As a Third Culture Kid, I’ve struggled with my cultural identity for years. I’m a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white girl from Texas but my first memories are watching cartoons and eating Kopiko coffee candies with my wrinkled retired neighbor in northern Thailand. We were usually the only “farang” family for miles. I played with the neighborhood kids just fine but I always stood out for obvious reasons.
When I moved to the States, I blended in - a relief for this painfully self-conscious girl - but I didn’t fit in. I was missing years of cultural context. I’ve spent over seven years trying to catch up but I’ll never know the 90s nostalgia my peers experience. At one point, I thought maybe I would fit in with Asian Americans, who too straddle Asian and American culture. But that wasn’t me either. Theirs is an experience all their own.
So where’s home? What culture can I claim? I can’t say I’m Thai. I’m not. So I’ve learned to downplay my Asian influences for fear of overstepping my bounds as an outsider. And yet I feel more out of place in a room full of white Texans than I do in a village in northern Thailand.
This return to Thailand has brought the healing I’ve long been needing. On this trip, I realized that although I may not be Thai, I have loved Thailand. The childhood I spent here - 14 years of my young life - has left a permanent mark on me.
This moment with a northern Thai farmer, cutting open fresh coconuts for us in a spontaneous display of hospitality and generosity, perfectly encapsulates the people and culture I have had the precious privilege of knowing. I am overwhelmed with the honor of carrying this affection with me always.