I am a third culture kid.
And what is a Third Culture Kid?
Sociologist Ruth Hill Useem coined the term “Third Culture Kids” to refer to children who accompany their parents into a different culture. Useem used the term “Third Culture Kids” because TCKs integrate aspects of their birth culture (the first culture) and the new culture (the second culture), creating a unique “third culture”
Mikey and I are both from the San Francisco Bay Area.
While Mikey was raised in Bangladesh, the Phillipines, Ghana, New Zealand and France (with stints in the Bay Area), I was planted in the Pacific Basin: Fiji, Hawaii, Japan, Taiwan and Macau. I speak Japanese and some ASL and Mandarin Chinese (with smatterings of other languages that will be enough to get food but not much else); Mikey speaks French. Mikey picks up Spanish like a kid picks up candy from a busted pinata; I don’t. I’m not particularly linguistically inclined and I hate learning grammatical rules; Mikey loves that kind of thing. Oh, and I’m deaf! Mikey’s not.
Back to what a TCK is. Here are some “General Characteristics” , copy and pasted straight out of wikipedia:
TCKs tend to have more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCKs from their passport country. TCKs are often multilingual and highly accepting of other cultures. Although moving between countries may become an easy thing for some TCKs, after a childhood spent in other cultures, adjusting to their passport country often takes years.
There are different types of TCK’s and Mikey and I again really typify it. There are military/army “brats”, non-military government kids, religious/missionary kids, business kids and “other” (read tckid.com – great descriptions on all). Mikey was a diplomatic kid (his step-dad was the French Consul); I was a religious/missionary kid (my parents were Baha’i Missionaries, called “Pioneers” in the Baha’i Faith). Mikey had a driver; we took the local bus. Mikey went to posh international schools; we didn’t. Mikey was being groomed to be a diplomat; we were being groomed to create a new world order.
So of course, Mikey rebelled by becoming a bicycle mechanic and I rebelled by doing a whole lot of stuff that I don’t want to write about here because my mother will be reading this post.
Where was I?
Right. Different kinds of TCK’s. Mikey and I were polar opposites on the TCK spectrum but that doesn’t matter a bit. We connect on every single fundamental way that two people can connect (and get your mind out of the gutter, I’m not talking about sex). (Although I want to make jokes about having three kids now. But I won’t. My mom is reading this post). Mikey and I thoroughly understand the hard parts of being a TCK. We are absolutely, without doubt, members of our own tribe.
It really is a unique culture.
We are in a good place with raising our kids to be second generation TCK’s. I am pretty sure we are going to make mistakes, but I do hope that our combined experience in navigating these new waters of trans/cross culture will make it easier for our little soon-to-be global nomads. We both know, after all, that moving in and out of cultures and a travel-heavy life sounds sexy but it can be brutal on kids.
There is a lot of really fabulous information out there about TCK’s and that information is absolutely vital to any of you who have either spent a lot of time being raised abroad or are raising your own kids abroad now.
Some good sites for more information: