a single English word when I first got there. This is where I first started to learn English and interact with different cultures. Since then, my life became international, every day I am interacting with people from all different cultures. Perhaps this is also what made me be able to adapt to new surroundings quickly.

Language struggle ––– I can speak English and Chinese fluently and Japanese at a conversational level but for me, none of these languages are strong enough to compare to those who only speak one of these languages. Because I speak three languages I know that there are phrases and words that can only be expressed in each specific language. A lot of the time, I end up mixing languages together without noticing. Sometimes I translate phrases from one language to another language but ends up not making sense to the person I am talking to. At school, there are times where I don’t understand English jokes and idioms. I can speak English but I don’t have the family background and haven’t lived there long enough so there are a lot of things in the English language that I don’t understand or never heard of.

Despite all my struggles, this experience, however, shaped me to become an international-minded person. I am able to make decisions and also think from different perspectives and view situations not only from the cultural values of one culture and I am grateful for this.




One thought on “GCD – My experience as a third culture kid

  1. Approved for GCD Inter-cultural Communication. There’s room here for you to expand on the things you mention in your 2nd last paragraph, but it’s clear that you are both able and willing to cross cultural barriers and meet others on their own terms. Cheers!

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