Third culture Dubai

‘Third Culture Kids’ is the name for those who feel they have more than one nationality

Leilani Coughlin
Leilani Coughlin
Ivan Pambo-Pambo
Ivan Pambo-Pambo
Raisa L Naqvi
Raisa L Naqvi
Firas Al Jabi
Firas Al Jabi
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Leilani Coughlin, 24, Chinese-Filipino/Greek-Scottish

‘My mother is Chinese/Filipino and grew up in the Philippines, and my dad is Greek/Scottish and was raised in the UK, so I’m technically four different nationalities! I moved here in January. One of my best friends from Sri Lanka grew up here so he suggested it. I saw my chance to make a mark in the job world!

‘I guess culturally I’m mostly English, but then I’m also always aware that I’m not completely so. It’s not a bad thing – I guess it’s what makes me who I am. There’s a mix of different cultures and nationalities here. The area I lived in England is not the most ethically-diverse place. I feel quite comfortable here in Dubai because I know I’m among a real variety of different cultures, all mixed together.

‘Although Dubai is very westernised, it’s still enough of a change from the UK for me. But it’s a shame that learning about the UAE culture here isn’t pushed a bit more. I think even the events that are designed to show off the local culture are too touristy.’


Ivan Pambo-Pambo, 25, Gabonese/French

‘I came to Dubai a year ago to gain some experience abroad. There are a lot of different people here. I think the diversity is great. My answer to ‘that’ question about my nationality varies depending on who is asking me. If someone from Europe asks me where I’m from I say Gabon, but if someone from elsewhere asks I say France.

‘I like being here for the most part, except during the summer. I love the nightlife here. Boudoir is a great place, especially on Tuesday nights. I like Italian and Lebanese food, depending on the group I’m with. Most of my friends are French, probably because it’s easier to get close to those with similar life experiences to you, but I do have one Gabonese friend. I only know one other person from Gabon living here, besides me. And as far as I’m aware, there are absolutely no Gabonese restaurants in Dubai.

‘A lot of people have left Dubai since the recession started, but I’ve survived it. I want to stay here for at least another year, continuing with my job as a finance controller. Back in France, I think 20 per cent of my graduating class is jobless and 50 per cent hate their jobs.

‘Dubai: you don’t feel at home here but you don’t feel abroad either. Everybody is from everywhere. I haven’t discovered the local culture yet – perhaps because it isn’t essential to do so for survival here.’


Raisa L Naqvi, 19, Indian/Filipino

‘I’ve been in Dubai for roughly eight years now – it’s the longest time I’ve ever stayed in one place. Suffice to say, its home. My father’s Indian, my mum’s from the Philippines and I was born in Kuwait (14 days before the Gulf War) so you try and work out what nationality I am! Dad heard a rumour in Kuwait that people were kidnapping baby girls so he packed us up and had us leave for India [then on to Dubai]. He jokes that I was the reason for the war, and says something along the lines of ‘‘My daughter was so pretty that a war broke out in the Gulf!’’ I’ve lived in India, the Philippines, Singapore, New York, Kuwait and Doha, but wherever I go I always miss Dubai.

‘The thing about Dubai is that although there may be nothing in particular that draws me to it, nothing can draw me away from it either. I’m not saying that I don’t like the place – it’s just the kind of relationship I have with it.

‘My close friends are mostly Pakistanis, Indians and locals. I mesh with those who I think I’ll get along with personality-wise. ‘However, regardless of how much you love being here or how long you’ve been here, there’s always a part of you that knows you have to leave eventually. You can be here for more than 40 years but you still won’t get a local passport, and you will always be considered an ‘‘expat’’.

‘In the end, I believe that if you embrace the location you’re living in, eventually, the place will embrace you right back. This is a well-known Hindi proverb but I guess that’s kind of how it should sound when translated into English.’


Firas Al Jabi, 18, Syrian/Romanian

‘My mother is from Romania and my dad is from Syria. They needed to leave Romania after the revolution started. My dad saw opportunity in Dubai, so here I am. If I compare the place with Romania it feels safer, but I don’t feel at home either. It’s like something is missing. Fine, you have Ski Dubai, but the four seasons just kind of go past here without you noticing.

‘What I do like is that you can go anywhere, using Dubai as a starting point. It’s a good place to build your resumé. But the greatest disadvantage is that you can’t save money here. There may not be any taxes but you still always end up spending too much.

‘My brother and I are representing Romania in the local football championships next month. We practice at AUD or The Greens sometimes. I love malls (my favourite is The Dubai Mall), but food is my favourite subject. There’s a Lebanese restaurant called Al Hallab in Garhoud that I love, as well as Bait al Mendi on Rigga Street, Tony Roma’s – I could go on.

‘I guess I’ll stay here for another six years, only because by then I’ll have completed my degree in marketing and built up my portfolio. Dubai is giving me an education and entertainment but not oxygen! It’s too dry here; I feel like I can’t breathe!

‘The one thing I really miss about Romania is Santa Maria in summer. It’s when everyone from the village and city comes together to socialise and dance. Here, I just sit at home during summer, but I have my PS3 so I’m OK!

‘I think Dubai is an amazing place… for holidays. I feel that until the poorer classes are better accommodated here, in every way, the city won’t improve.’


What are third culture kids?

Third Culture Kids or ‘TCKs’ are people that integrate their first culture (usually that of their birth country) with a second culture (typically the new place they move on to) to create a mix, which equals a third culture. Usually, they’ll live in several countries as they grow up.
As well as being different nationalities, lots of parents of TCKs have jobs (military or businessfolk) that involve a lot of moving around. Whenever you ask a TCK where they are from, expect more than one logical answer to follow, along with a detailed history lesson. According to research completed by tckworld.com they actually experience a better overall education than the world average.

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