The idea of “culture shock” is often discussed among those who go abroad, particularly for the first time. I’m not sure I agree with the idea that people become overwhelmed by new customs and ways of life, because I think any new situation can be stressful, whether in a new country or not. It can be very interesting, though, to think about what truly is home, and what matches your own culture. Culture is composed of a wide variety of experiences, values, and interactions, and even changes over time.
My sister and I have the same culture, whether we’re in London or Casablanca. Also, we’re good at matching our outfits.
In my workplace in Morocco, there are a lot of teachers who grew up overseas as missionary kids and then went back to the US and attended Christian colleges in small towns, where they studied education. Many of them talk about how they don’t consider the US to be “home,” and that they feel more comfortable in places that remind them of their childhoods, in most cases in Africa. Some of them even consider themselves to be from countries such as Ethiopia or Togo (the difference, though, is that if they were really from those countries, they would never be able to get such a good job at an American school. But that’s another issue!)
Probably not very many missionary kids have fond memories of crossing roads.
I would say that the biggest shock for me here in terms of culture is the fact that my coworkers are American, same as me, but didn’t grow up with my same values and culture. I grew up in the United States, but always had friends from all over the world; in grade school most of my friends had parents who had immigrated to the US, from Germany, Italy, China, Canada, and Taiwan, and in college I lived in an international dorm and had friends from Egypt, Pakistan, and Japan. I’ve grown up with a liberal point of view and a willingness to accept other beliefs and ways of life. I think of the opportunities I’ve had to meet people from many countries and many religions as the most valuable aspect of my education, and think of America as a country where every nationality and religion can be represented.
We’re diverse, and we take photos at cool angles.
Identity is surely a confusing thing for those who grew up as “third culture kids.” But isn’t identity confusing for everyone? I’m always happy to learn about ways of life different from my own, and find it fascinating that my workplace is such a home of missionary kids. I don’t always feel at home with that particular group of people, but I’m trying to see it as another opportunity to increase my understanding of the world. And to my MK friends, don’t forget that you don’t have to grow up in Africa to have interesting experiences!
This elephant grew up in Africa (and he’s not afraid of crossing the road!)