The British Library

Ellinor’s Story

I’m half Norwegian, half American, but grew up in Africa. My family and I spent 10 years in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya, and a further few years in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. America is definitely foreign to me, never having lived there, and Norway only slightly less so.

My life is one big identity crisis. If I don’t belong to where my parents are from, and I am foreign everywhere else too... then where am I from?

Like Gatsby, I’m both within and without. I’m a mix of the many identities I carry within me. People like me, those who I went to school with, we are known as Third Culture Kids. TCKs. We are “from” our parents’ culture and live in another culture, thereby creating a third.

What is this third space like?

A few psychology books think that rather than having a sense of national identity, TCKs feel closest to other TCKs. It doesn’t matter where they have grown up or if they have any of those places in common - we identify with each other because we are transient, adaptable and know what it’s like to be excluded. We are good at code-switching, making subtle changes to tone, accents and body language to adapt to where we are and make connections.

What a strange new kind of people in this world. Apparently, there will only become more of us. Perhaps I’ll find us in London too.

-Ellinor, London

© Yinka Shonibare, 2018 | Website by Hanna Sorrell