Third culture individuals are people who were raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of their country of nationality, and also live in a different environment during a significant part of their child development years. They typically are exposed to a greater volume and variety of cultural influences than those who grow up in one particular cultural setting (Wiki).
I am a third culture individual. I’m the daughter of Maltese migrants. My namesake is my maternal grandmother, whom I carry so proudly as I have come to appreciate its significance after years of it being uncommon for my generation, revealing the heritage I tried to hide. I have lived in Australia all my life, and for the first time in 2017, I journeyed to Malta. I wanted to get back to my roots and understand who I am first-hand.
My parents left everything they ever knew parents, siblings, culture for a land with opportunity. Young and newly married, they packed all their belongings and left for Australia with only a few pounds in their pocket.
They worked countless jobs to make ends meet and to set the foundation for their own family one day. From being homesick to being met with racist remarks by some and despite all the challenges they encountered, they made Australia home.
With a culture passed down through my family that existed within the home and Maltese community made up of family friends. Outside of the four walls, I was met with a different culture that I wanted to be a part of. I didn’t understand where I had come from, and I didn’t feel like I belonged. Confusing, you bet!
I had wrestled with my identity and struggled with understanding what made me who I am. It was not until I was able to consolidate the different aspects of who I am that I could embrace the cultural diversity that exists within myself. For me, it looks like appreciating the generations that had gone before, who had paved the way for me. Pavers that represent the survival of wars and famines, working the soil to make a living, making a house a home with preloved textiles, it’s having the courage to navigate the Mediterranean waters and standing for freedom despite the consequences. It’s accepting that I have two places that feel like home even if they are oceans and time zones apart. I don’t have to forfeit one culture to accept another. It’s being proud of it all!
On a finishing note, what did it take for you to accept who you are? Or maybe you are still on the journey? Either way, I wonder what good comes from not embracing our uniqueness. In my humble opinion, I think nothing because it can be like we are fighting with ourselves, trying to change an unchangeable. I would love to hear about your third culture experience, and you can email me at email@example.com or get in touch via my social platforms.
Wishing you health and strength and for the Maltese listeners Saħħa!