Tag Archives: international culture

I’m Not Done Here

TCK Life I'm Not Done HereIf you’re here, then you’re either a Third Culture Kid, the parent of a TCK, or have some sort of intimate relationship with TCK life and/or expatriation. In some way, you at the very least partially understand that TCKs are a mess of culture driven by this seemingly unnatural desire to get up and go, experience more, and jump from location to location leaving everything behind in hopes of capturing that next piece of the puzzle that makes up multiculturalism. People have coined us everything from Permanent Internationals to Global Nomads, and you know what, we’re proud of all the titles that non-travelers and international explorers alike have thrown our way. We embrace our multiculturalism with such ferocity that anyone would think we have in our possession something as precious and sought after as the fountain of youth.

We talk about how much we love the world, how much we always want to see more, how much we need to move and experience the next step. We talk about how we don’t mind saying goodbye, how we handle departure differently from everyone else, how nothing is permanent in our lives, even the culture we create. We talk about all the things we’ve seen, all the things we want to see, and how all these sights made us who we are or will make us into something better. We talk about going, moving, and the next step in what appears to be an endless path of places for which our thirst can never be quenched. But in all my time as an author for Third Culture Kids, the one thing I’ve never said is this:

I’m not done here yet.

It’s time that changed. When TCKs talk about what it is that makes them who they are, TCKs that have truly embraced their multiculturalism, there’s an oddly consistent trend in which we don’t really talk much about the place we are right now. We talk about the cultures of our past, the pieces we’ve already absorbed and are confident in explaining, the shining lights of memories past. We talk about the future and what it holds, the potential for new cultures and the promise of an ever-changing understanding on what it means to truly be a citizen of Earth and not a member of a single country. But we don’t ever really talk about where we are, right now.

In part it’s because we haven’t fully pieced together the elements of the culture we are currently experiencing, we haven’t decided on our final adoptions in regards to cultural development, and we know that by admitting that we are still learning, still adopting, we bind ourselves a little closer with the inevitable goodbyes that sit in our future. We know that by opening that door, we strengthen bonds to people that would start believing that they understand us, when the truth is we don’t want you to understand us because we aren’t like you. We don’t see the world as countries and pockets. We don’t believe that one person or culture is better than another. We don’t want to be another person in the herd of a like-minded community. We want to challenge everything, we want to make you think, and we want you to see the world as we do: That we are all just people, like everyone else, stuck here fighting to be more than just a forgotten name in a forgotten world.

But that’s not fair for the now. Because the truth is, as I sit here in Raleigh, North Carolina and look out at the rest of the world and consider the next inevitable step, a move that will absolutely come one day in my future, maybe soon, maybe not, I can’t help but shake that one thought in the back of my mind, one that counter-acts our entire external projection of what it means to be a TCK. The truth is, I’m not done here yet.

I know I’m not alone. I know that TCKs everywhere have whispered that same silent thought to themselves, maybe not everywhere, but somewhere. They’ve said quietly “But… I don’t want to go. I’m not done here yet. I need more time,” and no one has heard them.

Because who would we be, the TCKs that we are so proud of, if we let the world know that there was actually something about this place that was more special than all the others? Who would we be if we admitted that this culture is still growing, still adding to the pot of knowledge that we possess, and there’s more to it than we pretend to have already figured out? Who would we be, the people that are so confident in our ability to just let go and move on, if we admitted that in this place there are people that we just aren’t ready to do that with, that we just aren’t ready to leave behind and release from our world? Who would we be, if we admitted that we wanted to stay, if only for a little while longer?

But the truth is, we’ve all thought it. And we’ve all pretended we haven’t. And we’ve all moved on and gone to other places and left whatever it was behind just a little sooner than we would have liked.

But we don’t have to. It’s alright, you know. You can do it, if you really want to. You can look out over the trees or plains or deserts or mountains and think how beautiful they are. You can look at a colleague or a friend or a lover or a partner and think “I’m not ready to let you go.” You can get in your car or on the bus or on a bike and go from A to B without discovering anything new and know that you don’t really mind that you’ve taken this road before a thousand times and still find it fascinating.

You can admit that maybe, just maybe, you’re not quite done here yet. And if you really want, it’s alright if you choose to stay a little while longer.

__________

James R. Mitchener

Post by: James R. Mitchener

 

 

 

 

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The Culture of 21st Century Employees

Culture-of-21st-Century-EmployeesBeing naturally inclined to analyze culture in all its forms, I have noticed some very interesting trends in 21st century work culture, especially in regards to the complete polar difference in the employee culture of the generation that came before me and the generation that I am a part of. I am very good friends with members of both cultures in the employment space, and those friendships extend from executive management to everyone else. Throughout these relationships and my time in the working world, I have noticed a very interesting and very rapid cultural shift that has changed the entire way we, as workers in the 21st century, should be viewing the employees coming through our door, and how we let them communicate outside of our office walls.

As many of my regular readers are aware, my employment situation is a chaotic one at best. I have multiple jobs at any given time being a consultant and a full time employee for a waste company in North Carolina. As the Marketing Manager at my company, I have a bit more freedom than most when it comes to my access to the internet, and it is this freedom by comparison to my peers in this office, and the freedoms that are possessed by very close friends in various companies all over the world, that I began to really notice that technology has completely changed the way 21st century employees are getting their jobs done.

To explain what I mean with the best possible accuracy, I will, as always, start by using myself as an example, and I’ll ignore my other jobs and only focus on my role at Waste Industries to prove my point. Granted, my normal day-to-day is usually quite a bit more chaotic than this, but focus is key here, so I’ll simplify a working-day in the life of James for the sake of argument. To people in my generation, this is all going to make sense, but for those that came before me, this may be a bit of a difference. And the reason is that my generation was the very first generation to fully embrace a world that is driven by digital communication. And no, I’m not talking about email, though that’s a part of it. I’m talking about a complete social network of individuals, all with different skill sets, all with different abilities, and all within the click of a button away. But before I get into the details, here’s a quick overview of a random day in my life:

I come to work and power up my system. I open chrome first, hangouts second, and email third. Before I even check my email, I send out my standard 6 “good morning” (good morrow if it’s going to my friend Bryan) to my 6 key conversation points that I will be talking to all day. Then, I check my email. I respond to emails while jumping back to hangouts, catching up on people’s evenings and days so far with brief, 10-15 word responses max sent at usually 3-15 minute intervals. It’s a chat, but it’s a slow one. Then, I start designing a project. As I’m designing, I realize that I’m having an issue with my computer processing a certain command. Instead of reaching for the phone or putting in an IT support ticket, I throw open the hangouts window and begin a conversation with my IT department friend that works Air Liquide in Houston, a good 1000 miles away from me and an hour behind me in time:

Me: Bryan, my computer is being a jerk. It won’t let me control 5 to turn these paths into guides.
Bryan: Well you tell that computer if it doesn’t stop being a jerk, you’ll take away its power button as punishment.
Me: I tried that, it just shocked me as a response. It doesn’t appear to like being threatened.
Bryan: Ah yes, it’s probably the leprechauns in there. Ok, go to Start –> run –> enter (Bryan says some IT stuff and I just do it) and tell me what the second line there says.
Me: It says (random stuff IT people get).
Bryan: Ok, just go ahead and close that and open your control panel, go to keyboard, and change your setting from A to B.
Me: Awesome, thanks mate!

Done.

I go on with my business, continuing my design. I get a phone call a few minutes later that is a request for me to produce 30 shirts with a design for a charity event we are participating in. I begin work on the design, but as I do, I pull up my Hangouts window and send a message to Shelton, my long-time friend and partner in crime on many other projects:

Me: Hey, I need 30 white T-shirts, don’t care about quality, that will host this logo [link attached]. Thoughts? Die sub or screen?
Shelton: Screen. Definitely. What’s it for?
Me: An outdoor heart walk event. They’ll be wearing them while they walk around in the sun.
Shelton: Poly blend, if you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks. But I can probably find them on discount somewhere. Hold on.
[break while I finalize design]
Shelton: Ok, how does 16.50 a shirt sound, three color screen front and two color screen back?
Me: Did you get competing quotes?
Shelton: Yea. [link attached].
Me: Looks good, get them ordered.
Shelton: Done.

And done again.

At some point in the day, as I’m working through a design, a message comes in my way from Kitney (no that’s not her real name… well yea it is, to us), who works for a company on the first floor of my building:

Kitney: How much would it cost me to put together a press release?
Me: Depends? Attaching picture or just the release? And are you writing it or having me do it?
Kitney: I’ll write it if you’ll edit it. Yea he wants a picture.
Me: That works. And it’ll cost you about 1200 to do it yourself, but you can piggie back on my account for 900 if you’re doing a picture.
Kitney: Ok, thanks!

Done.

I finish my designs for the day and begin gathering information on what has happened in the world of internet marketing while I was designing to make sure I’m still on top of my game, and as I do that, my final hangout comes in from Chelsea asking me about sales buttons on the website she manages.

Chelsea: I need a way to make these sections look more balanced. Any ideas?
Me: I’d put a direct link button that says “Get your copy of this book today!” at the bottom to cause a line break and give you a direct conversion point from your homepage.
Chelsea: How big?
Me: Here, I’ll design it and send it over– [link attached]
Chelsea: Thanks!

And there we go, done again.

It’s this exact form of communication that makes 21st century employees so interesting to me from a cultural perspective. I mean sure, people had the ability to do this in the past with phones and then in recent years with emails, but there’s something about the social networking age that has opened up our generation to a cultural acceptance of sharing everything about our lives, including our talents.

It used to be that when a company hired one employee, they had to find the employee with the best skills for one particular job. Now, however, you can hire an employee with the skill set of one particular job and you’ll get the skill-sets of multiple other jobs in a shared networking experience that blows any previous hiring potential out of the water. You literally pay one employee and get the knowledge of their entire network, all because this culture learned to thrive on the sharing of information.

Obviously, I love culture. I’m a Third Culture Kid, and I can’t help myself, and with this cultural element I feel as though I’m watching something completely new, an entirely new office culture that the world has never seen and that many are not prepared for. So many people who have this networked potential are completely locked down, incapable of getting on hangouts or Facebook chat or the likes without getting in trouble. But that’s the remnant of a dying generation of leaders, and with every passing day this new, completely connected culture moves closer and closer to running the organizations that are not even remotely prepared to handle them.

And honestly, as a man obsessed with culture, especially new ones like this, I couldn’t be more excited to see how this all unfolds. So, readers, here’s my question to you: What does your knowledge network look like?

__________

James R. Mitchener

Post by: James R. Mitchener

The Culture of Embracing Change

TCK Life ChangeChange is unavoidable. It surrounds us in everything we do, from the streets we’ll choose to take driving home from work to the start and end of a lifelong relationship. All things eventually end, and when they do they are replaced by one or more differences that thrust us forward into a period of transition. Third Culture Kids spend their developmental years becoming fully acquainted with this very idea, learning time and time again that the friendships they make will not be permanent, that the view from their window will not last, that the language they learn will not be their primary tongue forever.

The world is constantly changing. The universe is constantly changing. We, as people, as groups and as individuals, are constantly changing. On an atomic level, electrons hop in and out of existence. On an elemental level, reactions are always taking place around us. On a cellular level, our bodies are constantly dividing, changing, growing, and dying. On an individual level, our personalities are changing based on stimuli and information, our perception of the world altering the information we receive and process. On a cultural level, communities are adding new life with mourning the loss of old life, changing the group as a whole with new generations moving up and old generations moving out. On a planetary level, the surface is constantly shifting while old land disappears and new land forms. On a solar level, the sun is burning, adding new elements to its core in what to us appears to be an endless fusion reaction, but in truth is as ephemeral as everything else. On a galactic level, stars are spinning around the mass of a black hole, balancing on the edge of deletion. And on a universal level, everything continues to grow and expand, outward from our very point of perspective, infinitely and endlessly.

And yet with change so completely a part of life, a constant in every single aspect of everything we do, it strains my TCK-mind whenever I look out at the goings-on of cultural events around us in which there are always overwhelming groups of people constantly battling the very changes that will inevitably occur.

Because all change is inevitable.

This all sprung to mind when I read an article that the Church of England will grant Bishop status to openly gay men. It immediately prompted me to message my girlfriend and inform her of the news, and as soon as I hit send, I quickly added at the same time as she sent to me: “but not women…” We then proceeded to shoot back and forth questions about when the last time this could have happened, that gays gained the status of equality before women. I settled with the Ancient Greeks, but that was just a stab in the dark without actually following through on my normal process of intense research. The conversation then quickly turned to how the article we had both read commented on how many people in the church, and those who believe in its practices, were furious with the Church’s position of welcoming gay Bishops. My TCK brain began to spiral, as it always does when dealing with cultures that are so large and immense that they actually are built out of hundreds and thousands of sub-cultures that mask themselves into a greater Alpha-Culture.

The Third Culture’s natural ability to adapt, our talent of fitting into any social setting, requires us to invite change in all its forms. The equality of our species is key to our ability to socially position ourselves as insiders to a community that we are not truly a part of. Without equality, we cannot function. We welcome differences because by rejecting them, our ability to fit in completely vanishes. Welcoming change creates social integration, the catalyst of a thriving TCK. Rejecting change, however, creates the exact opposite; it creates only alienation.

For TCKs, there is no room for alienation in our lives. When we became part of the Thrid Culture, albeit a transition that was usually not of our choosing, we were forced to abandon the ability to restrict ourselves based on our apprehension of change. Our entire lives became about adapting to what’s around us, finding elements of the things we experienced and pulling them into who we are, being part of cultures that were never truly ours. We were created by change, and we hold onto the Third Culture Kid title by inviting it throughout the rest of our lives.

This is the way we live and breathe. It isn’t so much of a choice as a knee-jerk reaction to survival. We invite change because change is the ever-growing world we live in. We were raised on it, fed it as a source of sustenance when the normal options for survival of consistency and life-long-relationships were taken away from us. We understand based on a lifetime of development, growth, and minority status that, even though our minority lives are masked from the cultures and people around us thanks to our lifetime of cultural stealth training, the rest of the world doesn’t have the same luxury as us.

In truth, the fundamental problem that I have as a Third Culture Kid watching the world resist the changes that will happen regardless of their prolonged resistance isn’t the oppression. Oppression, despite how sad this truth may be, is a natural part of human existence. We have been doing it since the dawn of time, and it seems that the ignorant will always want to impose their lack of understanding and their fear of what isn’t them on everyone else. What upsets me the most is that I know that in almost any situation, I have the ability to pretend to be, to adapt into, either side of the conversation. I could fight either argument, and I could make those around me believe it was the only thing in the world I’ve ever known, despite how much I do not believe it inside my TCK brain. But I have the ability to do it. I have the ability to blend. I have the ability to fit in.

But the world has been “fitting in” for too long. We have reached a point in cultural evolution where understanding, respect, and mutual gain is becoming more than just a dream. As TCKs, we have the natural ability to bridge the gap between social groups. The cultures on both sides can find a commonality in us. As individuals, TCKs are so fundamentally different that where I might not be able to help bridge a gap, there is certainly a TCK out there that could.

Because we have been given the gift of cultural ambiguity, and with it we can become the catalysts to a better world. The only roadblock is change.

___________

The Author
Post by: James R. Mitchener