On Monday, I will be taking a plane back to France. As part of an international exchange program, I was offered the opportunity to study here for a semester; this has given me some food for thought.
In the pre social media era before the rise of Facebook, Instagram and 24/7 connectivity, there was a generation of kids called “global nomads”. These were the children of military personnel, diplomats and expatriates, being uprooted from their passport country by their parents, going from school to school, from one culture to the next, with an abrupt sort of regularity. Every year, or every two years – put your things in a cardboard box, we’re moving.
Maybe you’re already familiar with the term, because you were a 3rd culture kid yourself, or because one of your friends grew up that way. I was lucky, or unlucky enough to be one as well.
The global nomad childhood was an alienated one. In the days before social media, there was nowhere near the amount of media and cultural exchange between countries as there is today. Children from Denmark might have known known Harry Potter and The Hulk, but that is where our shared baggage stopped.
So as I returned to the USA after 17 years abroad, I couldn’t help but wonder: is the term still relevant today? Even as we speak, thousands, millions of 8 year olds across the globe might be watching the same youtube videos or playing the same online games; these are shared cultural experiences in a sense, as well as shared consumption behaviors.
This isn’t to say that cultural alienation is a dead concept – quite to the contrary. As the lines are blurred between national and supra-national identity, it becomes even harder to distinguish why these children are so different than me – despite having these shared cultural experiences, the underpinnings of national identity – the national myth, value systems and social stratification – are more present than ever.
As the post-social media generation comes of age, I am curious to see how they will relate to these issues – if at all.
If you’ve enjoyed reading about global nomads, here are some ramblings I’ve written on the subject