What is a TCK?

If you have been having a nosey around the blog or you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the term TCK on more than one occasion. Let me clarify this three letter acronym for you, since I keep mentioning it. 

TCK stands for Third Culture Kid. Simple enough, right?

What is a third culture kid? 

I could talk about this for hours, but to avoid boring you, I’ll keep it simple.  Let’s start with a defnition.

“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture(s). Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. ”

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. David C. Pollock, Ruth E. Van Reken.

In essence third culture kids are people who have grown up among worlds.

It is important to note the fact that this cross cultural experience takes place during the ‘developmental years’ as their experience will be very different from that of their parent, even if they are experiecing a move overseas together.

As an adult, your sense of self has already been established and while you can experience the challenges of an international move, a kid is navigating those same challenges while still discovering who they are in relation to the world.

Their identity will become closely linked to this life experience. They learn to feel at home in-between worlds, never quite belonging to any.

Which is why third culture kids identify so strongly with other TCKs. People who have grown up with similar multicultural backgrounds find they no longer have to explain their experience and they can relax with people who simply ‘get it’.

There are positives and negatives to this, but as Ruth Van Reken mentions in this video, you can ‘take what is different to make a difference’.

A TCK manifesto

I am a local, I am a foreigner. I am familiar, I am a stranger. I belong everywhere, I belong nowhere. I am home, home is also far away. I am an outsider, I am one of the gang. I stand out and I also fit right in. My passport is from one country but I live in another. I have friends all over the world, someone is always too far away. I have tales of distant places still, I’m always learning local traditions. I speak several languages and I am bound to mix them together. I am the one who always travelled abroad for the holidays yet those who welcomed me always thought I was coming “home”. Many cities have adopted me and I have adopted several cultures. Whenever I’m somewhere I’m missing somewhere else. Each of our stories is unique but there are more of us than you may realise. Together we finally feel we’re where we belong. I am a TCK. All of this is “where I’m from”.

Resources for TCKs

Books about / for TCKs: