You Know You’re A Third Culture Kid When…

You Know Youre a Third Culture Kid TCK - Loneliness

“Where are you from?” has more than one reasonable answer.

You flew before you could walk.

You speak two languages, but can’t spell in either.

You feel odd being in the ethnic majority.

You have a passport but no driver’s license.

You go into culture shock upon returning to your “home” country.

Your life story uses the phrase “Then we moved to…” three (or four, or five…) times.

You wince when people mispronounce foreign words.

You don’t know whether to write the date as day/month/year, month/day/year, or some variation thereof.

The best word for something is the word you learned first, regardless of the language.

You get confused in the States because US money isn’t colour-coded.

You think VISA is a document that’s stamped in your passport, not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.

Passport stamps third culture kid
©cc by-sa 2.0 Megan Eaves

You own personal appliances with 3 types of plugs, know the difference between 110 and 220 volts, 50 and 60 cycle current, and realize that a transformer isn’t always enough to make your appliances work.

You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball.

You get homesick reading National Geographic.

You cruise the Internet looking for fonts that can support foreign alphabets.

America is dumb for not having the metric system.

Your minor in college is a language you already speak.

When asked a question in a certain language, you absentmindedly respond in a different one.

You miss the subtitles when you see the latest movie.

You’ve gotten out of school because of monsoons, bomb threats, and/or popular demonstrations.

You speak with authority on the subject of airline travel.

You have frequent flyer accounts on multiple airlines.

You constantly want to use said frequent flyer accounts to travel to new places.

You know how to pack.

You sort your friends by continent/time zone.

You realize what a small world it is, after all.

Where did the term “Third Culture Kid” come from?

Sociologist Ruth Hill Useem coined the term “Third Culture Kids” after spending a year on two separate occasions in India with her three children, in the early fifties. Initially they used the term “third culture” to refer to the process of learning how to relate to another culture;  in time they started to refer to children who accompany their parents into a different culture as “Third Culture Kids.” 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”.

There are many types of kids that are “Third Culture”: Army brats, diplomat children, adopted kids, kids of English teachers abroad,… There is no one type/one mold for the Third Culture Kid. They can be any shape, size, religion, race or demographic.

Did you know Viggo Mortensen is a TCK? | ©by-nc-nd 2.0 Chris Payne
Did you know Viggo Mortensen is a TCK? | ©cc by-nc-nd 2.0 Chris Payne

TCK Quick Stats

  • 90% feel “out of sync” with their peers.
  • 90% report feeling like they understand other cultures.
  • 80% believe they can get along with anybody.
  • 40% earn an advanced degree.
  • 44% earned undergraduate degree after the age of 22
  • 50% have described having a hard time making close friends.
  • 57% have described feeling depression in their lifetime.
  • 70% have admitted to loneliness during their upbringing.

Being a TCK means we have a lot of benefits in the world. For instance we’re more likely to finish school and have a higher degree, but at what cost? Many of us admit to being lonely and many TCK’s suffer from depression. How can we define ourselves, connect with others and reach out?

Is the internet the answer? Are websites and forums like THIRD CULTURE the answer? Or will it take more?

THIRD CULTURE is a platform for anyone who can relate to these issues. Whether you grew up in a different place than your parents or not. TC offers information and discussions about identity, culture, and belonging. Join us!

Cover picture ©cc-by-nd 2.0 Raul


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