TCK Issue: feeling sad to go back to my passport culture

Hi from Japan! I am here as an annual leave holiday. Honestly, it was more of an escape trip. I was feeling so suffocated at the rigid and mono culture. 

Restlessness and Rootlessness, and annual travel

As a TCK, restlessness and rootlessness has been my strong and weak suit. If I am not moving between the country’s, I would be moving my literal home or work. 

So I chose Japan for my escape trip destination. It was close, I can understand 40% of what they are saying, and I love Japanese country. Her culture is truly spectacular and makes me wonder how its changing as time goes. This year, I was lucky to observe Matsuri preview program and Memorial day cermemony. 

Reminder of my comfort zone

Since I am traveling now, it reminded me of how I have been so far. I was constantly looling for restlessness and trying to feel in my daily life. Now, here I am not wanting to go back to my routine from the non-Japanese life in Osaka, Japan.

I had a great time. Reminder of checking in, not understanding fully, being not familiar to the culture, and relying on to English and Hiragana. It all reminds me of my childhood. 

Traveling with my sisters, and another TCK issue emerges

I have 2 younger sisters who are TCK and non-TCK. My youngest sister was too young, yet she has got influenced by my family member. My parents were Korean-expats and my sister (not the youngest) is TCK too. 

For my youngest sister, it is her first time traveling outside of Korea. However, she has been diligent on informing us what is happening in Korea and the cat everyday.  

After few days, I abruptly told her I prefer leaving behind Korea me only for few days. I wanted to chill out and simply enjoy the day, but she somehow constantly reminded me of the fact I have to go back and she wants some present for some people in Korea. 

Here I am, pondering what i should do. My files and datas on my understanding of culture and customs collided. I ended up being me. I decided I will not think about Korea and enjoy the day. 

I know why my sister is telling us about Korea. It’s from a good heart. She knows what’s going on. And I know I just want to chill out and enjoy my comfort zone. 

Not wanting to go back
And today is my last day in Japan. I hate to go back to Korea. I will have to go back to “me whom everyone expects me to be”. And act like nothing has happened. 

I am aware of the fact that Japan is not my home. But I just am not ready to go back yet. 

What type of TCK are you?

Before starting

Originally I was aiming to make this blog about “looking at Korea from TCK’s view”theme. However, It ended up to be about myself. Sorry if you were expecting to read more about Korea. But somehow I feel like this post will help me to move on the the original goal of mine for this blog.

What type of TCK am I? 

There are so many types of TCKs who likes to know the identity of mine. For me, I am a Business Kid. My family moved to Poland with my Dad.

 Personally I had a lovely time. It literally made who I am today. However, I’ve learned it could have been very different for my parents. 

It totally changed all of us. Our mindset became somewhat different, and what we experience were no longer relatable to the ones we know in Korea. My close friends in Korea and I merely had anything in common. They were moving on to the present that I couldn’t understand or empathize. And the influence of IMF was tremendous. I still can’t find the right word to say when it comes to that topic. For them, it was the most gloomiest years. On the contrary, I was so happy by then. 

For that reason, I don’t like sharing the experiences and influences it has curved who I am today to the others. Maybe that is why I prefer light relationship with the others, while pondering about my identity. 

I hope I could find out about my identity fully so that I can finally move on and find the resolution for my greive and focus on my future.

How has it influence me? 

My upbringing has influenced me to be who I am today. I love lessening the gap between people. So I chose a study and career which I can contribute to the evolution of humanitarian and human rights. If I had a power to go back, I would not change a thing. It’s just that it’s a constant challenge to stay at one country and a city. 

What type of TCK are you? 
I recently introduced terminology “TCK” to my acquaintance. I knew TCKs do have common sense but am very different in various ways. What type of TCK are you? And do you question your identity too? 
ps) I am going to Japan for trip next month. I am so thrilled to be finally at the comfort zone. Next post will be about Japan.:) Finally getting back to the right track! 

Minesweeper-like of TCKness

Long time no blogging! I have been focused on harmonizing myself to the Korean culture. And the process was stressing out me a lot. For instance, one of my coworker who likes to distinguish people by triats would point out how different I am with the Korean born and upbringings time by time. It lead me to bit of frustration, but I am over it now. Cuz… I learned the real reason why she is saying it! Anyways, here we go! 

Learning how to live in Harmony

TCK’s strong points are definitely adjusting to the foreign culture. However, I still find it difficult for my own passport country.

 I learned in a hard way that I had to stay in Korea, and while I was in denial and greive, I just let the time pass by. Later on, I got to realize that it’s going nowhere and have to move on. And that was when I started having interest in Korean culture again. 

Korea is a fascinating country. It is constantly changing as well as people too. Hongdae has become meka for youth again, and Korea’s tradition has found its own way of mingling in to the current culture. This country is one of the country where it finds its harmony, considering the strictness of common sense and rituals are becoming more thinner as the youth are boosting up. 

For me, I have been focusing on how to harmonize myself with the Korean-Koreans. I found it ridiculous that I find it difficult to follow my passport countries’ culture and customs. (It would be the only country I can’t really understand. )

However I surpress and react in Korean way, my TCKness would pop up and give an impression that I am TCK after all. It’s totally like Minesweeper. 

And why do I focus on following Korean culture? I realized that I need to be like Korean to promote or be somewhere else. Korean company wants people who is international but also has Korean mindset. And I also heard a horrible storys of some TCKs not getting promoted due to their Korean skills and people skills. 

I do have to say it brings out my greive and frustration that I can’t really fit into the culture, but I am going to go for it. It is time (very late) to know about the people and culture of my passport country after all. 

TCK issues. I am bored in Korea 

If someone asks me who and what kind of person I am, the perfect answer would be “I am TCK (third culture kids)”. I don’t necessarily like the word ‘culture’ as it is coined by human and embeded the concept of social norm. But this terminology has perfectly explained who and what kind of person I am. 

*If you are not familiar with the terminology or the characteristics, please read this article.

To give a brief introduction about myself, I am a TCK with Korean, Polish, American, Malawian background. Being in those countries regardless of how long I’ve been there, it has made who I am today. 

I hold a Korean passport and I am living in Korea. I kind of settled in Korea and thought I could make something out of it by pursuing my dreams. However, it seems difficult due to my nature of characteristics of TCK. 

 According to the article from ‘The Telegraph’, the followings are the biggest struggles/characteristics of TCK. It’s mainly focused on the expats, but it does apply tremendously. 

1. answering the question “where are you from?”

 -> The concept of ” home ” is a question itself

2. explaining your “international” accent

3. mixing up your languages

4. planning holidays 

-> there are so many countries when choosing which country to visit for the holidays

5. Long-distance friends and relationships

-> they are literally all over the place 

6. Dealing with ridiculous questions

-> for me it was “Does Poland use English?” 

7. Constant need to travel

8. Passport and immigration 

9. Explaining your lifestyle

-> It maybe different with others 

10. Different currencies and cost of living 

-> it applys for the expats 

For me, from tiny things such as respecting others culture and being open to somewhat different has made who I am today. But it sometimes can cause a problem.
I thought everything was fine until the previous and current workplace in Korea. I was lucky to have met a wonderful bosses and colleagues who were understandable to someone from multicultural background. But my previous and current workplace seems to be wanting to default the culture to Korean culture only. It’s not like I dislike the culture. I dislike the amazingly perplexed hierarchy and respecting culture. (other countries might be the same too ) 

Whenever I tried to learn it, there was a glass wall called ” mindset.” I have heard that I have a tendency to be straight forward and cannot read between the lines when it comes to Korean and its culture. 

My Korean isn’t that perfect. I am still learning the TPO phrases and behaviors and it never seems to end. But amongst all, the biggest issues are learning cultural norm of language skills and behaviors, seeking for a challenge. For the language, I should’ve learned along with understanding the culture.:/ 

Now, I’ve came to a point where I am bored and doesn’t feel any kind of challenge other than leaving the office ASAP. Looking for a challenge and something interesting is a challenge itself now.

Being a TCK is great sometimes. I wouldn’t change anything except persuading myself working in Korea. Double standards and expectations that I can’t really fulfill is bringing struggles. 

At first, I thought it’s a problem of myself by not being able to stand still at boring times. But now, I think being a TCK could have an influence.

Lost in the “World” 

Where are you from? And which culture are you influenced by? 

Honestly, I can’t answer to neither of them. I wish I could, but I learned that I should rather move on from that question. It’s alike a maze of depression. 
To give a brief introduction about myself, I am a TCK (third culture kid) who is still trying to figure out my identity. I am originally from Korea. However I grew up in Europe during my childhood. I loved how open and respectful everyone was towards the new ideas and cultures. (I don’t like the word culture due to its limitation of defining the real culture and origin, I will just use it)

What I have learned about myself is that I have never thought my upbringing would be considered as a “privileged” or “special” upbringing. I later on learned that I took it for granted and didn’t recognize there would be others who are from monoculture and that I have no idea how to deal with the culture of my passport country. 

My world is closer to westen oriented mindset and I have a mixed form of culture. And the World I know is a place where you once lived or visited for holidays, or a place where your friend lives at. But one thing I’ve learned so distinctively is that I have no idea about Korean culture. I still face challenges when it comes to expressing and reading between the lines. Would it be better if I have learned Korean more dilligently? Knowing the language does not mean that you know the culture.. So I am not sure. 

Just out of curiosity, what is “World” to you?

Epiphany! It was all the art of working hard

Recently, I’ve found a core reason for myself not being able to fully understand the workplace culture. 

Working in Korean NGO has and is still giving me so many lessons and influence on my people skills as well as my administrative skills and how NGOs are cooperating with each other. 
What I’ve learned about this NGO (it’s only about this organization) is that it’s seldom effective, work-wise and operating human resource-wise. 

The problems that occur often is that there are no specific duties and everything is so tentative. And people love doing yaguen(overtime work).  I don’t quite understand why people enjoy joint project. Having many tiers could help the quality of the results but seems too much. It just seems like they have too many people working for one simple project.

And the biggest difference I’ve felt about work culture was “constructive problem solving”. Having Economics adapted from the Western culture, it made corporates to start a discuss openly. And my NGOs tried to do that… it’s just that.. they say we “promote” open discussion and critical thinking, but somehow personal relationship seems to be more important to resolve all of this. 

I have a tendency of having a good people skills and closing the deal. I thank my TCKness for that. 

But my biggest issue is relationship with my colleagues who have issues with inferior feelings or strong need of approval. I can feel their need and characteristics, getting all the credit. But somehow I end up not caring about them. 

And it all starts with me having opinion or giving options and analysis on the issues and resolutions. They consider it as I consider them like a colleague, not boss or whatever they are. I didn’t quite understand this part yet. 

Guess I will have to find a way to get along with them. But that was when I learned that I am cut into one person project, (loves distinct and clear task distribution) and am not afraid to speak out my opinion. 

Thinking back, my TCKness has helped me to think in depth with a vast perspective. But still, work culture of Korea is a huge challenge. It is a place where human being lives.

But it is a mistery why they want to show working hard by overtime working and having joint project with too many people. 

Seriously.. why would getting other’s approval so important? Wouldn’t the result compensate them? 

I have given a thought about what I should do. But came up with a solution that I am not going to change my actions. I think showing respect but speaking out my opinion when it’s necessary is enough for me. Itself is difficult already..:/ 

But your input is always welcome! 

Saying goodbyes 

As a TCK, making a new friend was never a difficult thing. But keeping certain distance so that I don’t have to be sad when either one leaves is always difficult. (It was always, staying or leaving) 

For me, I thought I have learned how to be okay when someone was leaving and I am staying. But apparently for the ones whom I became very close were hard to say goodbye. 

And especially since I became the one who is staying, it stings to say goodbye. I didn’t notice it when I was leaving, only feeling excited about what will happen from now on. Now being in their shoes, I can feel how blue it can be. Thanks to the technology, it will be fine. But still, it’s not the same.

And knowing the end of ones stay in the same country is so helpful to find an emotional closure. Yet I don’t know when I will be okay with a close friend leaving the country without knowing when one will come back.  I wish I don’t have to comfort myself pretending it’s totally okay by saying ” We have technology so it’s okay.” I wonder how other TCKs dealt with this when there were no technology. 

What is it like to have “your country”? 

What is it like to have ‘your country’?  
Few days ago, one of my friend asked me what it is like to have “my country”. Frankly, I don’t know how it feels like.

Somehow, “my country” for Koreans in perticular, means a lot to them. It is changing fastly, but for some who still has affection  on the country is not hesitant to share the greatness and flashing development of Korea. And they love to use ” woori (we)”. And interestingly, nevertheless they dislike their country, they would always say good things about Korea to foreigners.


‘My country’, yet difficult concept 

I was putting my time and effort on finding out about my identity two years ago. Thanks to only focusing on that matter, I was able to move on after a year. Well… to be more clear, I got to differ what I can identify and figure out, and what I should move on (cuz there is no resolution to those such as greive). 

My country was one of the things I’ve decided to move on. Currently, I am constantly amazed at the details of Korean NGO culture. Crazily complex hierarchy, and the tangled emotions with ‘professional side’ is so delicate and not easy to sense it that it feels like I am passing by a whac-a-mole game. All I can do for now seems to be not making the mistakes again. 

So, having “overcoming the details of Korean NGO culture” itself, my plate is full right now to focus on what is my country. I will never know how Korean-Koreans think like and why they were so happy when Korea was doing successful during World Cup 2002. And I will have to learn to stop myself from being excited at cultural festivals and booths. (I had an awkward conversation about making a fan at cultural festival. I was so excited to share the experience and the beauty of written words, painting, and the whole process)
Someday… 
I would truly love to feel what it is like to have ” my country”. 

I have concept of  ” my home”, which is where I mostly grow up and where I am living now (specifically my room). I consider Warsaw my home city, but I can’t say that my emotions are the same with Polish. I was a foreigner there, and I will never be the same. I literally have my own culture, and is it explainable? I am not sure. I could list the countries that provided me an experience which made me who I am, but it will be like a chemistry result. 
Will I know what it is like? 

Anyhow, I’ve learned that I can understand what ‘my country’ is like, but will never get to sympathize about it. 

Starting from the beginning. Bilingualism? It’s not easy. 

Do you have an experience when you had to face your weakness? Working in a Korean company as Korean seems like an easy thing. But there are so many unsaid problems. Not only the untold language barriers (reading between the lines) but cultural differences (different understanding and being bit weird). 

 Well, for me, it’s happening constantly in my workplace. I try my best to catch up with Korean skills and other necessary skill sets, including cultural differences. At this point, I really want to stop trying as I have to do presentation everyday and  show how terrible my comprehensive skills are. 

And this exactly feels just like when I started attending Korean school again. Back then, It was like hell. I couldn’t follow what the others are saying nor follow the class. My GPA was barely holding up thanks to my English grade. As time went by, I gave up trying hard for awhile. Korean seemed like an endless crow that would never end crying out. 

Fortunately, I was able to catch up with essential Korean skills I needed to know. Yet, I am still not smooth when it comes to expressing or writing a sentence. It’s still alike shipwreck except for few areas like my professionalism. I can proudly say that I have what it’s necessary to be professional. But I still need to conquer the other fields not to be dragged back to where I was standing. 

Now, I am paying it all back. It is simply endless agony. However I try, my Korean skillset is dragging my legs and not letting me go freely. Thanks to past work experiences, I’ve been able to keep my post. However, the fact that I am not that familiar or active when using Korean expressions, culture, and Korean way of logic and thinking is striking me so hard that I am unconsciously seeking for anything English whenever I am not working. I am sure that I can thrive as usual. 

But really, knowing Korean without understanding the culture fully is just the same as mocking the look of it not the inside of it. I truly want to stop looking up” my identity”. I don’t understand why my boss is trying to identify me as Korean and requests to be the same. Well, to be fair, he has waited for me to catch up with his ideal “Korean employee who used to live abroad”image. If it was something that could be acquired, I would love to adapt it as my own. There must be a way. Till then I will try to be joyful. How am I lucky to face constant challenges everyday?  

If you do have some recommendations, feel free to leave a comment. 

Which culture are you from? 

Few days ago, I was asked “Which culture I am from” from a colleague of mine at Staff retreat who always considered me unique/weird. I know why he is wondering it. He wanted to know which culture has affected me to be who I am today.

Let’s face it. Would you know what to say? My honest answer would be ‘ I am TCK. What do you mean by that’. But I was nice as it was infront of my colleagues. I have experienced 4 throughout my whole life, including Intl. School culture.

I am not sure if I answered correctly. But i know that I still have a long journey till the final destination of my identity.