Don't ask me this 1 question!

Sharon
4 January, 2016
Where did you grow up? I feel sorry for anyone who asks me this. It's often met with a sharp intake of breath - and I still don't know how to answer this very simple question in one sentence. You'd have thought I'd know better by now. Fact is, there is no short answer, I grew up across 12 countries.

Many people are astounded to believe that I’ve lived in so many places – both as a child, and under my own steam as an adult. I was born in Singapore, and very shortly after, we were off to Kaohsiung in Taiwan.  Some relocations were for as little as 3 months (Trinidad), stretching to 6 months (Rio de Janiero), and 1 year (Madrid, Spain).  As a child, the longest stretch we spent in one place was 2 years – this happened in Canada and Egypt. When in Canada, we moved around too – from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, both on the East Coast. By the time I went to university at 18, I had been to 12 schools. 

I’m what’s known as a TCK – Third Culture Kid. From birth, I spent most of my formative years out of my parents’ cultures. My mother is Singaporean, and my father British.  My Dad was an expat from the age of 25, when he decided to leave his home on a farm in rural Norfolk to Bahrain in the Middle East. I can’t imagine the shock that must have been in the 1960’s! Trained as an accountant, he worked for an oil exploration company, eventually responsible for setting up new operations in countries where they would drill for oil.

Moving around came as second nature to me, and from a young age I couldn’t imagine settling in the UK – it was boring in comparison to the exotic places we lived and holidayed! We moved back when I was 13 years old, and stayed until I was half way through university. My degree required that we work our 3rd of 4 years in industry, and I decided to take a job in Germany. I didn’t speak a word of German, and had a great time there for just over a year. Fresh from finishing my honours degree, wanderlust struck again and I ended up just outside of New York City for 18 months. Moving back to London was a shock to the system, where I lived for 5 years before heading to Sydney in 2005.

I have to admit that I never really thought much of my nomadic lifestyle. I couldn’t imagine living in one place for too long, and didn’t realise the impact that had on my relationships, personality and behaviour. I had to be adaptable and tough, and having to forge new friendships every few months resulted in more than a small handful of close friendships wherever I lived. This wasn’t only because of our constant moving as a family – I went to American International schools most places we lived, where most of the other children lived the same life. It was very common to have friends come and go throughout the school year – the group at the end of any school year would look very different to how it was in the beginning! Friendships always fizzled out, save a few good friends that I am still in touch with from our stint in Cairo, when I was a teenager and developed stronger bonds.

 

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