Raising a Third Culture Child in Bangladesh


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Design: KAZI AKIB BIN ASAD

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A Venn diagram of third culture children

Design: KAZI AKIB BIN ASAD

At a parent-teacher meeting, my mother spent an unusually long time listening to my teacher’s disturbing words.

I was behind in language acquisition; when I spoke, I was often incomprehensible and my handwriting was also illegible. The teacher did not know that I was trying to absorb two dominant realities – the foreign language spoken by my mother and the Bengali and Bengali culture practiced by my father – and that it was normal for someone like me to have difficulties in the language department.

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Initially, these situations create a state of confusion for many because the essence of the two languages ​​seeps through without a filter. Later, this quality has the potential to become a strength.

For third-culture kids, or TCKs, there is a constant, simultaneous oscillation between different “belonging places,” like a pair of antagonistic muscles. The term was coined by sociologist and anthropologist Ruth Hill Useem and can occur in various scenarios.

Your mother may be from one country and your father from another, but you live quite elsewhere; both of your parents may be from the same place but you live in a different place; you might be born somewhere, your mom and dad might be from different places themselves, but you live in one of their home countries.

For me, the answer to “Where are you from?” becomes long and complicated. It’s one that I continue to shape. It can sometimes seem liberating, to be able to forge an identity. Having exposure to multiple philosophical, political and social perspectives and difference in values ​​allows me to create a personal value system.

As the cautious observer, you consciously notice verbal and non-verbal cues. Sometimes you miss the humorous reference and have to muster up the courage to ask someone in the group for an explanation. People are surprised to hear me talk about a Bengali folk singer, for example. Sometimes I forget something simple, but on the other hand, I would know a lot of typically distinct things about Bangladesh.

I will find myself learning unique skills to demonstrate to half the family, almost like a show-and-tell, like how to cut a jackfruit, how to negotiate, how to swerve on busy streets, how to wholeheartedly defend spicy food etc I follow the local newspapers of two countries and I use Radio Garden to listen to the radio of my passport country. When I visit my mother’s country, I try to find out about everything I had missed – pop culture references, a new restaurant opening, my aunt’s new job, and a new bill on about to be adopted. I developed a strange taste for music that can only be described as patchwork. Almost everything else also becomes a patchwork, threads of contrasting colors woven together.

As a cultural chameleon, “home” and “identity” are hard terms to describe, but they grant their own freedom and beauty and a suitcase of experiences never to be taken for granted.

Bianca tries to take a walk in the morning. Reminder to do so at [email protected]

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