I’m flying to the USA soon. By the time this gets published, I’ll probably be there already. We’re going back to visit friends and family, and I’m tremendously excited.
But to be frank, going back to my passport country is nerve-wracking. Every single time.
My passport says I’m American, but I don’t feel like it when I take a step off the plane. Not at all.
For one thing, everyone is speaking English. Like, what on earth? Since when does everyone speak English?
Then they say “Welcome Home” at the gate. The thing is, I feel like a fish out of water. Because these people sound like me, they are presumably just like me, and they expect the same from me. You feel like a fraud for the first two hours. You feel like you’re holding some sort of secret identity on the inside.
Because this continent-hopping maneuver stresses me out, I thought it’d be kind of helpful to put together a list of things to remember before you take the leap. You know, from one TCK to another.
But then I had a brilliant idea.
I asked my other TCK friends.
Behold our magnificent list of 13 things to remember when you “go home” for the summer.
- Visits to your passport country can often be hectic. Make sure you create time to ground yourself in God’s word. It will change your interactions and experience entirely.
- Strangers will come up to you, call you by name, and claim they’ve known you ever since you were little. Be prepared to update them on your family. Talk with them – do it with a smile.
- Remember that not every foreign language you hear is your country’s language 😉
- Sometimes it’s good to bring a couple of gifts for the friends you might meet. You never know when you might meet your new close friend.
- Be prepared for: “Say something in so-and-so language.” Some people prefer asking for a sentence to translate, whereas some people come prepared with a phrase. Do what works for you.
- Many people will say, “Welcome Home.” If it doesn’t feel like home for you, that’s ok – you’re not alone. Personally, it always feels a bit like a vacation. You can mention it or not – but however you react, be kind.
- Be gracious. You’re not better than people just because you know more about the world internationally. They know more than you about other things. Reach out – make a friend.
- Be grateful when someone goes out of their way (and their comfort zone!) to show you around and be friendly. Make sure you thank them.
- Be curious and ask questions. Don’t feel stupid if you don’t understand something. Chances are, it might not even be a cultural thing – they might not get it either. If it is cultural – brush it off. You are prized by the King of Heaven, and you don’t need to feel insecure.
- Don’t be so excited about the “commodities” that you forget about the people.
- Remember, the trips to your passport country shouldn’t define your expectations of the country’s culture. These short trips don’t show you the true face of the country. Stay curious and open to learning. Don’t assume you know everything.
- Spend quality time with people and say good goodbyes.
- Take that first step to say hello. I know what you’re thinking – because I’m thinking it too. I don’t know these people. They don’t understand me. If I say something, I’m going to mess up.
Take that risk. Life’s most beautiful moments are found when we step outside of our comfort zones. What we often forget is that we TCKs are comfortable traveling the world and speaking foreign languages. Honestly, I’d rather talk to the immigrant elderly couple at church than the teens my age. And that’s good.
But my friend, we can’t live our lives like this. We pride ourselves on having a broad perspective and traveling the world, but sometimes we forget that people are people no matter where you go and that your home culture is just another culture waiting to be discovered. Sometimes we forget that although the Church is Christ’s international body, our home country’s church is a part of it. Sometimes we forget that the teen we are afraid of talking to is just as freaking scared to speak to us.
So take that awkward first step.
“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask, “What if I fall?”
Oh, but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson