Every Third Culture Kid’s experience is different. Although it is easy for us to generalize and believe we all feel common sentiments, symptoms and memories, marrying a fellow TCK has taught me otherwise. In the same way, everyone’s marriage is different. Some are healthy, some are not, some will last and some won’t, but I can only speak from my own maturely infantile experience of the two. Being a married TCK can be difficult, but it is far more rewarding. It is a wonderfully blessed challenge that has taught me so much.
At first glance, to me, our lifestyle is anything but out of the ordinary. It is the perfect in-between to which I have gotten so accustomed. We are neither an American family living in Serbia nor a typically Serbian family living in Belgrade. We are both equally foreign and local in whatever setting we may find ourselves. The only place we will ever fully 100% fit in, is in our own home: a haven where no nationality reigns.
Had either of us been mono-cultural, our lives today would look much different. We would both have to adjust to one another’s strange cultural norms, learn about behavioral patterns based on nationality, become accustomed to languages, and overcome shock and change.
Being married to a fellow TCK means naturally compromising. It means speaking English at home, while occasionally throwing in words, sentences, and phrases that are stuck in our brain in a variety of other languages when we simply can’t find the right word—Serbian, French, Russian…etc. It means celebrating Christmas two times a year instead of one, and reminding each other of any other important holidays we might not know about or that often slip our mind. “Tomorrow is American Mother’s Day, dear, don’t forget.” “Next week is your Slava (Family Saint-day), just a reminder!”
It sometimes means not necessarily knowing why we do certain things…wondering if they are things our parents taught us, or lessons we learned in international schools, or habits we picked up along the way in our “host” countries. It means standing in different passport control lines when we travel together, and piles and piles of visa paperwork and documents. It means sometimes feeling equally lost. And it means sometimes one of us feeling more lost than the other.
It means looking forward to the many available opportunities waiting for us in the future. It means not feeling limited by geography. Home has been, and can be anywhere we want it to be. But it means, being content where we are, and yet longing for where we could be, or might one day find ourselves.
It means feeling homesick sometimes together; and apart.
It means sometimes getting annoyed when others try to stereotypically classify us, assuming we follow certain patterns and formulae due to our nationalities. It means picking and choosing traditions that we love and discretely “forgetting” ones that we dislike. In this sense, it means freedom.
It means worrying about our future children’s feeling of belonging, and hoping to establish “home” bases for them now — before they even exist. It means lovingly and politely letting each other know of any faux pas either of us accidentally committed and learning from them for next time.
It means deep—and often heated—political discussions, and knowing when to halt before we start going in circles. It means sharing one faith and attending Orthodox liturgy in the mornings and Protestant church service in the evenings. It means a deep appreciation for the arts, and culture, and everything beautiful in this world of ours.
It means finding safety, peace, and “home” wherever we may go, as long as we go together.
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