There are a good number of advantages to being a TCK. Open-mindedness, wide experience of other cultures, etc. But I realized something the other day as I was listening to an interview on a "As told by Nomads" podcast [Tayo Rockson]. It really hit me. I have a serious blind spot as a TCK. And I think I've had it my whole life, and it has unwittingly gotten me into trouble many times.
Having grown up and worked around so many different cultures in so many countries, I am prepared to be patient or understanding, and hopefully at the least, nonjudgmental, about almost anything that I see or run into. Of course, I am not talking about egregiously bad behavior like being bigoted, or violence towards women, or something equally insane like that. But a good deal of cultural behavior around the world is just varied. Not necessarily bad, not necessarily good, just different.
So, as I have worked and lived in many different countries, realizing that I am always the one who is the foreigner, I have always been, or tried to be, patient, understanding, and tolerant. I am stunned by my own blindness that I did not realize this until now, but most of my life I always projected that other people would feel the same. And of course, I was generally wrong. I was very optimistically projecting that these people (I'm talking about white-collar professionals for the most part), were educated and had a wide enough worldview that they too would be open-minded, patient, and understanding. And unfortunately, I think nothing could have been further from the truth. And looking back I realize that time and time again, I got myself in trouble from not realizing that the TCK viewpoint is by no means a common one. I must say that one needs to be careful about this. I find that most people are still distinctly tribal in their outlook.
And I am by no means claiming that any culture is exempt from this. I’ve seen the same behavior from senior banking types in Asia to senior CEx types in the United States and Canada.
I am not, of course, advocating a change from being understanding or patient of course. Just a caution to be aware that not everyone shares the same viewpoint.
I’m not saying that one must be a TCK to be tolerant or have an open mind or a broad world view. By no means. And I’m sure there are TCKs out there that are narrow minded as well. And I do not mean to be negative here. This was just a realization I had the other day. Kind of like a light bulb going on above my head. But, TCKs, by definition, have a multi-cultural outlook, and most the world’s population does not.
But, (and I say again I’m terrible at attribution) I read recently that education is everything. You cannot criticize or be angry at people if they simply don’t know any better. So, I guess one of my ongoing missions is to educate and try to promote a broader world view to everybody I meet.
To close on a positive note, I want to believe that people are inherently good. And I enjoy the differences in the world. I want to just make the world a better place to be, and I think one of the best ways to do that is to treat people with tolerance and kindness. Hard to go wrong with that. And if that occasionally puts me in a bad spot, well, that’s ok. I would rather be optimistic and believe in people being inherently good than be negative and suspicious all the time.