What does it mean for you to have grown up in a mostly homogenous or monocultural community, and then to have found yourself suddenly immersed in an internationally mobile lifestyle?
Anthropologist, Dr. Ruth Useem first coined “third culture” in the 1950s while doing research, along with her husband, John Useem on an expatriate community in India. The used this generic term to cover the “interstitial” cross-cultural styles of life created, shared, and learned by persons who are in the process of relating their societies, or sections thereof, to each other. The 'third culture' is interwoven with the home culture or 'first culture', which is interwoven with the experience in the host or 'second' culture. Dr. Useem also brought her three sons along on this assignment and also began to observe the impacts to the children living in this interstitial lifestyle, and by extrapolation, they began to refer to the children of the expatriates that they were researching “third culture kids.
One of the distinctions that has been made concerning the impact of this lifestyle that has been made for children who have accompanied their parents on overseas assignment is the significance of having these experiences during their developmental years and the subsequent impacts to identity development, amongst a myriad of other gifts and challenges.
Over the past few years, I have been involved in some weighty pro and con discussions on whether or not having first encountered living an international mobile lifestyle as adult can have a similar profound identity impacts as an adult. I know that I have certainly felt over the years that my multi-mover lifestyle, my subjective sense of self has evolved over the years and through each experience.
In Jane Kroger’s: Identity Development: Adolescence through Adulthood, she offers an account of the lifelong process of identity development. Using an Ericksonian perspective research demonstrates that identity development is not restricted to adolescence, but that it is a lifelong process of construction and transformation.
How about you? Has your identity changed or remained the same? Do you have a sense that your sense of self or identity ahs changed or transformed as a result of your overseas or international living experiences?