Third Culture Kid Diaries: Part 1

Annie explores her childhood as a third culture kid (TCK) to understand how it shaped her mindset as an adult. There’s a lot to unpack here: born in Taiwan, grew up in Thailand, went to an international school, went to college in Boston, and now lives in Taiwan. Read other pieces she wrote as a TCK here.

It’s weird moving back to Taiwan. It’s weird because I managed to find a home in four out of six countries I lived in, but not in my country of birth and citizenship. I’ve been thinking about this lately and that’s what prompted me to start this series, “Third Culture Kid Diaries”.

Here is a general timeline of my journey from when I was born to present time, so you can get a better picture of my story.

I moved around a lot while growing up, which allowed me to experience different cultures but also prevented me from feeling like I belonged somewhere. Despite the little reminders that let me know I didn’t fit in, that I was an outsider and not a local, I found comfort in the people I met along the way who I surrounded myself with.

Since being back in Taiwan, there have been multiple situations that make me feel like a foreigner in my own country.

Situations in Taiwan where I feel like an outsider:

  • I am not as fluent in Mandarin as I would like to be. Sometimes people are confused as to why I don’t understand what they’re saying, which prompts me to explain that yes, I am Taiwanese but grew up overseas. Generally people are curious and ask me more questions about my background, but there are the rare few who are impatient, rude, and don’t want to explain what they mean. When I’m out with my mom, sometimes I don’t bother asking for clarification and will ask her what they mean because then I don’t have to explain why I don’t understand what they’re saying.
  • Eastern standards of beauty are different than Western standards. Asian women want to be white, while Westerners want to be tan. There is always at least one comment on the color of my skin from family or strangers. They assume that I am so dark because I intentionally go out to tan. Normally, women in Taiwan wear long sleeves and carry around umbrellas on a daily basis to hide from the sun. Me? I don’t feel the need to hide from the sun and I just don’t want to feel hot AF, so I wear tank top and shorts. Comments about my skin color and people staring used to bother me, but gradually I stopped noticing because I don’t give a shit.

In the “Third Culture Kid Diaries”, I hope to figure out why I don’t feel completely comfortable in Taiwan. I’m not sure how I’m going to tackle this topic, but I’ve got some ideas. I want to share my experiences so this way people can understand me better, or even relate to me if they had a similar upbringing. If you guys are like me who moved around a lot, what challenges did you face growing up? I’d love to know!


Check out other posts in our Third Culture Kid Diaries series!

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