Third Culture

Third Culture
August 24
M is a copywriter in the Bay Area. In addition to writing riveting copy, she loves old buildings and cooking, although not necessarily in that order. She and her husband became first time parents in January 2010, when their extremely energetic daughter, P, was born. The name of the blog was inspired by the fact that M and A are raising their P in the U.S., although neither was born here. “Third-culture” is a term used for kids who grow up in a foreign country, and don’t feel a sense of belonging to their passport country. She blogs at


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SEPTEMBER 16, 2011 5:56PM

Moving On, One Last Time

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I know I’ve made a big brouhaha about this whole moving thing. Yes, it is a big deal to buy a house (I have to pay for water, garbage, and taxes? How’s this a good deal again?), and it is a big deal to finally move to the ‘burbs.

But here’s why this whole move is even a bigger deal for me: ever since moving to the U.S. almost 25 years ago, I’ve moved about 20 times. Yes, you read that correctly20 times, with and without mom, dad, sis, and husband. I actually think I’ve moved more than this, and I’ve just blocked the actual number from my memory. I’ve illustrated all these moves in my fantabulous drawing (drawn on the bus ride home from work, so it’s a bit messy):

Yes, that squiggle that resembles France is supposed to be Iran. Also, I numbered the really large moves, and didn’t bother with smaller ones. And as you can see, I ran out of room on my large Moleskin, so I had to continue writing the U.S. cities on another page.

My parents finally bought a house and set down roots when I was a junior in high school. On the one hand, it’s amazing that they went from immigrants who came here without anything to owning a home after eight years.

On the other, those eight years meant a lot of moving on our part.

One interesting aspect of this is the nature vs. nurture argument. Apparently, siblings who grow up in the same household and are exposed to the exact same experiences have vastly different reactions to them.

My sister decided she hated moving. She moved up to Berkeley to go to Cal when she was finished with high school, and has stayed in Northern California ever since. She moved a couple of times in Berkeley, and lived in San Francisco when she was in law school, but she’s pretty much NorCal through and through.

I somehow decided that moving would be my thing. I ended up moving many many times more. For people who aren’t super visual and need more detail regarding the whole moving thing, here’s a complete list. I’ve also included all the cities I’ve called home in each country, and the number of times I/we moved within those cities (in parentheses).

  • Ahvaz (Iran) → Tehran (Iran)
  • Tehran (Iran) → Irving, TX (2)
  • Irving, TX  → Oakland, CA
  • Oakland, CA → San Leandro, CA
  • San Leandro, CA → Irvine, CA (3)
  • Irvine, CA → Thousand Oaks, CA (2)
  • Thousand Oaks, CA → Berkeley, CA (3)
  • Berkeley, CA → Venice, Italy (2)
  • Venice, Italy → Berkeley, CA
  • Berkeley, CA → Monselice, Italy
  • Monselice, Italy → Rome, Italy (2)
  • Rome, Italy → New York City, NY (3)
  • New York City, NY → San Francisco, CA
  • San Francisco, CA → Oakland, CA
  • Oakland, CA → Castro Valley, CA

Phew. It was exhausting just writing that. I could give military kids a run for their money.

A, on the other hand, had moved once (once!) before he met me. His parents moved two street away from their original house when he was a teen. His mother still talks about their original house as casa mia and her current house as casa nuova. After twenty years.

Italians don’t move much, or at all. They live with their parents until they get married, at which point they move out. Renting? That’s just for poor folks and students (synonymous, right?). In fact, people move so little that when you see a posting in Italy for an unfurnished apartment, it means that there are no kitchen cabinets or appliances. You have to buy an entire kitchen to move to an apartment in the Olde Country.

Since we were married twelve years ago, A has had the pleasure of packing and unpacking boxes many a time. His mother affectionately refers to us as zingari (gypsies). But he, too, is tired.

To be honest, I want P to have a childhood closer to A’s than to mine. It’s not fun to change schools a million times and have to make new friends. It really isn’t. Maybe all that moving made me the super-friendly, super-fabulous, super-interesting person I am today (pat pat pat on the back). But maybe I would’ve been just as friendly and fabulous without the moving.

And I could answer the inevitable, “Where are you from?” without having to take an hour to explain the above spiel to the poor person who dared ask such an innocent question.

Author tags:

new home, home ownership, moving

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Sounds like a fun and interesting life! I hope you tell stories of all of the places you've been.
Sounds like fun so far! I hope you share stories from the places that you've been.