The Third Cultured Friendship

The Key to Longevity is Friends

I deliberately waited for some time before I published a post on this topic, because I know I will launch into verbosity. Earlier this year, I was surfing through the Facebook profile of a rather prominent face promoting the cause of TCKs worldwide, and clicked on an April 2009 article from The New York Times called “What Are Friends For? A Longer Life”. The article, which is a commentary on a ten-year study focused on the connection between friendships and a person’s well-being, and extrapolations from said study, pretty much highlighted on this established life truth. I personally don’t believe that it takes a decade to know a direct relationship between life quality and friendship exists, but should that have been something new to a freshly enlightened reader, then I sincerely congratulate them.

Naturally, a degree of common ground is necessary for a friendship to work out. Whether the common ground lies in a shared interest or experience, the lack of common ground would only prove otherwise. Forcing a point of view towards to someone who cannot share the same sentiment does not a healthy friendship make. Sometimes it takes more than just the sheer force of will to maintain a quality relationship of any kind. Plus, it wouldn’t be doing anyone any favours if the inherent connection simply isn’t there.

Transcending Borders

The main example in the article piqued my attention. From Jeffrey Zaslow’s book “The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a 40-Year Friendship”, the example is a summary of the life stories of 11 women who first meet as children and cultivate a life-long friendship that transcends years, walks of life, and most especially physical distance. In times of growing up, marriage, children, divorce, sickness, death, the women from Ames were the unquestionable and primary source of support for each other. It didn’t seem to even be a matter of conscious commitment — though that could have played a role in their lasting friendship, too — but the greater motivation was the comfort, and ultimately the resulting overall sustenance all of them gained from it:

Exactly why friendship has such a big effect isn’t entirely clear. While friends can run errands and pick up medicine for a sick person, the benefits go well beyond physical assistance; indeed, proximity does not seem to be a factor.

The above quote was as subtle as a cooking pan to the face. While my magic number may not be 11, the sentiments behind all the individual women is something I see among my close friends, and I would like to believe that years from now, they’ll still be the same people who’ll have my back. I couldn’t help but start considering my own friendships, and true enough, certain patterns exist.

My Friendships Tend to Transcend Distance

As a product of the third culture, I am much closer to people who do not see distance as a direct determinant to how close, friendship-wise, they feel they should or could be with someone. One of the main things I learnt from an international education is that people come and go — physically. It happened in a small scale the end of every school year, and it happened en masse during graduation. Consequently, I looked beyond those within reach and now still keep in constant contact with people from various corners of the world. Nothing drives me further away from someone than the act of asking me when I’ll be physically in the same area as them, and then cease contact if I cannot make any immediate plans to visit. Accessibility goes beyond tangibility in friendship.

My closest friends are in other parts of Asia, Europe, and the United States. None of us have been in the same country simultaneously for more than half a decade. Yet regardless of the distance or time zone, I would still turn to these people for a shoulder to lean on because not only do I trust their counsel, but there are times when I’d rather confide in a very good friend located thousands of miles away rather than an acquaintance I bump into regularly. I’d like to believe that one has the capability to be friends with someone else, regardless of location, rather than depending solely on whether or not both pairs of feet share the same soil.

My Friendships Tend to Transcend Cultures

I also learnt how quickly I gravitate towards people who possess an acute curiosity for the world around them, particularly for cultures of region, language, and arts. A penchant for or a desire to travel is a very big plus. It isn’t a coincidence that almost all of my closest friends are TCKs or at least lived in more than one country. But allow me to point out this is not to be mistaken as an exclusionary preference. Back when I was still very much struggling with my third cultured identity, I often wondered why some people seemed to have an apathy for the world on the global view. There are countless times when I have been scrutinised for having friends different from my ethnicity by those who have never had the opportunity to gain such an appreciation. They could not bring themselves to understand why I was far more interested in the countries people lived (particularly in terms of where and how many) and how many languages they spoke, than something more congenital, like their heritage. Unlike them, my comfort zone was that of diversity. In my frustrated view, their lack of care was pathetic and irritating.

But as I grew to become more comfortable in my own cross-cultural skin, I realised that it all boiled down to experience. My experience concentrated on the global worldview and the privilege of having so-called “little version of the globe” among my circle of friends. So, just like everyone who is motivated by the comfort of common ground, my interest is instantly piqued when I meet someone who has a similar experience to mine.

My Friendships Tend to Transcend Profession & Religion

While a large handful of my friends are in the creative industry, these are connections made due to circumstantial aspects, such as college or the workplace. But I have met people outside of these situations, and it’s interesting to hear about various lines of work. Similarly with religion. I know a lot of Catholics because of attending Mass, but the religious make-up of my friends is coloured with many more beliefs. Having a common religion is definitely not a basis for friendship for me, and I tend to be put off by those who use that to “sort out” people — then again, that’s for an entirely different post.

What About You?

Do you find yourself gravitating towards certain types of people? Aside from trust and honesty, what type of characteristics are you attracted to in a friend?


  1. Nikz

    Although I have friends from various nationalities, I still find myself gravitating towards the “third-culture” Filipinos. Those who grew up in the Philippines but have lived in another country or two (and have come to appreciate the culture/experience as well).

    Thinking about it, I generally like befriending people who have a deep appreciation for life in its fullest (with the ups and downs). ^^

    I just noticed that this is probably the first “personal” blog post on ;) I missed reading these!

    Hope your pre-Christmas days are going smoothly! ;) Take care! ♥

  2. Chris

    You and I posted a very similar topic on the same day, no less!

    I can be friends with anyone, but to be good friends, I tend to get along with people who are characters. Meaning, their personality is unique and replete with the usual idiosyncrasies associated with neurosis. I guess it’s only natural; you don’t see the typical clubber hanging out at Gardeners Are Us, right?

    To me, to be my friend is to be yourself and you letting me be myself.

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