” It’s through knowledge that people can take control of their lives”
Well and in this regard contrary to what the title seems to indicate, there is no magic bullet or precise story line to explain the becoming of a third culture kid. Indeed, his way of being stems from a process as random as it is unconscious – that is identity formation which occurs during childhood. The ‘’ Ugly duckling’’ a famous tale written by Andersen in 1843, is a good way to familiarize yourself with this notion, here is a quick recap…
‘’When a baby swan emerges from its shell in the midst of a nest of ducklings, mother duck is shocked and the other ducklings laugh at the clumsy, overgrown, freakish supposed specimen of a duck. In the story the presumed duck siblings bully and mercilessly tease the odd creature. Soon the baby swan accepts the judgment of his community and run away. Not until much later does he see himself differently. He finally meets other swans and realizes they reflects his own image in a beautiful way. At last this little ugly duckling understands both his personal identity in being a swan and that he does, in fact, belong to a community..’’
Often interpreted as the implicit confession of an artist who couldn’t find his place in the society of his time, this tale is a good representation of the society we are living in, centred on conformism. All the issues encountered by this duckling (who actually isn’t one) is a wink to the notion of belonging.
Rejected from everywhere because of his difference, this ‘’duckling’’ will try all along his trek to find a place where he could finally move in and be accepted as he is. This symbolic reflection when he finally meets his peers, reminds us the significance of culture in shaping individuals, and communities. Beforehand in former times, people used to identify themselves on this sole basis – that is their ‘’appearance’’, something old-fashioned in the society of today which tends to be more and more mixed and cosmopolitan. Facts, which somehow testify to the specificity of the word CULTURE, the iceberg because of its form, but so far one of the best ways to represent this notion. Because ignoring the ambiguity of this term can lead to misconceptions upon people’s realities.
The Titanic’s sinking is despite itself a good example, it is before all the fruit of an ambitious project launched by the American company White Star Line. On April 11th 1912 the cruise ship RCM TITANIC leaves Southampton for its first official sea crossing. Yet in the night of April 13th to April 14th, one crew member sounds the alarm…
And there is cause for alarm, as a few miles in front , a 30m iceberg stands there as a formidable predator although immobile.
According to the rare testimonies that we got from this epoch, the captain ordered his crew to stop the engines. But his efforts didn’t prevent the sinister ending, 37 seconds later this same iceberg hit the boat, causing one of the bloodiest maritime accidents of the 20th century. The captain’s decision has played an important role in this tragedy, as he underestimated the height of the iceberg. By turning off the engines, he thought that he could prevent the collision. His mistake stems from the fact that he didn’t know the physiognomy of the iceberg as under the water was hidden another reality….
But fortunately, not acknowledging someone’s difference does not necessarily lead to such a catastrophe. Nevertheless the representation of the iceberg remains in my opinion the best way to caricature the complexity of culture, not always perceptible at first sight. Your ethnicity or administrative documents such as your passport or ID are not always representative of who you really are in the inside, we cannot always trust appearances.
It’s not too sure that the story of the ugly duckling will know a happy ending nowadays…
’’but you are a duckling’’
I’m sure that for most of the people reading this article, the term third culture kid is all new. Yet all of you have heard about it, or even talk about it on a daily basis but in other words. We speak there about the ‘’cosmopolitan” who’s traveling a lot, from one country to another either for personal reasons such as work, studies, or darker ones following civil war or else… This profile is quite sought after in the workplace because of linguistic skills, flexibility, capacity to work with other nationalities etc..
Indeed, because of what they’ve been through third culture kids tend to adapt more easily, be more tolerant and flexible, keener to travel or on the contrary to settle down for good.
I got the opportunity to meet people in this situation in my uni a month ago and interview them…
Stay tuned xox