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Nth Culture Kid: The Story of a Hongkonger-American in Denmark

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

By: Pricilla Cheung

Pricilla in France

Hello/ 你好/ Hola/ Hej/ Hallo, my name is Pricilla.

I was born in Hong Kong, raised in the US, and I currently live in Denmark.

I guess I am a Third Culture Kid (TCK) — someone who grows up in a different culture than their parents or nationality — or even a “Nth” Culture Kid…?

“What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?”

A classic question in kindergartens. While most kids wanted to be a doctor, a teacher, or an astronaut, I said I wanted to be a traveler.

Traveling around the world has been my only dream since I was little.

Except, it didn’t stay a dream or a retirement plan, but became my reality. Not only have I traveled to 40+ countries, but I also have lived in 5 countries in my 20s.

Third Culture Kid as a Hongkonger

I was already a TCK even before I left my birthplace. During the British colonial era, Hong Kong has developed its own unique culture, identity, language, and values under both British and Chinese cultural influences.

It is a “third culture place” where East meets West.

This special status of Hong Kong has caused a profound identity crisis for many Hongkongers, including myself.

I am ethnically Chinese, but I am not technically Chinese — I was not born in China, I have never held a China passport, and I identified more with the British value systems.

Hong Kong © Paul Yeung / Bloomberg

“Fifth” Culture Kid as a Hongkonger-American

The year I moved to the US alone as a young teen was a turning point in my life.

I lived in a Mexican-American host family in Southern California, with a significant Mexican population and cultural influence.

Therefore, I was not only adapting to the American culture but also – interestingly enough – the Mexican culture and Spanish language.

It was a special year when I had gained so much insight into both “worlds,” while sharing a piece of Hong Kong to people around me.

With significant exposure to the American and Mexican culture, I felt like I became a “fifth culture kid.”

I also began to discover my new identity as a global citizen, as well as my passion for traveling and intercultural exchange.

After that, I moved up to Portland, Oregon, where I called “home” for the next ten years.

Pricilla in Oregon

It is a period of my life where I have started embodying, developing, figuring out, even wrestling with my identity as a Hongkonger American.

Well, also Asian American or whatever labels society puts on me.

“Sixth” Culture Kid as a Hongkonger-American in Denmark

In 2017, I made a bold decision to quit my job in the US and pursue my master’s in Intercultural Studies in Denmark.

Denmark, a country that almost never crossed my mind.

Aarhus, Denmark © Away and Far

Aarhus, a city that I had never heard of before. That’s a real adventure, right?

During my time here, I have learned so much about Danish culture, language, history, food, and the “hyggelig” (cozy) way of life.

It is a blessing to study what I love and apply what I studied right away while living my “European Dream.”

“Seventh” Culture Kid as a %^&+*@? (too long)

During my MA program, I went on an Erasmus exchange in the Netherlands — the fifth country and the seventh culture I have lived in so far.

While I fell in love with the Netherlands, an old friend came back: my identity crisis.

“Where are you from?” became the most casual question to ask but most challenging to answer.

I was a “Hongkonger American who came to the Netherlands on an exchange from Denmark.”

With the strangest and funniest identity, my shortest self-intro would still take three times longer than other people.

To make things “easier,” I was holding five different IDs simultaneously at that time: a US and Hong Kong passport, a Danish and a Dutch residence card, and a China travel permit (as a Hongkonger).

Nth Culture Kid as a World Traveler

Besides living in five different countries, I have also been traveling around the world, like I was born to.

When I was an exchange student in Singapore, I visited nearby countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Taiwan.

After I graduated with my bachelor’s, I took a gap year to serve on Logos Hope (a missionary ship) alongside 400 volunteers from 60+ countries.

I sailed from the Middle East to SE Asia during my time on board.

It was yet another life-changing experience that shaped my faith and identity.

In 2015, I went on my first dream trip to Europe.

I have also discovered joy as a solo backpacker, especially in “mysterious” places like Cuba and Bermuda.

Pricilla in Cuba

Ever since I moved to Denmark, I have managed to explore many parts of Europe.

Every trip and every encounter with people has shaped my identity a little more.

The more I see the world, the more I realize I haven’t seen much.

A Piece of Advice for TCKs

Because of my experience, I have come to realize that identity formation is a complicated, ongoing process.

Finding out “who I am” can be frustrating sometimes, but our TCK identity is what makes us unique.

Who cares if we are an “Nth culture kid” if that gives us cool stories to tell? I found life much easier when we shift focus from “where are you from” to “where are you going.”

So, where are you going next? :)


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