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Identifying Home : Third Culture Kids

Third culture kid: A child who spends parts of developmental years in cultures outside of their parents’.

The journey of a third culture kid involves constant transition, voyaging from one non-native culture to another. It may seem like a dream for some – to be able to spend years in different countries, soaking up traditions, watching different horizons, walking down streets resounding different foreign languages and the excitement of boarding a plane to a brand new, temporary home. As magical as it may sound, the real struggle occurs in “identifying” with a culture as one’s own.

The struggle is in identifying “home”.

Struggles of a TCK:

1. The most annoying question: Where are you from? –
Providing in-depth explanations of each life-transition can be exhausting.

2. Long-Distance Friendships and Relationships –
Goodbyes are frequent and painful. TCKs are forced to leave close friends to form new ones in a new place on a regular basis.

3. Competence –
Adapting to different sets of spoken and unspoken rules and norms can influence competence. TCKs’ behaviours and skill set could be acceptable in one culture and forbidden in another. Therefore, the sense of self and being good at something changes according to feedback acquired from different environments.

4. The Imposter Syndrome –
Some TCKs face troubles accepting or acknowledging their own potentials and achievements, due to the underlying fear of not “really having what it takes” or “not belonging”

Strategies to overcome these struggles:

1. Avoid Generalization –
Discard generalized statements or assumptions about a culture before entering it. Avoid statements like “They’re all good at math” or “They’re all materialistic”. Freely engage with people and be open to learning the ways of a new culture. You might just find great friends and a fulfilling temporary home.

2. Keeping an open mind –
Focusing on the bright side of being a third culture kid could ease the process. Perks of being a TCK include; being able to speak multiple languages, broader assimilation of world views, and the ability to be flexible and adaptive in novel situations.

3. Finding Support –
Parents and schools can work together to ensure smooth transition. A helping hand goes a long way in enabling TCKs to cope with major life changes. They can be isolated, withdrawn, anxious, angry or throw tantrums. Noticing these changes and addressing them is crucial.


– Juanita, Admin Intern.

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