Third Culture Adult in the Metaverse
October 17th, 2021

Dao produces one (universe),                                              
One produced two (of YIN and YANG),                                          
Two produced three (of Heaven, Earth and Man),                    
Three produced the universe of all things.

Lao Zi, Dao De Jing

I used to live a double life in high school:

  • Daytime: lovely A-class student with good grades in the physical world
  • Lunch break and nighttime: underground gamer collecting skins/weapons and fighting opponents to level up in the virtual world.

One day, my teachers discovered my secret identity by spot-checking the Internet Cafe. I was caught up onsite and told to quit playing games and focus more on the hyper-competitive Colleague Entrance Examination.

Instead of deleting my account as ordered, I sold it online and made a couple hundred bucks. That hot springtime in 2007 is still vivid in my memory - the first time I tasted the power of making money from the virtual world.

Although I’m moderately popular with my social skills in school, I constantly feel intellectual isolation with randomly allocated classmates around me. But in the virtual world, I can cross my physical boundaries and meet like-minded people from all over the world.

While surfing and catching waves in the online world, I notice that a relatively large number of people like me don’t want to be limited by their physical locations and prefer to explore cultures and languages beyond their own.

At the same time, so many of us have gone through a multicultural identity crisis and have rootless and isolated feelings along the way.

Since I grew up in China, moved to New Zealand in my adult year and live in Europe now, I don’t have a good answer to the questions like ‘where are you from?’ and ’which team do you support?’

People like me could belong to any culture, but none of the cultures would accept us as their own. We could behave and talk with people from different countries in their way, but they might still feel like we are an alien trying to integrate into their territory.

Also, constantly moving and exploring the physical world means we won’t have stable 9-5 jobs. When people ask me what do I do, I don’t have the right answer. Writer? Founder? Podcaster? Investor? A Chiwi girl with two newsletters? I have so many titles, and I’m sure the list will grow over time.

People suggest that Third Culture Kids (TCK) might be the closest term to describe my multicultural identity and the feeling of belonging everywhere but nowhere. But I’m not a typical example of TCK like Barack Obama, born in Hawaii and spent a formative part of his childhood in Indonesia as a son of an American mother and a Kenyan father.

Then I heard that Starbucks has built up the Third Space Empire for creating physical public spaces for congregating and socialising. But since the collapse of boundaries between the real and online world, people need a hybrid space that allows them to engage with one another no matter where and when and form a solid social interaction and connection.

Third Culture Kids, The Third Space… Three is a magic number that I learned from studying Chinese philosophy. Just as Lao Zi said, “Three produced the universe of all things.”

So I borrowed the idea from above and coined the term Third Culture Adult (TCA) - an adult who absorbs first-hand experiences from multiple cultures and plays the Great Online Game in the Metaverse.

Looking through history, the connections between different cultures never cease to stop in our physical world:

  • Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is considered one of the first Western intellectuals to adopt ideas from traditional Chinese philosophies Yi Jing to develop the binary number system that is still being used today.
  • Beethoven read the ancient Hindu text Bhagavad Gita to deal with his deafness and isolation and created masterpieces that we are still listening to in two centuries.
  • Queen Elizabeth I wrote a letter to Chinese Emperor Wanli of Ming back in 1602, attempting to establish direct trade with China.

While in the Metaverse, the scale of intellectual fluidity and international business could reach exponential growth. I can remote work with clients from three continents and make business deals; You may mint an NFT produced by someone who lives in the middle of nowhere, 20 years younger than you and live a different life IRL.  When monoculture collapse in the Metaverse, we discover a Third Culture, which contributes to exchanging ideas beyond language and border barriers. When we look beyond stereotypes and do not tie our identity with a single title, we become Third Culture Adults, who embrace different cultures and societies with an open heart.

John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.” In today’s context, the ‘main’ is no longer limited to our physical world but extends to the Metaverse.

That lonely girl who used to play video games by herself now finally find her tribe.

Here in the Metaverse, I met so many passionate people eager to learn from each other with curiosity. Let’s build the Third Culture Adult community ($TCA) and play the infinite game together!

p.s. I wrote a novel titled The Invisible Third Culture Adult during the lockdown in 2020. It’s full of inside Easter Eggs that only TCA should be able to resonate with and have laugher. Enjoy  :) ​

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