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Memories of not belonging

I don’t actually ever remember living in the country I’m supposed to class as “Home”. At the age of 3 my family moved to Pune, India where we lived for two and a half years.

Then in the year 2000 my family moved to Beijing, China where we lived for 10 years.

When I explain this to most people their reaction is “so, are you Chinese?” and my answer is “I don’t actually know”.

Living in an expat community and attending an international school is pretty easy, you meet loads of new people from all around the world, and you become incredibly open minded.

Everyone is really welcoming, and the thought of a “new kid” starting in your class is rather exciting, you often fight over who gets to be their buddy for the first few weeks.

The hardest part of being a TCK is when that identity is then ripped away from you.

At the age of 16 I heard the words I never thought I would ever hear. “We are moving to Liverpool”. Now, I was born in Liverpool, my family all lived in Liverpool, it was a city I was familiar with as it’s where I would go on my summer and winter vacation to see my grandparents, however; never in my life was it a place I thought I could live.

My own city has become just a “holiday destination” in my mind, and the thought of making it home scared me. My expat life was over, my TCK identity was taken away from me.

Moving into a city that had no international community was difficult. I didn’t know what to expect when I started high school. All the kids in the town I moved to grew up with each other since they were babies, they already had their friends, new kids never arrived.

I had gone from living amongst people from all around the world, to moving into a predominantly white British community. I was about to start my life as a Catholic school girl, something I never thought would happen.

This was definitely the most difficult experience of my life. The school wasn’t welcoming; I didn’t get a buddy.

I didn’t have students fighting over who gets to show me around, I didn’t get to stand up in class and explain who I was, where I came from and what I had experienced.

When I entered the classroom, every kid turned their head and stared at me, the class went quiet and all I could hear was whispers amongst my now classmates…

“Who is she?”. My new teacher looked at me, asked me why I was wearing clear tights instead of black tights and then told me to sit down and open my diary as we were all about to pray.

My reaction was literally “WTF have my parents made me do? Pray?”.

Settling in was not easy, I was the outcast. I didn’t have a British accent, I had an international accent. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of students would talk to me, but they didn’t want to be my friend, they were just intrigued by me.

I felt like a performance monkey surrounded by an audience. “So, you speak Chinese?”, “Did you have a house in China?”, or “What did you eat for breakfast?” were amongst the questions I’d get asked on a daily basis while sitting in the corner of the common room.

I spent the final two years of my education dreading going to school, kids started bullying me because I was different to them.

I didn’t understand their slang, I didn’t wear as much make up, I didn’t know all the latest fashion or music trends. Girls used to push me over and tell me to “F*ck off back to China”.

Little did they know, I wish I could have. If it wasn’t for a handful of people at my school that I could call my friends, and who genuinely opened up to me, I don’t know what would have happened to me.

I’d have done anything to have known there was another international kid going through the same thing I was; it would have made the whole transition so much easier.

Being a TCK is easy, you’re surrounded by open-minded individuals just like you, we all want to hear each other's stories, and share our own. Losing that identity is what is hard, trying your hardest to fit into a community that is racist towards you, even though you’re white British, just like them.

By Coral Simpson

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