“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
This past Monday was Valentine’s Day/Single’s Awareness Day/whatever else you want to call it day. That day I also discovered some of the cultural combinations that truly make me a TCK. [Disclaimer: If I saw your bouquet of white flowers that your boyfriend gave you, I still thought it was pretty and sweet of him, regardless of what I am about to say.] That being said, I saw a number of bouquets that included white flowers being given, and whenever I saw one, the only thing that I could think of was death. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. After having been in Taiwan for so many years where white symbolizes death, and on Mother’s Day seeing people with deceased mothers wearing white flowers, it is impossible to dissociate the idea of white flowers from the concept of someone having died. Tragic, I know. I shall not have white flowers at my wedding. I can’t help but think of the movie Kate and Leopold, where Charlie is picking out flowers for Patrice and Leopold tells him that he can’t use that bouquet because “the orange lily implies extreme hatred. The begonia and lavender, danger and suspicion . . . every flower has a meaning. ” Too bad the meanings change depending on which country (or era) you’re in…make sure you know their meaning.
However, the irony comes with the fact that, in my mind, not all things that are white are actually associated with death. For example, a white wedding dress is still the norm for me. I mean, why would anyone wear anything else? So it is here that we see the truth that comes in the statement Third Culture Kid. Two juxtaposing cultural assumptions that in some ways seem to contradict each other in fact unexpectedly coexist in one person without being confusing…at least to them it’s not.
A few weeks ago someone asked me whether I felt more comfortable in the Taiwanese culture that I’d grown up in or the American culture that I now go to college in. I think that a question like that is a weird question to answer. It’s not a culture that makes me feel comfortable or uncomfortable. Rather, it’s the people that I know within that culture who could care less if I don’t necessarily share all aspects of the culture they live in. I’m more used to being in the minority ethnic group than in the majority, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a home in American. I guess for most Third Culture Kids, you don’t make a home based on the culture. You change your stripes to match wherever you are, and the cultural nuances are either fascinating and exciting, or you just plain get used to them. We’ll see how this all plays out when I reach Italy.
Speaking of which, six days until I board my flight to traverse the Atlantic–which, now that I think about, I’ve never flown over before. Packing? Haven’t started yet, since I’m not even in the same state as my suitcase. Unfortunately, flights to Europe only allow one suitcase. But I have arrival information for when I reach the lovely Italia, and can not wait. My arrival date is also now on the 10-day forecast at weather.com, and they are projecting highs in the high-40’s, low-50’s, which sounds glorious compared to the 24 degrees that it is in the northeast right now.