Third culture kids are children who have been raised in a culture different to that of their parents and away from their home country. HANNAH COULSTOCK is a 16-year-old student at Tanglin Trust School. Born in Abu Dhabi to British parents she has now been living in Singapore for nearly 14 years (and never in the United Kingdom!). She reflects on life as a third culture kid “TCK”.
Looking around at the beautiful city of Singapore, I’m struck by how lucky I am to grow up somewhere where I’m exposed to a multitude of cultures, nationalities and religions that I might never have experienced. Whenever I’m travelling away from Singapore, I always miss the local food. You can find seafood, including crab, in many countries, but for some reason it never tastes as good as chilli crab from a hawker centre!
Also, Singapore is ideally situated as a transport hub and gives easy access to a huge range of diverse cultures. School trips have taken me to India, Switzerland, the US, France and many more countries around the world. I realise I am very privileged to have these opportunities. Teenagers in many parts of the world simply don’t get this same chance. When my father was a child, the highlight of his school year in Scotland was a trip “doon the watter tae Millport” (google it!) on a paddle steamer, with peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.
With an endless list of things to be grateful for, I can’t help but feel slightly guilty about missing the UK so much. Every time I come back from a holiday there, I’m struck with nostalgia for weeks about Greggs sausage rolls, and haggis, neeps and tatties. It’s funny how food can help you form strong emotional attachments to a country.
I have less than three years left at school before I move to the UK and begin my university life. Despite having visited so many wonderful places, I’ve only ever considered the UK as my next step. But since I’ve never been there for longer than three weeks at a time, apprehension always kicks in whenever I think about the cultural shift waiting for me.
I often feel a sense of disconnect when talking to friends who’ve already moved back to the UK. Even things as simple as the TV shows we watch highlight a cultural difference – I scramble to watch Love Island every summer to give us something in common to talk about! I like to compare living in Singapore to living in a bubble. It’s a clean and safe city, and I’m very happy living here. But the reality is that soon I will have to leave my beloved Little Red Dot.
Overall, being a third culture kid is something for which I shall forever be grateful: the opportunities I’ve been given are life-changing and have helped me develop as an individual. They have given me a solid foundation upon which to build as I prepare for the next stage of my life.
This article first appeared in the February 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!