From Greece to The World
Starting an inter-cultural family and adopting a transient lifestyle is not always easy. Making that choice; taking the plunge into Third Culture Adult-hood is something that few truly understand. But those who find themselves in the TCA way of life, know that nothing else in the world can compare.
This is definitely the case for American-born, Erin Perperoglou—an international nomad whose Third Culture Adult-ness is beautiful, complicated, and multi-faceted.
As described in Part I of this series, after years of traveling the world, and a successful basketball career, Erin “settled down” with the love of her life. Well… “settling down” might not be exactly the right term for the American-Greek family who moves to a new country every year. But it was definitely a new adventure for her.
Erin and Stratos have been married for ten years. The first five of those years were spent living in Stratos’ home country of Greece. And although it was an adjustment for Erin at first, before she knew it she was delving into the Greek culture and lifestyle. Moreover, she began freely speaking the language, and joyfully integrating with her in-laws, and she even gave birth to all three of her children there. Since then, the Perperoglous have lived in Turkey, Spain, Israel, and Serbia.
It was when Stratos started playing internationally that their family’s global identity began to transform. They moved to a new country at the start of every basketball season…and this meant that Erin was no longer simply “an American living in Greece.” Instead, she was a Third Culture Adult, raising multi-cultural children who were living in neither of their parents’ home countries. That—to me—is the true definition of a Third Culture lifestyle.
In the past five years, the Perperoglous have lived in five different countries. And the average time they spend in each country is about eleven months.
“I had to navigate these new places. By the time I’d find out how to park in the tiny parking garage, or find the supermarket, I’d be down to seven months left,” Erin told me.
“It’s hard, but it builds resilience. I can’t stand just being still. Moving forward in life is invaluable.”
Among all of the cultural diversity is a very specific set of challenges. And one of these challenges is the reality of not really fitting in “back home” anymore. In this way, the typical American lifestyle has become foreign to Erin.
But that is the Third Culture curse, isn’t it? Too foreign for here; too foreign for home. So, you find your peace somewhere in the middle…
“You become where you are. When you go back you can’t just undo what has happened in your life or who you have become,” Erin explained.
And to Erin, the truth is, this middle-ground comes with a unique kind of understanding that allows her to see from multiple perspectives at the same time.
“It’s messy. But there’s an invaluable beauty in the mess. Sometimes the most beautiful masterpieces are created when they are totally raw and organic, and all the labels and categories are removed.”
Through the Eyes of a Child
Due to her nomadic lifestyle, Erin has begun looking at the world through the eyes of her children. And in that she has found a purity in their global perspective. Her children do not understand nationalities, and yet they know what it’s like to be an outsider. They have played more than just a few times at a park where they don’t know the language —but they know how to truly connect with others. To them it is about who people are instead of what passport they hold.
And while, the concept of “home” and their multicultural identity are things that they will have to tackle and come to terms with, Erin’s three children-–ages 8, 6, and 5—have seen more of the world than many will experience in a lifetime.
“The other day, my half-Greek, half-American child living in Serbia said a Hebrew word to me,” Erin laughed. “It was really fascinating!”
If everyone looked at the world the way international, Third Culture Kids do, they would look at humanity rather than ethnicity.
“Every culture, every border that you cross, at the heart of it, people are dealing with the same things. People struggle, they go through grief…there are definitely cultural differences that cannot be ignored but at the heart of humanity, we are all the same. And by living this way, you truly feel that.”
LEARN MORE of their story in Part one