Weird doesn’t have to be a bad word
When I was growing up, I wasn’t allowed to call things weird. Especially if I wrinkled up my nose and said it dripping with disdain. That was the case when the family would be invited to a large 12 course Chinese meal and the foods that were served passed beyond the normative range of an American Born Chinese kid. Picture a large platter of fresh sushi on ice with two lobster heads as the centerpiece. Now imagine a 14 year-old getting freaked out because the decapitated lobster head facing him just moved its eyes to watch me eat its flesh. My mother was quick to point out, the meat is “so fresh!” That just wasn’t good enough for me.
Weird is part of being a TCK
Now the tables have turned and I’m the parent, and my children are the third culture kids. They are finding things new and different and weird in this land of Penang. There are new customs, new festivals and holidays, new foods.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, third culture kid, let me recommend the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Pollack and Reken. A TCK is a person who grows up outside their parents’ home culture. Expat parents should get familiar with the challenges and benefits that comes with being a TCK. More resources below.
But my point is, I’m having to hear from my kids that things are weird. I’m not entirely comfortable to say that they need to stop. I think we just need to redefine the term.
Let’s take the wrongness out of weird. Let’s remove our egocentricity and see things from another perspective. And now we realize that weird can mean different, without being bad. An egocentric person would consider anything outside of my personal frame of normalcy to be wrong.
With this simple tool of allowing for someone else’s normal we take the first step towards living cross-culturally successfully. We can go into these cross cultural situations and think, “that’s different, but I might like it.” You can also give yourself (and your children) permission not to like it as well.
I’m finding that this new sense for the word weird to be freeing. We are now free to experience the weird and look at things that are different. We can keep our judgment to ourselves or to be discussed at home.
Now conversations can be like “Wow that’s weird.” “I know cool huh?”
More TCK resources
Read at least one book about TCKs to familiarize yourself with the issues.
Participate in a twice monthly twitter chat under the hashtag #TCKChat (1st and 3rd Wednesday, 10am and 10pm). For those of us in Penang that’s 11pm Wednesday or 11am Thursday. Send me a message @livinginpenang and I’ll show you how to participate in a twitter chat.