Of all the things I have been exposed to this year, this one piece of writing (http://theafrobeat.blogspot.com/) resonates most with me.
Allow me to explain.
So, I get asked a lot “where do you come from?” (the funny accent, weird expressions, rich chocolate complexion – LOL!) – the answer may take anything from 3 seconds to 3 hours depending on how much I feel like divulging. Truth be told, I’m a bit of a cultural mutt…and because I’m of African descent, people of my kind have also been called ‘Afropolitans’ that is: “young people of African descent, making their mark on the world. They’re not really citizens, but rather “Africans of the world”. The newest generation of African emigrants, coming soon or collected already at a law firm/chem lab/jazz lounge near you. You’ll know us by our funny blend of London fashion, New York jargon, African ethics, and academic successes, ‘American’ accent, European affect, African ethos. Most of us are multilingual: in addition to English and a Romantic or three, we understand some indigenous tongue and speak a few urban vernaculars. There is at least one place on The African Continent to which we tie our sense of self: be it a nation-state (Kenya), a city (Dakar), or that familiar sound of “Mowbray Kaaap” as you move around from place to place in Cape Town. Then there’s the G8 city or two (or three) that we know like the back of our hands, and the various institutions that know us for our famed focus. We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world.” Another popular term we go by is ‘Third Culture Kids’. So to us, ‘Home’ is a loaded term and could mean anything from ‘where my parents are from’ to ‘where most of my extended family is’ to ‘where I grew up’ or ‘where I went to school’ or ‘where I want to settle’ etc So I found a couple of things (some are SO true, others just funny) that distinguish us from the rest.
So, you know you’re a cultural mutt/Third Culture Kid/Afropolitan when:-
– It takes at least 15 minutes answering the question “Where are You From”
– You speak more languages than they’ve heard of.
-You know more about certain cultures & religions than people who belong to those cultures & religions themselves!
– Growing up, you were always the new kind in the class
-You are secretly laughing whilst listening to a conversation carried out in a foreign language because the speakers assume you don’t understand that language, when in fact you do.
– You know your passport number and I.D details off head as well the expiry dates of all your major travel visas.
-You’ve had to look so many maps, you instantly remember capital cities worldwide, time zone differences as knowing which of your many friends lives in that part of the world.
-You swear in a myriad of languages.
– You can easily identify with anyone who tells you they’re stranded at an airport or missed their flight or misplaced their passport(s), but deep down you’re praying hard that it neeever happens to you.
– When people say you have an accent but never know what country it belongs to!
– When you use a foreign word to describe something because the English Vocab is so limited!
– When you know where certain hand gestures are and are not acceptable.
– You feel very, very alone and no one around you seems to understand why.
– When discussing global issues, you’re all sides of an argument by yourself.
– You understand all sorts of accents, having a mix of them yourself.
– When you stay up until ‘odd’ hours of the day/night just to chat with people (Yes…)
– When the bulk of your mobile bill consists of international sms’s
– When you think in a language not your ‘mother tongue’… even if you don’t speak that language very well.
– Every so often you get a pang for home so strong you almost weep.
– Most people just don’t get you.
– As soon as you hear of someone flying back, you beg them to bring you food from home.
– Nothing on the news seems to scare you (riots, earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks etc..)
– You’ve lived in places where electricity and water were in short supply or not there at all, so your landlord’s threats don’t phase you. (can I get an ‘AMEN’?)
– ya luv listening to the OK pronouncing some foreign words
– You STILL get confused about the right side driving and left side driving- seriously there should be a standard driver’s side!
– You’re the designated story-teller in the group. There’s always someone who wants to hear where you came from. Eg. “Well, my parents are originally from Beijing and the rest of my family’s been there since the Qing Dynasty, I spent the first 8 years of my life in Australia, then a year in Sweden, and then the next 9 in Hong Kong”
– And you’re shocked that people actually think that your life story is a complicated one. It’s just 5 or so countries and one ethnicity. Plus a small visit to Sweden.
– Also when you have to explain how you learned to speak certain languages, why you can speak some but not read others, and why you still can’t speak some even though you lived in the country where they’re used.
– And when you’re shocked that people who have lived their entire lives within the small confines of their own town actually exist.
– You clap when your domestic flight lands, and wonder why other people don’t.
– You sometimes forget there is a sidewalk, and find yourself strolling on the road…
– When you get a culture shock everytime you go back to your “home country”
– When you speak 4 different languages with your siblings, all at the same time, and still understand each other when you create your own words with parts from different languages.
– You look at the paper you shred for your boss and think, ‘hey, that would be great for packing fragile items in when you move!’
– When you get a rush from the smell of international airports, not to mention you know your way around.
– A good portion of your favourite films, music, etc is foreign.
– MSN and Skype are always open on your computer.
So, where do YOU come from?