Fourth of July, Nigeria Style
Growing up as a Third Culture Kid, I never really identified with my home country. I celebrated the holidays of my host country or my school’s country. I grew up in Mexico City and went to a British school. I celebrated the Queen’s Birthday, and Mexico’s Independence day on the 16th of September, and of course the Day of the Dead. I didn’t feel nationalistic about anyplace but was happy to celebrate with everybody. I don’t ever remember celebrating the 4th of July although I do remember dressing up on Halloween a few times. I just didn’t have anything to identify with. I knew very little of US history and even less of its culture.
When I went to live in the US after high school, I was in for a rude awakening and had severe reverse culture shock. It wasn’t until my Junior year in college that I started to learn about the USA. I was living in Boston and a friend took me under wing and taught me about the history of the area and the people who lived there. For the first time I started to feel something for my home country.
The longer I stayed in my home country the more comfortable I became. As I moved from state to state I leaned new things about its diversity. I learned about the holidays and what they stood for. And I learned to criticize what I didn’t like about it.
I continued to travel outside the country with a slightly new perspective. I started to compare other countries to my own and see what the differences and similarities were. I started to appreciate things. I saw that compared to many countries, women in the US were much better off. I learned how important freedom of speech really was. Although this country had a lot of problems and I didn’t always agree with what our government did, I always had the right to express my dissatisfaction openly.
As I grew older, when living overseas, I could be very critical of the US and their foreign policy and many of their actions. But when Fourth of July came around, I always cried overcome by emotion when I heard the Star Spangled Banner.
Kind of strange how that all turned out.
I know how you feel only in reverse… I grew up in America but have lived most of my adult life overseas. I don’t always agree with America’s outlook, I see things from another prospective now. But patriotism runs deep and America is still home.
I stare at my German passport, and think.. This isn’t me. It’s part of me, but it’s not ME. Then I look at my red and blue plastic UK National Insurance Number, and I think that it represents a pretty big part of me… virtually all of my adult life… but it’s not me either. And then there’s my National Identification Number, allotted by the Spanish government, and I wonder to what extent it’s already become part of me. It’s all very confusing… and as for feeling patriotic… I just can’t muster it. I see good and bad points, and, as a woman, I’m definitely grateful for having been born in this part of the world, no doubt about that.
I’m just the opposite. I’ve lived in America my whole life but have only just lived abroad in the last 3 years. I still see much in America that is good, and I miss it dearly. Especially living now in a country (Oman) where women are not valued. I can’t wait to get home. 🙂
Being back in the US as an adult after all my years as a TCK has been quite a challenge, especially since I’m not in a multicultural city like Boston, NY or DC (interaction with any foreigners, expats, TCKs is almost non-existent)… I have a certain attachment to each country I have lived in, since they’re all a part of me, but it’s hard for me to feel patriotic for just one country. I think as a TCK, I see the positive and negative aspects of each country, and I sometimes feel uncomfortable with overzealous expressions of patriotism. But that might just be because I don’t quite understand it or connect with it…
I think in the end we all carry pieces from different places … some pieces are bigger than others…