By: Nabila Ayu Aviani
I am Indonesian by birth and nationality, yet Indonesia and being “Indonesian” feels so foreign to me.
Raised in a faraway land, in the United Arab Emirates, amongst the dunes and the deserts, in a land where the scorching heat burns to your bones, I’ve always seen Indonesia as a place merely for vacation purposes. When I was just nine years old, I moved away from Indonesia, and the place I once saw as home was no longer my home. Maybe once a year, during summer, I would go back for a month, going to the same cities, visiting the same group of people such as aunts, uncles, cousins, you know it. I have never made an Indonesian friend, and the ones I befriend are the same as me – English speaking, third culture kids who have forgotten about being Indonesian. Living in an international environment in which English was the primary language and going to a school where everyone speaks English, it was natural of me to progressively lose my ability to speak Indonesian fluently. I went to an international school filled with kids who are exactly like me, third culture kids who are raised in a country away from the country they are from.
I was raised amongst kids who were so native yet so foreign and just like them, I am also so native yet so foreign.
Even after I graduated from high school, my parents gave me the choice to go to university in any country I want, yet I chose to go to Europe, specially, the Netherlands, a country 20 hours from Indonesia by aeroplane. I have long forgotten about Indonesia, torn it from my heart, embarrassed about this huge part of my identity.
My mother always said it’s a blessing that I was raised overseas, speaking English better than I do speak my native language, going to an international school, and going to Europe for university – that the life I am living now is the life she dreamed of. It is a bittersweet feeling where on one hand her kids are able to fulfil her dreams for her, but at what cost? On the other hand, I suffer immensely with an identity crisis due to the diaspora. Globalisation caused the world to become more connected and being a third culture kid, my mind has learned to be resilient, flexible, and open to new changes. For instance, I am easily able to befriend people from all cultures, nationalities, and ethnicities because that was what I was raised with. I was exposed to people from all different backgrounds and it has made me open minded. Being a third culture kid is a double-edged sword as it has brought upon my resilience and open mindedness, yet I have this constant identity crisis – I do not know who I am.
I am Indonesian, yet I am more connected with Arabic and Dutch culture. I get more excited to eat shawarma and frikandel than to eat nasi goreng. I feel more at home in the Netherlands, the very country that colonised mine for three decades. I am even more comfortable speaking English than my own native language, Bahasa Indonesia. Far too westernised, my Indonesian accent when speaking Indonesian has long faded and my tongue gets tired when I speak my native language for too long.
I am so native yet so foreign.