Archive for Third Culturism

London: The Best Seats in the House


London Double Decker Buses United Kingdom

With Thomas Heatherwick’s new London buses being introduced this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about buses and public transportation in general.

Despite the fact that I’ve lived in ‘public transport’-friendly cities like New York and Amsterdam, on some level my LA-ness will always bring a certain distaste for it to the surface… The slowness, the array of disturbing too-human odors, the proximity to People (with a capital ‘P’) and the lack of control are all concomitant with taking a bus or metro.

But there are precious rare times when magic (not ‘shit’) happens on public transport, like getting ‘the best seat in the house’ in a citywide sense.

For instance, on several occasions, I was en-route home from the office, when I discovered masses of irritated, stranded Londoners spilling out from the nearest Tube station (‘oh no, yet another snag in the Underground works’). So I was forced to hike up to the closest bus stop and wait for that familiar #7.

Seven is indeed a lucky number. That’s the bus that makes its way down Oxford Street, through Oxford Circus, into Marble Arch, Paddington, Westbourne Grove and then Notting Hill. Luckier still is finding the crème de la crème ‘balcony’ seats empty. You know the ones. On level two of the double-decker bus, front row centre.

So, shoes on railing, legs inappropriately scrunched up, head back, mp3 player blasting, I cruised down that nighttime stunner, Oxford Street, watching snapshots of beautiful London woosh by. I took in the Victorian details–mouldings and sculptures–that I would never have perceived from ‘down there.’ During the holidays, I found myself virtually at eye level with the festive lights and decorations hung high away from pedestrian sight lines.

Meanwhile, some ethereal, moody ’90s tune or other like ‘Champagne Supernova’ by Oasis was my spacey, chillout soundtrack. As I jokingly said to one of my mates when she said she was opting to take the bus home, ‘Have fun thinking deeply about your life.’

It doesn’t get any better than this pensive and aesthetic journey… Sometimes it does get worse, when another passenger signals with their looming form, that they’d like to nab the seat next to mine (how dare they–I’m a season ticket holder!) Alas, I’ve mostly been lucky in this respect (long legs–the perfect ‘velvet rope’ so to speak).

Then there’s this moment when you almost forget that you’ve been inconvenienced by the tube closure. As the bus driver takes advantage of a few empty blocks to pick up speed, there’s a fleeting thrill…and a few seconds–just enough time to completely let go.

New London Double Decker Bus Design by Thomas Heatherwick

Thomas Heatherwick's New Routemaster London Bus

Read Other Expat Articles:
Single on de Singel: When I First Moved to Amsterdam
The Decision to Move Abroad: Feel the Thrill, Feel the Fear
From Accidental Tourist to Purposeful Resident: Impromptu Moves Abroad
The Love Affair With Place

Famous Adult Third Culture Kids

Manu Chao

Isabel Allende, Writer

Christiane Amanpour, Broadcast Journalist

Julian Assange, Wikileaks Founder

Manu Chao, New World Music Artist

Khaled Hosseini, Afghan Novelist

Milla Jovovich, Actress/Musicial Artist

Viggo Mortensen, Actor/Photographer

Barack Obama, United States President

Hugo Weaving, Actor


More Third Culturism: 

The Third Culture Dilemma: Getting Personal

Third Culture Kids Personal Account

By Shana Ting Lipton

Everyone feels different from everyone else, especially in late adolescence. I remember wanting to be different as a teenager growing up in LA so I discovered the local post-punk scene.

Prior to that, from birth through the age of 15 I was already different but hadn’t been completely aware of it. I was born in London, but my parents moved us out to Los Angeles when I was four. “Us” included my ‘second mother,’ a kind-hearted Portuguese nanny who was part of the family. She spoke no English; as a result I grew up speaking fluent Portuguese.

From the age of five on, I attended a French Lycee in Los Angeles. There, I spoke French every day of the school week.

My classmates were raised in French households or in French-speaking areas like BeirutGeneva and of course all over France. My parents wanted a European education for me despite the fact that my father is from the East Coast of the U.S. and my Chinese mother grew up in British colonized Hong Kong. This is perhaps due to the fact that both my parents lived for over a decade in London (where they first met).

So my life was different. My mum didn’t bake me cookies; she made meringues. I summered in Hong Kong where my grandparents lived but also spent some time in Europe.

One of the most memorable of those occasions was a surprise expense-paid trip to Munich. As a child, I was flown out for a screentest with German director Wolfgang Petersen; my dad accompanied me.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the part but we continued our European travels as my mother met us in the South of France. There, in the tiny town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, I heard a girl call out my name. It was one of my classmates who also happened to be there summering in a nearby village. This wasn’t an isolated incident. On another trip to Rome in my teen years, I ran into another schoolmate walking down the Via Veneto.

It all sounds a bit glamorous and maybe it was. However, this multicultural, trans-continental upbringing also caused me great confusion in later years. Why did I not feel 100% culturally assimilated anywhere (be it Los AngelesNew York, France or Amsterdam)? Where should I live? Was I Eurasian? American? British? Hong Kong Chinese? Honorary Portuguese? Or a French cultural interloper?

Apart from time spent with my parents, the only occasions during which I felt ‘home’ were (and continute to be) when I am in the company of other multinationals or well-traveled foreigners.

In short, it’s been a double-edged sword of feeling grateful for my multicultural/ cosmopolitan ubringing, and feeling tortured by it (wondering if I will ever find peace). Imagine the joy I felt when I realized I was not alone–when I picked up a book called Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken.

Third Culture Kids TCK Book

Third Culturism as Defined in the Book ‘Third Culture Kids’

I’d like to establish from the get-go that–though this book is intended for people like me (raised between cultures and countries)–it sems to offer a useful template and base study for our mobile wifi age and this era of mixed races. Someone is defined as a TCK, according to the book, by:

“Being raised in a genuinely cross-cultural world. Instead of simply watching, studying, or analyzing other cultures, TCKs actually live in different cultural worlds as they travel back and forth between their passport and host cultures. Some TCKs who have gone through multiple moves or whose parents are in an intercultural marriage have interacted closely with four or more cultures.”

However, the book defines a typical TCK as someone who has spent a significant period of time during their childhood or adolescence in one or more cultures other than their own (from their passport country) and integrated elements of those cultures and their birth culture into a third culture.

Third Culturism and Travel Culture

I’m introducing (or spotlighting) this occurrence to readers in the context of a travel site for a couple of reasons. Firstly, of course, the TCK experience is responsible for coloring the way I look at travel. Like many, I idealize traveling a-la local. But I also view the travel experience as more than just an insiders’ list of cool restaurants or galleries to check out.

For me, a journey doesn’t really feel like a journey unless I interact and engage with locals. My trips are pretty much 75% about the local people. Sometimes I won’t meet any locals during my travels, and I must say that those have been disappointing sojourns for me. In such cases, I fail to get a real feeling for the flavor of a culture. I could literally sit in cafes swapping stories with locals my entire trip and consider it to have been a great success.

I’ll never forget how an initially touristy holiday to Prague with two grad school friends of mine took a 180 degree turn when I met a local. We sat in a cafe all night long sharing cultural tales. He wanted to know about the LA of Beverly Hills, 90210 lore. I wanted to know about the Czech Republic‘s former President and poet Vaclav Havel.

Though there is no ersatz replacement for having grown up between cultural worlds, I do feel strongly that curious non-TCKs can make their travels that much more memorable and genuine by adopting a TCK attitude and perspective. And that is something I will discuss more in articles in this section.

Also in ‘Third Culturism’:

Living Abroad: The Love Affair With Place

Place Vendôme Paris France Sights

By Shana Ting Lipton

I see your hair is burnin’
Hills are filled with fire
If they say I never loved you
You know they are a liar…
LA woman, you’re my woman.

-Jim Morrison and The Doors

Your knees buckle, you feel off-center, yet filled with joy. A sense of the ‘anything is possible’ comes over you. You’re not yourself; nor do you want to be. You’re in love. And, to keep this love affair afloat, you’ll do anything…

Even move to another city or country.

Yet, in this case, it is, in fact, the city that is the culprit, the object of your affections. You are enamored–or at the very least interfacing and engaging on a deeper more intimate level–with a locale.

Without such a passion, one might argue, how else could one take such a bold step as to pack up one’s things and move half-way across the world (or across the country)?

It takes blind faith, the promise of euphoria, and an object of great desire to drown out the voice of fear (that keeps one moored in one’s home terrain) and kill the creature of habit (and safety).

And just like your first love is different from a second marriage, and a second marriage is different from a whirlwind holiday love affair, so ‘city love’ differs from place to place (and person to person). More detailed analogies and some true life experience can be of some help here.

New York…cue George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue…now that’s a riveting, mile-a-minute, exciting metropolis to fall in love with. My love affair with New York was intense from the get-go. There was nothing that could keep us apart. I ate, breathed, slept (and often pulled all-nighters with) Manhattan. This was one fascinating, intellectually profound and culturally savvy partner.

But then, after living in the City That Never Sleeps for a few years, the bloom wore off the rose to reveal a crazy, thorned bitch of a city who like some psycho stalker was hell-bent on destroying me.

Manhattan, for me, was a city of young love–perhaps not first love (not nearly as naive and crushing) but an immature, passionate love with nowhere to go but into the pits of Hell.

So it was that after some time of enduring ‘the Smell’ (hot, humid garbage and pollution in the summertime), the constant noise (a loop of car alarms and ambulances) and weather (my ‘love’s’ extreme mood swings), I said “enough” and ended the tempestuous and unhealthy relationship.

Amsterdam, with its storybook canals, crooked little houses and wood-worm eaten house boats was romantic in a spiritual way for me. Everything ‘he’ did seemed fated, written in some great book in the sky.

Nothing was real. All was mystique and wonder…a great way to exist…for a time. But as I grew up, I wanted something of the everyday and commonplace in my city relationship–a way to mix the simplicity of life (cornflakes) with the ethereal and mystical (ambrosia).

Los Angeles, on the other hand was like the buddy that high-fives you at a barbecue and gets you an ice cold beer on command–predictable, laidback, uncomplicated but a bit vacuous.

Like ‘friends with benefits,’ LA and I spent years (on and off as LA is always my base–even when I have brief stints abroad) in a Hotel California type relationship. I could check out any time I liked, but I never really did leave.

LA would occasionally deliver the 2 a.m. booty call–disrespectful and shallow. But Los Angeles was also always there when I needed the proverbial couch to crash on or someone to grab a coffee with and hang out.

These days, as it turns out, I’m looking for nothing less than ‘the all’ in my city love, a harmonious ‘something of everything’ relationship Holy Grail. My ideal possesses: the romance and magic, the reliable everyday buddy effect, and the riveting sexual attraction and cultural and intellectual stimulation.

I’m ready for a city I can realistically love–for better or worse, for richer or for poorer–that will love me back unconditionally, realistically but also view me as a gem.

As a result, I have been spending some time in London–a place that never intrigued me before (in fact, my birthplace). It wasn’t ever exotic enough. It seemed to be a city of urban tests, grittiness, and depression despite its historic architecture and wit and witticisms.

But today, as an adult, I can finally appreciate a partner like London. Right away, I could see what would drive me nuts about the town: its spread-out nature, difficult public transport, smog and dirtiness, uptight citizens.

I could also see something magical: how the Gothic details on the molding of the townhouses came to life in the grey weather, the exciting driving cultural rhythm of this media capital.

My walks around the funny little mewses and roads–mad wind blowing through my hair, street life on fire, trickles of rain on my cheek–felt like an appreciative and adoring lover’s touch.

London, in short, may be the whole enchilada…a real city, a human city–of heights of ecstasy, depths of despair…and, ‘the laundry’ so to speak. London, may well be ‘The One.’

The Julian Assange Traveler

The Julian Assange Wikileaks Traveler

The Wikileaks Founder’s Gotten Around in More Ways Than One…Follow His Trail Around the World

Love him or hate him (and there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room in-between), Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is a man on the move–some might say, on the run.

Even before he founded the infamous website which has hosted classified U.S. intelligence cables, Assange’s life was decentralized. The son of parents who ran a traveling theatre troupe, he grew up moving around a lot. In some ways, the Australian multinational is the prototypical Third Culture Kid.

Let this worldwide tour of some of the locales Assange has called home (or temporary home) give you ideas for your imminent and/or future travels. Been there? Done that? Not in the style of a global espionage fugitive and nomad, you haven’t.

Queensland, Australia

Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Our humble tale begins in the birthplace of Mr. Assange, the state of Queensland, in New South Wales, Australia.

Technically, he was born in Townsville, but I prefer to begin the tour in a more magnificent location.

Townsville is in fact adjacent to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, which is of course one of the ‘seven natural wonders of the world,’ according to many sources including CNN.

The closest airport is outside Prosperpine. You can always fly into Brisbane which is 386 km from the Reef.

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne Australia Travel

This is the location of Assange’s alma mater, the University of Melbourne. It’s also the site of a police raid on his home when he was accused of computer hacking in 1991.

Melbourne has a reputation, near and far, as Australia’s culinary capital. Of course, new states are always upping the ante.

Melbourne is also the original location of top Australian chef Neil Perry‘s Rockpool Bar & Grill.

Tanzania, East Africa

Tanzania East Africa Travel
If you’re looking to drop out of Western civilization and to do it in style, why wouldn’t you want to live, for a spell, in Tanzania?

Though I can’t personally see Assange climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I could see him trekking through the Serengeti or ‘global masterminding’ in Zanzibar.

The latter was good enough for Princess Diana’s designer.

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi Kenya
In Assange’s famously outed Ok Cupid dating site profile, he says: “I like women from countries that have sustained political turmoil.” That explains why Kenya would have appealed to him as one of his home pit-stops.

Tribalism and elections have fueled political and social unrest in this East African Nation.

Undoubtedly he got into some fun hitting the nightlife circuit in Nairobi’s Westlands and River Road quarter.

Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm Sweden Travel
Ah Stockholm, herein lies the center of all of Assange’s legal troubles and his ‘sex by surprise’ accusation. It is doubtful that he stayed in many hotels here. Anna Ardin’s apartment was cozy (and free) enough.

Had he been more adventurous (and intuitive) he would have doubtless stayed at the boutique and chic Berns Hotel in Stockholm.

The famous old hospice hosted celebs back in its day. Room 431 served as a dressing room for Ella Fitzgerald and Marlene Dietrich.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik Iceland Travel
Assange is said to have rented a house here. So he would have never experienced the stunning harbour views at the 101 Hotel in Reykjavik.

Perhaps he popped into the B5 Bar and Bistro for drinks and night revelry. You never know who you might bump into there.

Famous Rejkjavikker Bjork has been known to return to her home town and frequent some of the watering holes and clubs.

London, England

London England Travel

Last stop, London. Well, there’s never really a last stop for a Third Culture Kid like Julian Assange. But this was where he was last seen and apprehended–if we could call it that.

There’s simply too much to do and see in London to not make a long sojourn of it–court order or not. If I received a chunky book advance like Assange did I’d stay at Blakes Hotel in SW7 and visit hip Shoreditch and Stepney Green for the cool galleries and bistros.

I’d also become a member of the SoHo House or Hospital Club and mingle away.


Also in ‘Third Culturism’:

Which Passport to Use For Dual Citizens

Multiple Passport Holders

If you find yourself in that privy niche category of ‘multiple passport holder,’ you might face a conundrum each time you travel. Which passport should you whip out? And when?

If you’re like me, you’ve used the length of the cue to decide which national you should be in that moment. If the U.S. Passports cue is shorter, well then that’s the passport you use. Let’s face it, who wants to wait in a long cue of people? However, this logic doesn’t, unfortunately, always work.

An EU/US multi-national friend of mine insists: “Whichever country you’re in, use that passport.” She claims she was traveling to Holland once and was yelled at for using her US passport. However, when I followed her ‘country-centric’ rule and whipped out a British passport at Heathrow when departing for the US I too was reprimanded.

So, what to do? Using a common circumstance, if you are, for instance, an EU/US passport holder, leaving the US from, say JFK and heading to Paris for a living stint, use your US passport when departing JFK. Upon arrival at Charles de Gaulle, use your European Union passport. However, when you return to the US from Paris, at CDG Airport use our US Passport (otherwise you’ll be required to furnish a Visa to the agent).

So, to summarise:

  • Step 1: US to EU in US Airport= U.S. passport
  • Step 2: Arrival in EU at European Airport= EU passport
  • Step 3: EU to US in European Airport= US passport

Therefore, the only foil or confusion in the country-centric model is Step 3–as you’ll want to avoid having to provide an officer with a Visa!

More Related Articles on Third Culturism:
The Julian Assange Traveler
The Third Culture Dilemma: Getting Personal
Famous Adult TCKs