Welcome to the fourth issue of Multicultureland—it has been a while! This week I get personal and talk about my experience of being a Third Culture Kid (TCK) in love and my latest romantic escapades. If you're wanting juicy details I'm afraid there won't be any, but I hope you will get a glimpse of my mindset when it comes to dating in order to learn about how culture shapes our identity and interests. Thanks for subscribing!
This past month I have been incredibly fortunate to hang out with so many TCKs. My childhood best friend whom I went to high school with in Hong Kong flew over to London with her husband, who is also a TCK. They live in Utah with their four children and this was the first time they’ve been on holiday without the kids in eight years.
We met up for dinner with the only other school friend of ours that still lives and works in London. Dinner was non-stop laughter and it was truly a charming experience. At the end of the meal, standing at the doorway of the restaurant, my childhood best friend turned around and said the most meaningful thing to me, “You have new life in your eyes.”
The first person I told that I was dating again was my boss. We had our exit interview scheduled on the day of my date. I came back smiling and he noticed how happy I seemed. His face lit up with joy when I shared that I just went on a date for the first time in nearly three years.
A week or so later I broke the news to a friend, who smirked and proceeded to humour me. He raised his index finger up in the air through the computer screen, put on a British accent and said matter-of-factly, “Well now, let me tell you about men…” which made me laugh out loud—I realised that my “man-hater” chapter had ended, and with that, all the ranting that my friends might have put up with.
What broke the spell was the fact that I stumbled upon another TCK. It didn’t seem to matter that we had only exchanged a few texts over an evening before we agreed to meet. Ever since my cultural counsellor planted the idea in my head that TCKs have less problems when they date each other I’ve wanted to see for myself...
When TCKs come across each other they often share a feeling of instant connection. Pretty much every TCK I’ve spoken to seems to nod their heads at the idea that we come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. We may not have lived in the same countries or similar cultures even, but we share an identity. The TCK has a unique cultural identity which makes them think in a meta, ‘thinking about thinking’ way, about culture.
Cross-cultural comedy shares a glimpse of this meta-culture mindset. Or perhaps another way to look at it is from the business world. Marc Andreessen, a well-known entrepreneur, investor and software engineer drew this parallel:
In the year before the pandemic, 2019, the last two guys I saw were from Azerbaijan and Germany, although they were not TCKs. Looking for TCKs helps me to eliminate the feeling of a ‘paradox of choice’ on dating apps—in my case, swipe right if the attractor looks to be in possession of two, ideally three, passports. This guy looked Indian, said his home was in Chicago, and was residing in Oxford. In our opening chat I discovered that he also lived in Malaysia. The perfect TCK mixture for me is some combination of East meets West.
I have also become surprisingly fond of American culture. In the past year I took a remote job for a company based in New York and worked with many cool people in their online community of US writers. I especially love their enthusiasm and openness. It is more aligned to my personality than British culture which is naturally more reserved. Some days imagined I was working in the startup ‘Pied Piper’ from one of my favourite US sitcoms, Silicon Valley.
Still clueless to regional accents, ‘TCK man’ spoke with such an attractive American voice—I finally understand why Americans swoon over British accents! A funny fact about being a TCK is that our accent changes ever so slightly. If we spend long enough with a person, we subconsciously adapt to speak a bit more like them. I spend so much time with Americans these days that my "twang" has gotten stronger. I wonder if it will fade or whether this cultural chameleon has permanently changed her hue.
I ought to add that I feel enormously grateful for having a British boyfriend throughout most of my twenties, as he so lovingly helped me to re-assimilate to British culture. It was tough trying to fit in upon my return at 17. I was shocked to find that I didn't feel like I belonged in England. I naively assumed that having a British passport and attending an international school run by British teachers in Hong Kong was enough. Having left England at seven, there was a lot about British culture that I unfortunately didn’t like or understand. I spent a lot of time with him and his traditional English family, and the experience helped me to feel grounded and repatriate smoothly. For all intents and purposes, I do know how to fall in love with a British man.
This dating experiment is another one of my personal social experiments and I’m looking forward to seeing what I learn from it. So far ‘TCK man’ and I have been on three dates together in the past three weeks. I told him on the second date that I was actively seeking a TCK and by the third date he was having aha-moments reading up about TCKs in the passenger seat of my car as I drove us from Oxford to London. The circumstance I found myself in during Covid caused me to reckon with my cultural identity crisis as a TCK. I suppose it is an honour to be in the position now to guide TCKs through their journey of self-discovery.
Of course when it comes to dating compatibility there is more than culture to assess. This is the perfect segway from culture to personality; the two aspects of modern identities I am passionate talking about and had set out to write about at Multicultureland. In the next issue I plan to share an analysis of our compatibility based on Carl Jung’s personality theory. Chances are you’ll have heard of the Myers-Briggs Types Indicator (MBTI) that spits out 16 personality types.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while just to tell them you love them.
About this Newsletter
Multicultureland is a weekly newsletter written by Beccy Lee about modern identities, dedicated to helping you become who you are. Beccy is a Third Culture Kid and Occupational Psychologist specialising in culture & personality.
“Who Am I?” is a deeply introspective question that we all ask at some point in our lives. This newsletter is for people like me who are keen to figure it out. I believe we all have hidden stories to uncover that have the power to transform us and our relationships.
Multicultureland aims to educate and entertain readers—Beccy writes personal stories, shares lessons and exercises that she has found helpful for self-discovery and personal development. Where social science meets wisdom, Beccy is a 'psychologist on a mission' to raise the collective unconscious in the modern world.
*Official definition of TCK: “A person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture.” - David Pollack, 1989.