All TCKs are not the same!

Category: Third Culture Kids

TCK_fruitI realize this may seem obvious to some, but all Third Culture Kids are not the same.

I am constantly running into people who assume all TCKs should think or act the same. There are also many TCKs who question their own TCKness because they don’t “fit” the profile. They'll say: “I didn’t live internationally long enough.” “We hardly ever moved, so I wasn’t highly mobile.” “Everyone says TCKs have issues with patriotism but I am very patriotic and loyal to my passport country.”

None of these statements disqualify a person from being part of the TCK culture and certainly not all TCKs think or act the same way. Just like not all Americans think the same way.

The Third Culture Kid profile as Pollock and Van Reken discuss it, is more of a cultural profile. They write about general characteristics for a group of people. Very simply put, culture can be defined as a group of people with common behaviors, values, language, etc. Culture is largely determined by where a person resides. So here is the dilemma. There is no common place where TCKs reside. Yet, it is this very fact that is the common tie that makes up the foundation of the Third Culture. Growing up internationally, in one form or another, is at the core of the culture. Instead of belonging to a place that has a culture of people, TCKs belong to a people that have a culture of people. That in itself is a huge paradigm shift. Behaviors, values, language, vocabulary, worldview etc, have a commonality within the TCK community based on the life experience of growing up global.

And just like in any culture there are sub-cultures that “reside” within the larger TCK culture. TCKs may be a part of multiple sub-cultures or maybe part of only one or two. Some of those sub-cultures are:

  • Based on physical country of residence (TCK from Kenya vs. the TCK from Norway)
  • Based on nationality (the Korean TCK or the Brazilian TCK)
  • Based on the reason for being international (International Business Kid, Missionary Kid...)
  • Based on mobility (Highly mobile TCK vs. TCKs who rarely moved)
  • Based on environmental demographics (City TCKs vs. Bush TCKs)
  • Based on continental regions (Asian TCK, European TCK...)
  • Based on time (how long they were living internationally, age living internationally)

And the list goes on!

What an incredibly diverse culture! Yet, while never living in the same countries, or being citizens of a variety of nations or not living a common lifestyle they still share the same Third Culture…a culture of people.

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