Jack Cooper – Being Third Culture has to be a strength!

 “not everybody is ‘from’ somewhere, especially in the UK people are obsessed with regional accents and which small town they hail from. Think about the bigger picture, instead of qualifying yourself based on the geography of your home town. Instead of English, what about being British, or European?”

1.) What is your heritage and what are a few of your childhood stories as a TCK? Where have you been and where is the most memorable place that influenced you the most?

Well it really all begins for me with my Grandparents.  They moved to Australia and had my mum. Raised her for a while and then carted her off to Dubai . Back in those days the Burj Al Arab hadn’t even been dreamed up and the country barely saw any tourism.

Ras Al Khaimah (Translation: Tip of the Tent)

Flash forward to me and I was born and then raised in Scotland before moving over to Ras Al Khaimah (Translation: Tip of the Tent), the northern most Emirate in the United Arab Emirates.

“Rak was an awesome place to grow up. We had the ocean, framed by dramatic mountains and of course the desert.”

My mother had fallen in love with the country and she chose RAK because it was a lot like Dubai 20 years previously.

Rak was an awesome place to grow up. We had the ocean, framed by dramatic mountains and of course the desert.

Dubai was an hours drive away, which was nice – but the difference between the two Emirates was huge.

I went to an international school and was exposed to a ton of cultures I had never even heard of. As kids we always felt safe. Even when we turned into hormone spewing stroppy teenagers, we never faced the same problems that many face in the UK. We used to be able to buy beer from the port, go camping in the dessert and drugs were basically unheard of. I also had friends ranging from laborers children to actual Sheikhs, a guy
from my old class is the currently the Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah.

For my higher studies my parents sent me back to the UK to a small town in Devon named
Crediton and this was also a wonderful experience.

They say that soldiers bond together so well due to shared suffering. I’m not sure if that was the main reason, or if we just got lucky – but it was here that I got to experience living with and hanging out with great friends… constantly.

You would think we would have gotten sick of it, but I can only speak for myself when I say that I never actually did. Crediton was another small town and kept us out of too much trouble, while allowing the international boarders (myself included) to experience a really friendly and free culture, which I can only describe as bohemian.

2.) Where is the most memorable place that influenced you the most?

Cliché though it sounds I can’t credit any one place as being the most memorable. I mean I grew up holidaying in Hong Kong where my Grandparents lived, and then visited for two concurrent summers with one of my greatest friends from boarding school, so even that has had a huge and great impact on my life.

3.) Where is “Home” to you?

“So I guess I don’t really know where home is”

Wow, great question and one that often lands me in 20 minute conversation that usually end with “So I guess I don’t really know where home is”. Although, in general, home to me is the United Kingdom – just not any particular region.

 

4.) Have you ever found it difficult to make friends?

Not particularly, I think if anything living in a few different places and among different cultures can really help you to empathize and befriend many types of people. It all depends on your current situation though, who you work with and where your hobbies lead you.

5.) Do you find it hard to trust people?

I think that is more of a personality flaw that I sometimes posses, rather than a cultural issue.

I admit I do find it harder to trust people from the UK than over say, Emiratis. People are in much more desperate situations here [in the UK] and you can really never be too safe when dealing with someone that may have a heroin addiction.

6.) Do you see being a TCK as a strength or weakness?

It has to be a strength right? I mean you will usually speak a second language. You will also have a friendship group that circumnavigated most of the globe. TCKs will have experience in trying to fit in and understand two different cultures and there’s a clear parallel there to applying that same empathy towards your career and adjusting to new roles and situations.

7.) Do you find it hard to fit in? Do you ever feel “lost” or feel like you have an “identity crisis”?

I think I did feel like that for a long time after I came back to the UK, but today I simply don’t think about fitting in or ‘identity’ often. I’m happy to remain a little different to others and also happy to continue adjusting who I am as I go through life, all in all there’s no point in worrying over who you are, you just have to make peace with it.

8.) What do you feel when you talk to people who aren’t TCK and shared the same
experience, do you find it hard to connect?

Not that much, if they are close minded or racist then of course it will be impossible for me to connect with them. But most people are just genuinely curious, they might not know much about where you lived or be planning to visit, so that’s quite cool as you have an immediate conversation aid.

9.) What do you really want people to understand the most who are not TCKs?

That not everybody is ‘from’ somewhere, especially in the UK people are obsessed with regional accents and which small town they hail from. Think about the bigger picture, instead of qualifying yourself based on the geography of your home town. Instead of English, what about being British, or European? These are concepts that most people would be offended at over here, but I really can’t understand why.

10.) If you have kids, what would you want them to live as? TCK or mono culture?

Well as the practical man that I am, I would want them to live where I had the best job, which would be in the UK at the moment. However, if I had the opportunity I would jump at the chance of raising kids in another culture. That’s life experience that you can’t buy.

 

Are you Third Culture and want to share your story?  Contact info@tcthirdculture.com with the subject line “TC PEOPLE”

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