Painting Pictures: The Adopted Third Culture Kid

painting picturesThis week’s Painting Pictures post is by Galia Rautenberg. Galia is Israeli, married to a German, adopted a Chinese daughter, and the family lives in China. This post is a look at the unique challenges and special joys of raising an adopted child in her birth nation, which is not the birth nation of either of her parents. I love how Galia embraces all parts of their diverse family heritage and sees the beauty and the strength in that.

On Third Culture Kids and Adoption

Our family was completed three years ago by the adoption of our beloved girl in China. Until then we were just another couple, from two different countries with different cultures, different religions, with a cloud of complicated historical background above us, speaking different languages having different hobbies and both living outside of our passport country for many years. These are just too many reasons for a relationship to fail, but we overcame the obstacles by acknowledging the differences, respecting and embracing them.  We had been moving internally in China every few years due to my husband’s job. In this vast country even an internal move feels like going abroad to a new land, with various dialects spoken by locals, diverse delicacies and habits.

My husband is German, I am Israeli and our daughter is from China. We have been living in China for almost 14 years now and I am not sure yet how many years more we will stay. We are so used to the life here in a certain way but on the other hand we occasionally experience what every expat in this country knows well as “China days,” some very frustrating days when everything goes wrong, mostly due to miscommunication and dissimilar logic. We are living in a city with a very small expat community and limited social contacts.

Our daughter is five now and often asked by peers and adults whether she is Chinese or a “foreigner.” Well, it is the right question to ask as she is ethnically Chinese but her parents are not and she speaks some languages which they can’t understand. So is the fact she was born in China makes her Chinese? Is she Israeli/German born Chinese? She is living with western culture at home and with another one while outside. It would be helpful for the future to be part of a community where she is not the only adopted child and we hope to live in such place in the future, maybe in larger cities of China.

Our daughter attends a local kindergarten, where she is the only child with Caucasian parents. She is in her original culture, among her people, she looks like everybody else and yet is so different and draws so much attention mostly due to her parents who do not look the same as anybody else. She seems to enjoy the attention now but we are not sure if it will always be enjoyable.

Questions of relevance naturally don’t bother her much right now but we very often ponder what the future holds in this context. Despite the challenges of living in China we are so happy she gets the chance to grow up here. Even when we travel abroad, either for traveling or visiting our families she always expresses the desire to return to China, to her long-term friends, her room and comfort zone. However, on the day of her adoption and for the time being, she has crossed an unseen line from being a local, to somewhere between two parallel sets of races and cultures.

Mia speaks three languages; she is fluent in English and Chinese and able to speak (but mostly understand) Hebrew. This is another advantage of living in China. It is very important for us that she be fluent in Chinese, as we see it as a part of her identity but also will extend her possibilities, in case she would like to return to live in China or even in the business arena. One of the repeating questions that locals ask us is whether she can speak Chinese and they are thrilled to find out she does. Language is important and speaking the Chinese language can connect her, we hope, easily to her roots and origin, enhancing her feeling of belongingness. Our daughter is Israeli/German by passport but will she ever feel connected to her passport countries or will she see China as her primal and eternal home? We just hope she will find the balance of identity in a way that will comfort her and allow her inner peace, following her dreams and aspirations.

galia3One thing is certain, she is very cosmopolitan and looks very much at ease switching between languages and environments. She will surely grow to be a multi-cultural polyglot and will visit many more places than her friends.

Adoption is precious and we feel so blessed every single day. Inter-racial  adoption, just like every other adoption, is fraught with challenges, and yet wonderful. Being an adopted TCK child can complicate things but can also make it easier sometimes. We feel that our daughter’s unique TCK situation will teach her so much for the future and help her cope with some of the hardships she might face along the way, adoption related issues and others.

Galia has lived and worked in China for almost 14 years. She works as a freelance Chinese translator and online purchasing specialist. She is passionate about charity and volunteering in orphanages in China. She grew up in Israel until arriving in China at the age of 26 to continue her Chinese studies. Though she doesn’t have a blog of her own yet, she writes about life in China and hopes to publish a book one day as she surely has many stories to tell.