I was browsing the web last night when I came across this article by a Dubai-based mama, detailing (some pretty amusing!) signs that point to a child being an “expat brat”.
As I went through the list of clues, many of them resonated with me. Especially considering myself a “third culture kid”, and not really knowing what to say when I’m asked where I am from! But I definitely don’t think of myself as a brat and while I found the article interesting and funny, I think “brat” was a wrongly used term.
I was born in Monrovia and lived there for 3.5 years. My family then moved to London, and when I was 7, we moved to Nigeria. I went to school there for 4 years, and then at 11 went to boarding school in India before switching to another boarding school in Dublin at 14. I then ended my education studying for my degree in London. At 21 I lived between 3 different countries, working and volunteering with children, and in early 2008 I moved to Hong Kong where I have lived for the last 5.5 years.
I’d call myself an expat kid (or child of the world!) but not really a brat. I was born in Africa, of Indian descent, with a British passport… confusing or what?!
But as with most things, I think the way children perceive “normal” is down to their parents. For the most part when I was growing up we had domestic helpers, drivers and club memberships, and I flew before I could walk. But my parents raised me to say “please” and “thank you” to the people working in our home and our helpers were always treated like a part of our family. And if my brother and I were out of line, we were definitely set straight. We were always told, “God gave you two hands, use them”!
Of course there are things that we took for granted. I remember going to the supermarket with a friend once and I started bagging things as I always did, putting all tins together, all fruit and veg together, and so on. He soon showed me the error of my ways! I’d always driven to the supermarket or had the shopping done for me, so he pointed out that when you were walking home with your groceries, you had to balance the bags out so there was a mix of heavy and light items in each bag. You learn something new every day and that lesson has stayed with me since!
I would think of a “brat” as being a child with a lack of manners, a lack of empathy and snobbishness. I don’t think you have to be an expat kid to be a brat, and vice versa. I personally think if you’re lucky enough to be an expat kid, it is a privilege. I have an accepting nature of all cultures, I love to travel, see new places and meet new people. I have friends in almost every part of the world, I can clean and manage my own home if I need to but also appreciate and value help, if it’s there. Given all that, I’d love to raise my son as an expat kid. He’s been to 10 different cities in 19 months, so I guess we’re on our way!