A TCK? Yes, but he calls SZ home
Writer: Song Yingwen | Editor: Zhang Chanwen | From: Shenzhen Daily | Updated: 2023-10-17
It feels natural to recognize Sushant Sirigeri as a “second-generation Shenzhener” when talking to him on the phone or through text messaging on WeChat.
This young man, who grew up in Shenzhen, speaks fluent Mandarin and writes proficient Chinese. However, he is actually a third-culture kid (TCK), a term coined in the 1950s by U.S. sociology and anthropology researchers John and Ruth Unseem to describe individuals who spend a significant part of their childhood living outside their passport countries.
Sirigeri, 26, was born in Hyderabad, India, and moved to Shenzhen with his family when he was just 1 year old. He attended school in Shenzhen before completing his undergraduate studies in finance in Chicago. Afterward, he returned to Shenzhen to join his father’s business.
“Growing up in Shenzhen was a unique experience. I think my Indian background has mixed with Chinese culture, creating a new identity for me,” Sirigeri said. “It’s a blend of both cultures, allowing me to embrace the positives of both sides.”
While picking up the Chinese language was not a significant challenge for him, as he grew up in a Chinese-speaking community, understanding the culture still remains a lifelong task. Even after living in China for 26 years, Sirigeri admits that he still encounters puzzling facts and is often confused by Chinese customs. He mentions being bemused by the tradition of offering tea to both the bride and groom’s parents in a wedding ceremony.
“Understanding the meaning of certain practices takes time,” he said happily. “The best way to overcome these challenges is to never stop asking questions.”
Despite living in Shenzhen, maintaining a connection with his Indian culture has not been a challenge for Sirigeri. As Shenzhen becomes more diverse in terms of economy and culture, so does its expat population, including the Indian community. Traditional Indian festival celebrations have played a crucial role in keeping him connected to his cultural heritage.
Navigating between multiple cultural identities has given Sirigeri a unique perspective on certain topics, different from his counterparts in India who share the same cultural background. “There are situations where I feel more connected to the identity of a Shenzhen citizen, but there are also instances where I strongly identify as an Indian. It all depends on the circumstances,” he explained. This unique experience has served as an advantage, providing him with a perspective that not many people have.
This perspective also proves valuable when confronted with questions comparing China and India. Sirigeri finds it disheartening to see the misunderstandings that exist between people, but he does his best to resolve these misapprehensions.
As a young entrepreneur, Sirigeri always introduces Shenzhen to his overseas counterparts as a modern, well-developed international city with numerous opportunities for career development and entertainment. When hosting visitors from India, he likes to show them around Sea World in Shekou, a place that represents the perfect blend of economy and international cultures, and symbolizes Shenzhen’s development. Additionally, he impresses first-time visitors with a stunning aerial view of the city from the top of the Ping An Finance Center. However, he also makes sure to include traditional tourist attractions like Splendid China•China Folk Culture Villages to provide a taste of traditional Chinese culture.
“Shenzhen always strikes them as a modern city with convenient transportation and an impressive online payment system,” he noted.
While moving to Shenzhen with his parents at a young age was a fate he had no choice in, settling down in the city as an adult was a spontaneous decision for Sirigeri. “I have spent 90% of my life in this city, and I have made friends here. I would say Shenzhen is my number one home,” he concluded.
Sirigeri’s criterion for judging an international city heavily relies on its variety of food options, and Shenzhen excels in this regard. Dongmen in Luohu, CocoPark in Futian, and The MixC World in Nanshan are his favorite places to indulge in various cuisines.
“If a city can attract expat professional chefs to open restaurants that offer foreign gastronomy, it shows that the place provides a satisfying business environment,” he stated.