Where am I from? Oulimata Soumare

If you’re not a Third Culture Kid but you identify with just tiny bits and bobs of other cultures in addition to yours RAISE YOUR HAND ! I am Oulimata and I was born and raised in Senegal. My story is slightly different from that of other TCKs, because I only claim one culture on my tax returns.

It all started fifteen years ago when my family moved to Johannesburg, and I found myself 6000 miles from home. I still remember how petrified I was on my first day at the French school in Morningside. Compared to the private catholic school I attended in Dakar, LJFV was small, chaotic and very anglophone. Amongst them, children spoke English, they carried lunch-boxes and played sports I had never heard of. It took my sister and I a couple of months to get acquainted with this new life. In order to fit in, we turned to television (DSTV we thank you) and somewhere along the first year we picked up more and more vocabulary to the point where our parents were no longer able to discuss adult business in English in our presence. I believe that once we got over the language barrier, life in Johannesburg became more pleasant. I attended the French school for over 9 years and most of my friends were non-South Africans. Hence why my exposure to the very diverse cultures in South Africa was very limited.

That being said, living abroad for our family has also been about recreating little bits of our lives in Senegal, meaning that Dakar was never far from our minds. Actually, the nostalgia of our native town grew from strength to strength as the years passed.

Fast forward to 2011, (because I didn't come to tell you my teen year struggles, neh?) In the midst of winter, I moved to Montreal for University. As I came across other young Senegalese, it became obvious to me that I had not experienced a typical Senegalese upbringing. Regardless of how much my very proud parents replicated many Senegalese traditions in our Johannesburg home, I turned out to be a Senegalese with an anglophile vibe. ( Y’all can blame Meguy for introducing me to Jamie Oliver, Hello Magazine and Premier league football). One of the things you will notice if you know me is that my accent shifts and changes according to what crowd I am with, and I am totally okay with it.

By the time I reached my mid-twenties, it dawned on me that living away from my beloved hometown had made an open minded and free spirited young adult. I love my culture and I cherish the traditions that have been passed onto me, but I also have the benefit of putting on the outsider hat from time to time. When and how I put on that hat mostly depends on my interlocutor (family members, friends and random strangers alike) who deem that with my cultural baggage I don't identify with so and so practice or belief. Out of annoyance or lack of energy for such behavior, I usually play along, and I let them assume that I am indeed not Senegalese enough. It’s a hat I have learned to appreciate as I realize that I am some sort of chameleon. One that switches back and forth between French and English ( damn you LFJV kids). Or one that found a home in Montreal, a routine to live by and made friendships for a lifetime (In Shaa Allah). Or even one that can settle anywhere overnight with just a suitcase in tow. All I can say for sure is that the peace and tranquility I find in Dakar is comparable to none. Each and every time I settle somewhere else, the urge to reconnect with Senegal becomes even stronger.

Aight, I’m done rambling now let’s play. It took me a LONG LONG TIME to write this because I kept telling Meguy that I wasn't a TCK (we need a name for the TCK-non-TCKs fam). So I’ve come up with a satirical description of different types of TCK’s so we can all feel like we belong somewhere nehhh? I suggested three, If it doesn't match your description, well SLIDE in the DM’s and let us know what is your prototype!

What kind of TCK are you?

TCK prototype 1 -

You have no memories of your native country, however, your household still functions as if you had never left the native land. All three meals must be pundu/thieb/fufu and stew or there will be a riot. Meanwhile, you can't be bothered by traditions that you don't understand, you stay in your room when your parents have guests because it’s all too overwhelming. You are only able to live your best life outside of your family home. Getting a place of your own is mandatory so you can actually host your circle of friends for wine and cheese night without having to explain who this boy/girl is to your parental unit.

TCK prototype 2

Your family emigrated to a new country in your early teens, you learned English on cartoon network and your funny American accent comes from there. You are currently in your mid-twenties and your native country, host country and current home are each an ocean apart. Your Instagram feed is a collection of three major cultures and your kids will have to learn all three of them. You can sing multiple national anthems and get moved to tears, your twitter bio had more than 3 flags up at the last world cup. You are a true world citizen.

TCK prototype 3

You have never been to your native country and the prospect of you going back are slim to none ( political stability, family feuds, natural hazards prevent you from going back)! You went through several phase trying to find your identity, you watched documentaries and heard stories of a land you have never known but cherish. You are saving up to tour several African (or on other continents) countries in an attempt to find the pieces of you that are missing. Your goal is to be a returnee by the time you turn 30. You have read all of aunty Chimamanda’s books, and by fire or by force that nappy hair will grow.

FYI, I'm more of a 2.


Bisous, Bye, Ciao !

Bisous, Bye, Ciao !


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