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TCKs don’t do ‘favourite places’

Her favourite place is up in the air

Her favourite place is up in the air

Growing up as a globally mobile kid, I occasionally felt bullied into defining my international identity in ways that made me uncomfortable. This happened, for example, when people insisted I give them an answer to the question, “So of all the places you’ve lived, what’s your favourite?”

If people who don’t move have one favourite place, shouldn’t I have one too?

But we don’t. Global nomads know that because we mature and change throughout our lives, we cannot possibly compare life in one place to life in another. Rio was terrific as a teenager, Beijing was great when I was young, single and worked, and so was Hanoi when I was full-time mother to two small children.

After 5 decades of moving about I now know that the different me’s in different places have different favourites for different reasons:

  • Favourite place to shop: Montreal & Sydney
  • Best house I lived in: Trinidad
  • Favourite quality of air: Tanzania
  • Best year-round temperature: Addis Ababa
  • Best social life: Rio de Janeiro and Lagos
  • Favourite breakfast: Quebec
  • Favourite architecture and furniture design: Indonesia
  • Best personal learning experience: Beijing and Maputo

And come to think of it, the question of ‘place’ is irrelevant to me: what makes any place special is the people I meet. I would be more interested in talking about the people who inspired me, whom I learned from and with whom I had memorable moments.

In the past, when I did try to answer honestly, people have actually argued with me: shopping is better in Paris (or wherever) than in Montreal. My answer cannot reflect a value on the BEST place but rather how a place affected me at a specific point in my life: I experienced the dry East African air and wide-open vistas of Tanzania’s wild plains after many years in humid and crowded cities in Europe and Asia; breakfast in Quebec recalls childhood memories that no five-star restaurant can compete with.

The point is that the question was never really about my preferences: it is nothing more than a hook in search of a topic of conversation. No one really cares if I have one favourite place and they don’t really expect an honest or thoughtful answer.

So now I have decided that the best response is ‘I have several favourites. What’s yours?’

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