We welcome back Third Culture Kid Tiffany Lake-Haeuser to the Displaced Nation. (She last joined us during fashion month.) Born in the United States to German parents, Tiffany returned “home” to Frankfurt when she was six. But then at age 13, she moved with her family to Abu Dhabi, UAE. Now back in Frankfurt, this 16-year-old divides her time between this city and Paris, where her father currently resides. So which team(s) does Tiffany support in the Olympics? That’s the million-euro (or is it dollar?) question.
I was never really very interested in sports. This year, during the Olympics, that changed. You still won’t find me glued to the television to see all the events, but I’m definitely more interested than in the past.
Then of course, there is the somewhat confusing decision of which country to cheer for. Do I support my heritage and the country I now live in, Germany? Or do I support the country I was born in and often associate with, the USA? Well for me it was easy to decide. You see, I am extremely competitive and enjoy cheering for the country that wins, which for the most part leads to me cheering for the USA.
I watched the pre-Olympic trials for the American gymnastics team when I was in the United States visiting childhood friends earlier this summer. I was gobsmacked — not only by the amazing talent of the athletes, but also by the enthusiasm shown by the spectators. I think that’s when I caught the Olympic bug. Suddenly I was eager to see the team compete for gold in London.
But when I got back in Germany, there was barely any sign that the Games were fast approaching. Maybe I was just in the wrong environment, but no one was even talking about it. Even when the Games started, it felt like no one cared. The most excitement I observed was a small promotional program by a pharmacy(!). Unless I was on some social networking site, I barely ever exchanged views with anyone about what was happening at the Olympics.
While waiting for the Games to start, I did some research and found out that since the modern Olympic Games began, the USA has always been in the top three countries when it came to the number of medals won.
This history made me even more inclined to support my other “home” country. I love cheering for countries that are doing well. I love being a fan.
Go USA! Hmmm…unless it’s soccer?
As anyone who read my March interview with The Displaced Nation knows, I’m something of a fashionista. I love the idea of showing some pride for the US team by wearing red, white and blue. It may seem petty, but half the fun of watching the Olympics for a non-athlete like me is getting dressed up and painting your face in your team’s colors.
That’s something I picked up from Germany, in fact. Germans get truly pumped up for one thing: soccer. It’s our pride and joy. During the European Cup or the World Cup, Germany is transformed into a black, red and golden country. While in the USA people have flags hanging by their doors all year long, in Germany that happens only during these major soccer events.
One test of which side I was on in the Olympics came when a friend tried to bug me by saying that Germany was being beaten by his country in some sport. To be honest, I didn’t mind that much. All I could think about how well Gabby Douglas was doing in gymnastics.
Does this mean I am not proud of my German heritage? It definitely doesn’t; by the next soccer game you will see me losing my voice for cheering on Germany.
So it really isn’t that straightforward or clear. You never truly stop cheering for a country that means something to you. All you can really hope for is that the two countries’ teams never play against each other…
Go women athletes!
On a different note, I was excited to hear about how every country sent women to the Olympics this year. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I do think gender equality is important, and that a country that is sending its women athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time is taking a big step. I hope that gender equality in sports can become the new standard. Some day, perhaps, it will be considered so normal it won’t even make the headlines.
Having lived for three years in Abu Dhabi, I was particularly interested in the news about Saudi Arabian women participating in the Games. I know from experience how easy it is for us Westerners to look at Arab women wearing the hijab and think they are less liberated than we are. When I saw the Saudi women walking behind the men during the London opening ceremony, I was not surprised so much as humbled. Not everyone sees equality in the same way as we Westerners do.
Likewise, I didn’t think it was fair for the International Olympic Committee to consider banning the judo wrestler Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani from dressing according to the traditions by which she was raised. (In the end, they compromised on a cap for her to wear instead of the hijab.) To some degree, I admire Saudi Arabia for insisting upon preserving its cultural identity and traditions in face of the influence of Westernization.
By the time the Games end on Sunday, I think my favorite part will not be about having supported a particular country. The best part, in my opinion, has been seeing the people who rise to the occasion and do phenomenally well. It sounds cheesy, but you can see in their eyes the joy and relief that all their hard work and training has finally paid off — in the moment that counted, they were able to be the best they could be.
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Readers, any thoughts on or reactions to Tiffany Lake-Haeuser’s dilemma? Please put them in the comments. You can also follow what she is up to on her blog, Girl on the Run.
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)
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Images (clockwise from top left): Tiffany; German fans at a football match, courtesy of Uwe Hermann on Flickr; Saudi judo wrestler Wojdan Shaherkani via Wikimedia Commons; USA fans at the London 2012 Olympics, courtesy John Smith via Flickr.