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So…Where Are You From? The Global Identity of a Multicultural Kid

Published on June 15, 2015 by Leanna Johnson

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We’re pleased to debut the fresh voices of the third cohort of the Wanderful Blogging Program! Stay tuned for new articles from new contributors. Don’t forget to tell them what you think in the comments!

I grit my teeth at the dreaded question, but try to smile as I launch into my well-rehearsed speech about how my mum, a British nurse from East Africa, came to the U.S. to marry my dad.

Sometimes it’s just easier to say that I’m British.

There are a lot of names for people like us.

Missionary kids, army brats, third-culture kids, second generationals…

But they all create an identity for us, one that has no roots and doesn’t belong anywhere.

Yes, we’ve spent more time negotiating between time zones, currencies, and languages than most stock exchanges. Sure, long-distance relationships are a given, and home seems like a foreign concept.

But does that mean we can be defined by the number of stamps on our passports?

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Placating nosy cattle on the croft I worked at on the Isle of Skye. Image courtesy of Leanna Johnson.

I was 18 months old when I first flew 26 hours from Atlanta to London.

And then to Harare, Zimbabwe to visit my missionary grandparents.

My mother’s family had been in Africa for generations, but many of them had moved back to the UK. When I wasn’t surrounded by mango trees, giant centipedes, and 100-degree weather, I spent my holidays racing through foggy sheep fields and eating curry n’ chips on a remote Scottish peninsula. That on top of being your average American teenager!

Finding your identity among multiple cultures is hard.

Really hard. Between keeping up with family traditions, constant travel, and trying to fit into whichever country you live in, it’s easy to lose sight of yourself as a person. You get lost in the jumble of memories and places that have helped shape who you are.

So this column is for you, dear fellow wanderers, who feel at home everywhere and nowhere. I want to share my stories and lessons learned, and hopefully learn from yours as well!

Here on “Growing Up Global,” I’ll talk about balancing self, relationships, and cultures. I’ll explore the challenges of travelling with children, homeschooling, and cooking “the way Mom did.” And perhaps mostly importantly, I’ll focus on how we as “global kids” must navigate new spaces and come to terms with being different.

Like it or not, we have a wider perspective than many people, and experiences that they can’t share. It sets us apart, turning us into the new kid in school or the weird one on the block.

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Drinking my favorite mango lassi and wearing my very own salwar kameez in Chicago’s “Little India.” Image courtesy of Leanna Johnson.

Perhaps it’s no wonder that I still find explaining my identity daunting. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Why?

Because who I am is so much more important than where I come from.

I am a journalist with wanderlust in her DNA. I am an accent chameleon, a Korean drama geek, a Bollywood dancer. I am a culture fanatic, an international foodie, and a Jill-of-all-trades.

I may be American by birth and British by upbringing, but you’d better believe that I’m global by choice.

Between the failed recipes and the funny accents, endless rounds of international phone tag and reverse culture shock, join me as I discover my own identity and reminisce about the ups and downs of growing up global!

So…where are you from? Have you, too, had a multicultural upbringing?

Featured image of Leanna’s Bollywood troupe in Skokie, Illinois by a member of the Bollywood Groove Dance Troupe.

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Category: Global Issues

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