Growing Up As A Third Culture Kid


The children of Expats, Diplomats and Military parents are known as Third Culture Kids. My mother worked for CIDA (the Canadian International Development Agency) and as a result I grew up in this group of children. My life was full of adventure, I had seen more places by the time I was 10 than many of my friends back home will ever see. This life can be hard on a child, having to move every 3 years or so, having to change schools, move houses, make new friends. But really, we do get very good at it. As a child, all I wanted was to settle down and live somewhere where I could see my friends during the holidays, where I could decorate my room and expect it to be there in 5 years. But now, having grown up with these experiences, I would not trade it for anything. I learned valuable lessons early, I have friends in every corner of the world, and I can function just about anywhere. Borders are just lines on a map, and I’m not afraid to cross them.

tckA Third Culture Kid, also known as a TCK, is a person who grew up in many places, usually more than one country. This prevents the child from identifying as much with the culture of their parents, and often results in a person who feels more at home in a culture that is not the same as the rest of their family. This can cause problems socially if the family doesn’t understand that, but more often it produces a person who is very aware of other peoples beleifs and practices, and is generally more tolerant of other viewpoints that a person who was never exposed to any other cultures.

TCKs tend to stick together, much like people in foreign countries tend to find people of their own origins, whether they would ever have associated with each other in their own country or not.

You Know You’re a TCK When…

You keep track of important events by which country you were living in at the time
When you tell your life story, every second sentence begins with “Then I moved too…”
You go to school in the tropics and go home for the holidays.
You find out about movies and music two years after they come out, and they are considered new
When people go home for holidays, you ask them to bring back your favorite candy
You know at least two languages fluently, and bits of a dozen others
Home is where you hang your hat… actually, not just as a saying
You had been to more countries before you were 10 than many people will see in a lifetime
You had a passport before you could walk
You’re more comfortable in an airport than a bus station
Airports are like bars to you, that’s where you run in to that friend you haven’t seen in years