(This is the second part in a three-part series. Read the first entry here.)
The biggest culture shock
At 21 years old, Jay Sidan has traveled to 10 countries and counting. Born in Long Island, N.Y., U.S.A., he spent a majority of his time around the world before ending up back at, you guessed it – Long Island.
Because he has lived in so many places for a majority of his developmental years, Sidan is a Third Culture Kid (TCK).
Sidan has lived in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Peru, Spain, Italy, India and the United Arab Emirates.
Out of these countries, Dubai in the UAE provided the biggest culture shock because women are treated so differently. He recalls one instance where they visited his dad’s friend.
“When he introduced us to the family, we weren’t allowed to have physical contact with the daughter,” Sidan says. “We couldn’t even shake hands.”
He recalled the amount of culture shock each time he visited a new country. Many things can contribute to the shock for returning TCKs because their childhood memories are all created in different contexts. “I’d be scared to get off the plane, I’d be frustrated with my parents, but ultimately I didn’t want to leave after a while,” Sidan says.
I’d be scared to get off the plane, I’d be frustrated with my parents, but ultimately I didn’t want to leave after a while.
Putting ‘me’ in the word ‘home’
Several other experiences stood out to Sidan, especially the warmness of Italians. “In New York, everyone is running around stressed,” he says. “Italians are proud of the region they are from and want to share that with foreigners.” After coming back to the United States, Sidan says he “started treating people a little nicer.”
But Sidan’s favorite place was definitely Spain. The vibrant culture and amazing food drew him immediately. “It was just lots of energy and good vibes,” Sidan says.
When talking about his flamenco experience, “The dance instructor thought I looked like some famous dancer too because I had my hair down,” Sidan laughs.
These little instances, from languages spoken to the people met, are what help TCKs create their identities. “Each new place I visited added a bit more to what home meant for me,” Sidan says. “The Italians I met and the walks down Spanish streets all contribute to that meaning.”
Adapting as a TCK
Sidan also views the United States differently after coming home from these countries. Especially after visiting India, it made him reflect on his own life. India has a population density of 171.9 people per square mile. In comparison, the United States’ population density is 13.5 people per square mile.
Each new place I visited added a bit more to what home meant for me
As India grows and urbanizes, its water bodies are getting toxic, with as much as 70% unfit for consumption. Sidan quickly noticed the overwhelming amount of people and their struggle for basic needs.
“We are very privileged to live in the U.S.,” Sidan says.
In fact, people are asking him about his experiences. This is exciting to see because many TCKs do not feel noticed or feel like they fit in anywhere.
But people are beginning to take notice. Common questions include what Sidan thought about the different cultures and what he has learned upon returning back to the U.S. “People just didn’t understand what it meant to be a TCK,” Sidan says. “Now they think it’s really cool.”