My life changed forever when I was five.

Memories of that time are patchy. Being told we were going to live in Africa for a while. Being scared of planes – everyone said they would be noisy. Being worried that I wouldn’t know enough English to get by.

That was the beginning of my transformation into a TCK. Yet another three-letter acronym?

Wikipedia says, ‘Third Culture Kids (abbreviated TCKs or 3CKs) (aka. Global Nomad) “refers to someone who [as a child] has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture”… Sponsors are generally broken down into five categories: Missionary (17%), Business (16%), Government (23%), Military (30%), and “Other” (14%).’

When these children return to their passport (or birth) culture they often experience reverse culture shock, because their frames of reference are different from that of their non-TCK peers.

TCKs are adaptable. One eats with one’s hands in Pakistan, with chop-sticks in China. And it’s still food. One doesn’t have to decorate and fit-out a baby’s room when expecting one’s first child. While they do in Australia, they don’t in the Sudan.

TCKs often have soft hearts for the nations. They have the potential to understand international affairs better than non-TCKs, simply because they have lived in other countries.

They will often love and relate to people regardless of skin-colour. They know that people have the same needs and feelings all around the world.

TCKs dig deep. They often cannot be defined by what they own or who they hang out with. These things are constantly stripped from them as they move from one culture to another. They have to dig deep to find out who they really are.

My mother speaks fondly of the place of her childhood. To her it is beautiful: full of laughter, friends, and family. Ultimately home is about the people we identify it with. But its very stones can reflect those personalities, leaving us longing for that one special place, wherever we go.

I do not have such a place.

TCKs learn quickly that home is not a physical place. It is, literally, where the heart is.

Being a TCK has been the most significant formative experience of my life. I will post here about my experiences as a third culture kid, and also review some relevant sites and resources.

My opinions and experiences are not universal to third culture kids. I would love to hear of other TCK experiences. So, if you are one, or know of someone who is, please comment on the articles here.

Thank you!

(Read more about the TCK phenomenon and Dr Ruth Hill Useem who first coined the term at Wikipedia)

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7 Responses to “How I became a Third Culture Kid”

  1. Hmmm. Well, so this is a blog. Now I know!

    Yeah, I am a sort of third culture kid, I suppose. I hadn’t thought of it before. I spent four of my teenage years in Singapore, and it did change me.

    I like this blogsite. I think it is very attractive in its minimalism and its colour scheme.

    Susie, you did a great job Sunday, and we missed you three yesterday afternoon.

  2. Thanks Julia for my blog’s first comment – yaay! And for your kind words! It’s amazing how many third culture kids (and sort of third culture kids) are out there.

  3. Sometimes I think there are more pain than joy being a TCK. But then again no pain no gain right :)

  4. Yep, that’s right! :-)

  5. Hii.
    i’m a third culture kid from tckid. I saw your website link at the web page below and stopped by to check out your website.


    It’s great you are blogging your TCK feelings and thoughts. I like creative writing too :)

  6. Hi miyon, thanks for stopping by! I have a lot to learn, both about creative writing and the network of TCKs out there.

    It would be good to read your work some time.


  1. | Musings of a Third Culture Kid

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