Russian | Tatar
I feel like the way I describe my identity to others always depends on the context. But essentially I identify myself by my experiences. Now I know that what I am is called an adult Third Culture Kid or Cross-Culture Kid. I entered an identity crisis when I was 18 and moved from an international school context to a public university in Amsterdam, but now I am 23 and feel like I have made it through. My identity will continue to be forged by my experiences. I was born in Kazakhstan and my nationality is German. I grew up in Almaty, Kazakhstan; Niš, Serbia; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Busan, South Korea. Now I am based in the Netherlands, and have also lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Madrid, Spain over the course of my studies. So In terms of ethnicity/race/DNA, as far as I know I’m Russian and Tatar. I was baptised in a Russian Orthodox Church, but I don’t practice any religion. My spirituality has been influenced by all these experiences too, from Orthodoxy to Sufism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and most recently Inca mythology. In terms of sexual orientation, I find that it’s also something difficult to pin down in one word, most of my experiences have been heteroromantic and heterosexual, but I believe that’s something that can be very fluid.
My Mother was born in the USSR (Kazakhstan) and my Father in East Germany. He’s not my biological Father but he’s always been my real Father. Neither the USSR nor East Germany exist anymore. They met in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in a gallery in a museum where my Mom was working. I always knew about my mixed heritage, from as early as I could conceptualize it. Having grown up amongst four countries and matured in another three, yes, it made my heritage non-binary, but rather multifaceted and not pinned to a national culture. In other words, I don’t think I carry any cultural heritage in the way we understand this term. I think my parents tried to take the best from both worlds. Ultimately they divorced, but that was more about personality rather than culture.
The biggest challenge I experienced was when I graduated from my international school bubble, where everyone was mixed and cross-cultural, and went to live in Europe where most of my peers were monocultural, monoracial, mononational, whatever you want to name it, and did not understand that I identified myself in a manner different from theirs. People don’t like what they don’t understand and so some were trying to put me in a box that made sense to them. I used to get very aggravated, but I have learned to pick my fights since then.
The environment doesn’t play a role in that, but the experiences of people do. It’s how we were shaped, not where. In terms of food, Asian food took the number one spot for me. I became vegetarian at the age of 15, so I mostly eat Indonesian, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Chinese food. My taste in music crystalized in Amsterdam, heavily influence by electronic genres. I speak Russian, English, German and Spanish fluently. My personality comes through differently in every language I speak. I’m also learning Dutch and know some very basic Indonesian and Portuguese. Fashion is the one aspect that changes slightly depending on where I live. I don’t really style my hair, I just let it grow out very long.
Being cross-cultural and living in various countries has opened up my worldview A LOT. It also taught me empathy because not I know how different everyone’s experiences can be and how that shapes people. Obviously I can’t imagine having grown up in any other way. Being mixed-race helps me bridge society but I find it hard to bond. I feel connected to a lot of different trends if they somehow relate to a place I live/have lived in. Being TCK/CCK has been the most beneficial in the work aspect. It has taught me to be flexible and empathetic, and international experience and knowledge of languages are valued in the labour market. Of course I have to bridge with colleagues and tell them my story, especially if they are not TCK/CCK, in order to better understand each other.
If I had the opportunity to be born again I wouldn’t want to change a thing.