I just read the post “I am a Triangle and Other Thoughts on Repatriation” describing what it feels like to repatriate back to your home country. My husband, children, and I were born in the USA. My husband and I were raised by our Lithuanian émigré parents [so we’re not quite “Third Culture Kids” (or TCKs,) but are considered more like “Other Culture Kids” (OCKs), as described in the book “Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds” by D. Pollock and R. Van Reken.] We spoke Lithuanian at home and within our Lithuanian community of émigrés, and participated in Lithuanian folk dance festivals, summer camps, and Saturday school, to name a few of the many, many activities and events. So we essentially lived within 2 cultures – our American one and our Lithuanian-American one.
Our children were born in the US and we have been raising them, to the best of our ability, in the spirit of our Lithuanian American upbringing. They dance, go to camp, and attend Saturday school just like we did. They speak the language, although not at the level we did as children growing up with parents who were born in that country and had to flee as refugees.
About 8 years ago, we moved with our then preschoolers to Mexico City. It was “holá” (hello in Spanish) to a new culture and language, which we embraced. Our friendships were mainly with individuals who were part of the expat community, although we also had many Mexican friends as well. We also tried, to the best of our ability, to continue to keep up our Lithuanian culture and language, although the Lithuanian community was extremely small.
2.5 years later we moved to Istanbul, Turkey. “Merhaba!” (Hello, in Turkish.) There, we learned and lived within a whole new culture once again, with virtually no Lithuanian community that we could be a part of. We did have a young Lithuanian woman who came once a week to help work with the kids in reading and writing, but after a while, lost her to the Turkish soap operas (who knew?) In Istanbul, as we did in Mexico, we developed deep friendships with individuals and many now are relocated to other parts of the globe, broadening our understanding of the world as well.
And now we are back in the USA, where it’s “hello” and “labas!” While it has been great being back, nothing is the same and many aspects can be challenging within both the American and the Lithuanian-American cultures and communities. We are different and forever changed by our expatriate experiences, and we often feel that longing to just go out into the bigger world once again – to explore, discover, and learn.
It really is comforting, confirming, and reassuring to come across the article I mentioned at first, validating what I feel inside even after repatriating back to the US 2+ years ago. And it also helps me to celebrate who my global children are and how unique they will always be:
“They will be a Star with multiple points of reference when considering where they are from, what they believe in, what foods they like, and how they see the world. They will always be Stars.”
Image courtesy of xedos4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net