Seventeen-year-old Teresa Corti was born to a Filipino mother and a Swiss-Italian father. She spent most of her childhood in Lugano, Switzerland until her family moved to the Netherlands when she was 13. The high school student considers herself neither Filipino nor Swiss- Italian but a Eurasian. She feels the connection to her Filipino roots whenever her mom cooks some recipes from her home country.
Corti’s multicultural upbringing at home and her exposure to other third culture kids at the International School of the Hague, where she is currently studying, is molding her to become a citizen of the world.
“In the past, I used to encounter discrimination because of the color of my skin. But that doesn’t bother me any longer. Being who I am and growing up between different cultures have made me a more open-minded individual especially in terms of other people’s cultures and ethics,” says the high school student.
Corti spends her free time traveling, baking, painting and playing the piano. She used to lead her team in national competitions at the Canton Ticino Gymnastics in Switzerland.
Corti belongs to today’s generation of third culture kids trying to cope with the issues and realities brought about by their mixed cultural background. They have the option of either to take advantage of their situation or give in to the pressures and uncertainties of being a TCK.
Experts define TCKs as those who have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside their parents’ culture. Sociologist Ruth Hill Useem was said to have coined the term in the 1950s. Ted Ward, another sociologist, tagged TCKs as the prototype citizens of the future. These global nomads are imagined to be leading glamorous lives, being multilingual, exposed to the cultures of the world, and living from one city to another.
However, talking to these TCKs reveals tales of restlessness, social phobia or fear of intimacy, not having a sense of belonging or a home to call their own (to be poetic about it), among others. Some are surviving successfully by practising a more open mind, like young Corti, or using their global experiences to impact change in their environment or help others.
Not one or the other
Alex Gerardo Ytterdahl, 27, finds it a challenge being both Norwegian and Filipino. According to him, people from both sides of the globe don’t see him belonging to one or the other.
“Norwegians and Filipinos don’t see me 100 percent like either of them,” admits Ytterdahl. “Because I don’t speak Filipino, I’m just a tourist every time I go back to the Philippines. In Norway, I face a bit of racism.”
Be that as it may, the musician-producer says that he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder.
“Having a blend of Filipino and Norwegian cultures is an advantage,” says Ytterdahl. “I see people based on who they really are and not according to ethnic background or skin color.”
Having been raised in Norway most of his life, Ytterdahl says that he feels more Norwegian than Filipino. He has travelled to the Philippines a few times to get in touch with his Filipino roots. According to him, he is “emotionally connected” to the Philippines.
Ytterdahl is currently completing his last year of studies in pedagogy. He hopes to become a teacher soon. “I believe in the power of education and that everyone should have the right to it,” says Ytterdahl.
Like Ytterdahl, Christina Claus, 21, feels she has more influences of her German-Dutch father than her Filipino mother. Born and raised in the Netherlands, Claus thinks it an opportunity to be living in a country with multicultural people. She has more freedom to express herself.
“For instance, I think I have a wider perspective on religion that my parents don’t share. We have opposing point of views but we respect each other,” says Claus.
Claus maintains she is proud of her Filipino roots and she makes sure her friends and classmates knew it.
“I can’t speak any Filipino language but I am eager to learn Tagalog soon. During my last year’s visit to the Philippines, I felt so excited to learn about the Philippine culture. I even dared to eat balut,” beams Claus, who helps out at the Stichting Bayanihan, an organization that reaches out to Filipino women in the Netherlands.
Claus is currently studying food design and innovation at HAS Den Bosch while working at an Italian restaurant in Rotterdam.
Multilingual and sexy
German-Filipino Philipp Horn, 18, says that having the ability to speak three languages: English, German, and Dutch, is one of the advantages of being a TCK. That and having lightly tinted skin color that girls in the Netherlands seem to find attractive, the young student jokes.
Kidding aside, Horn says he feels “happy and blessed” to be living in the Netherlands. Born in Laguna, Philippines, Horn was brought to The Netherlands by his parents when he was two years old.
“I always feel sad when I visit the Philippines,” reveals Horn. “It breaks my heart to see some people living in poverty, having very poor quality of life.”
Horn dreams of becoming a social worker.
Norwegian-Filipino Rayner Ron Vintervoll says he didn’t experience any cultural challenges at school or at work, primarily giving credit to his education at international schools –from primary to university.
“At an international primary school I went to when I was young, they taught us basic skills and etiquette when dealing with people from different cultural backgrounds,” shares Vintervoll.
Employed as a technical architect at Accenture, an international company, Vintervoll says that he works with people from different origins and notices no cultural biases. In his previous jobs, he says, there was little regard on cultural background. “It’s what you do that counts,” emphasizes Vintervoll.
According to him, one of the advantages of being a TCK is that it helps one to stand out especially in communities where mixed culture is not common. He says, “This is extremely beneficial for networking and raising your own visibility particularly in a modern work environment that we have now.”
Vintervoll admits that he doesn’t have that much connection to that Filipino side of him. He considers himself 40 percent Norwegian, 25 percent Filipino, and 35 percent international. His wife is Norwegian, and they’ve been married for 11 years now.
“Perhaps it’s because of lack of prioritization or simply time constraints that I don’t connect much to my Filipino roots,” says Vintervoll. “However, I do spend some holidays in the Philippines and occasionally attend Filipino cultural activities in Norway.”
Vintervoll is currently involved in one of Scandinavia’s largest health and public service projects on welfare reform.
Despite being born and raised in London, Edward Lao grew up imbibing and sharing some Filipino traits and habits thanks to the influences of his Filipino-Chinese father and Filipino mother.
Lao’s parents met and got married inLondon. His mother was one of the first batches of Filipino nurses who came to the UK in the 1970s. His father arrived in the 1980s as a former presidential guard.
“I think my parents raised me in quite a Filipino, Asian way. I was taught to address the elders as uncle or aunt. I love vinegar and can also eat with my hands. I experienced the ‘slipper’ treatment whenever I stepped out of line. I know that ‘psst’ and ‘hoy’ can get the attention of Pinoys. I know what Filipino time is and that people can point with their lips, but I don’t do that. I also enjoy playing basketball with my cousins every time we go to the Philippines for a visit,” explains Lao, who is often mistaken as Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, American, but hardly British or Filipino.
According to Lao, he tried working in the Philippines back in 2006. Needless to say, the experience was a huge culture shock for the multicultural Pinoy.
“After six months of traveling in the Philippines, I eventually landed a job at ABS-CBN News Channel in Manila. Later, I realized the Philippine work environment is very different from that in the U.K. For instance, I couldn’t get used to addressing people ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am.’ I was also shocked to hear a lot of politicians being killed during election, something unheard of in the UK,” recalls Lao.
Currently, Lao works as a live/ offline subtitler for a London-based international entertainment company while doing freelance writing for ANC News Bureau in London.
-With research by Lana Kristine Jelenjev
Myra Colis is a Filipino entrepreneur who believes in the power of data in driving businesses to success. She provides consumer market research, communications/marketing, and skills training support to micro, small, and medium enterprises in Europe via her own startup company, E3 Data Intelligence Services. Her fields of expertise and professional experiences are in mass media communications, education, and business management.