Third Culture Kids

When people ask my son ‘Where are you from?’ he often says ‘England’. Yes, he was born in England but only spent the first 3 months of his life there before moving to California and then at the age of 3 to China where he has spent the last 1.5 years. With one French and and one Australian parent……… I’m not sure just HOW he should respond to this seemingly simple question.


“A third-culture kid is an individual who, having spent a significant part of their developmental years in a culture other than their parents’ home culture, develops a sense of relationship to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Elements from each culture are incorporated into the life experience, but the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar experience.” (David Pollock)


I am too old to be a TCK according to this definition- but I feel like one nonetheless when I read the following:

“Many TCKs feel like they fit in both everywhere and nowhere at the same time. TCKs often find their home not in places, but in relationships with people.”

Thank goodness for the numerous methods of communicating across the globe – although the majority of them do not work well here!

Actually, another term coined for TCK is ‘global nomad’ which to me sounds far more romantic.

Robin Pascoe, paints an optimistic picture of what globally mobile children have the propensity to grow into.  She draws out the following six character traits that generally profile TCKs:

  • Alert, intelligent and geographically aware
  • Mature, sensitive and skilled at listening
  • Likely to exhibit tolerance and cross-cultural understanding
  • Flexible and open to change
  • High achieving
  • Drawn to careers associated with service to the community or the world
  • Ability to cope with loss
  • A panoramic window on the world

That paints a rather rosy picture……but TCKs can also face certain challenges:

  • Feelings of rootlessness
  • No real sense of belonging in any place
  • Difficulties settling down
  • Difficulties in making long-term commitments
  • Staying in contact with loved ones across various postings.
  • A peer group that is constantly in flux

I have met many adults who moved internationally numerous times when they were young. Some of them tell me that they have very fond memories of their childhood experiences while others do not, and would never wish that upon their own children. I think that my mum – who was a TCK might fit into the second category. The main goal she had whilst growing up was to settle down and have a family. It’s nice to fulfill one’s dreams.

Here’s hoping that our children retain a positive image of their childhood experiences abroad.

‘Shanglows’:  I was stuck in bed sick for two days

‘Shanghighs’: Being sick made me aware of some of the wonderful folk I’ve met over here: several mothers offered to pick-up, occupy and drop-off the kids, to provide dinner and my dear husband managed to attend a school event and pick-up some groceries. I suppose that expats are able to empathize with having a problem in the absence of family support.

‘Shangunusuals’: These metallic-painted cars are popping up all over town.



2 comments on “Third Culture Kids

  1. Reia Anquet says:

    Totally fascinating thanks Jenni!!!!!

    Miss you!!!!


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