New Series on Djibouti Jones

Today I’m sending you over to Djibouti Jones where Rachel Pieh Jones launches a series on Third Culture Kids. The most popular posts on Communicating Across Boundaries are overwhelmingly those that process the TCK experience.  As an adult third culture kid who raised third culture kids for 11 years, I am deeply connected to the topic. With that in mind I knew many of you would be interested in following this series.

Rachel begins the series with an essay by Ruth E. Van Reken, co-author with David Pollock of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. I have included a short excerpt and you can follow the rest at Djibouti Jones. Please weigh in through the comment section of that post!


Who are third culture kids?

In the late 1950s, Ruth Hill Useem, originator of the third culture kid term, simply called them “children who accompany parents into another culture.” While she did not specifically say so, all those she originally studied were in another culture due to a parent’s career choice, not as immigrants or refugees. Dave Pollock later defined TCKs as those who have “spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture(s).” He then went on to describe them by adding “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.

This descriptive phrase seems to be part of where some confusion rests. It is absolutely true that any given TCK or by now adult TCK (ATCK) often personally incorporates various aspects of his or her life experiences into a personal world view, food preferences, or cultural expectations. That’s why many TCKs and ATCKs relate to the metaphor of “being green” that Whitni Thomas describes in her lovely poem “Colors.” There she writes how she feels both yellow and blue in her different worlds but wishes there was a place to “just be green.” Ironically, many TCKs do feel “green” when with others of like experience, as Pollock describes. This is where they don’t have to explain this desire to be both/and rather than being forced to choose an either/or identity. Other TCKs easily understand because many feel the same way, no matter which country their passport says is “home” or which countries they have lived in. But putting various pieces of different cultures together is not the third culture itself, although it is a very common (and wrong) way many describe it. Read more here.

Three Kids out of Five by the pyramids
Three Kids out of Five by the pyramids – Cairo was home for 7 years