What is a Third Culture Kid?
Definitions for Third Culture Kids are not static – because research is always emerging, and our world is always changing, there is a need for definitions to sometimes change. The following is a definition that I have taken from work done by Michael Pollock and Ruth Van Reken – both leaders in the TCK work and research world and both Adult TCKs.
“A TCK is a person who has spent a significant part of their developmental years between two or more cultures where aspects of their societies are exchanged . Common elements are geographic mobility and social fluidity.”
The history of the term comes from sociologist Ruth Hill Useem who coined the term “Third Culture Kids” after spending a year on two separate occasions in India in the early fifties. On observing the children of expatriates, Useem realized that they neither fully integrated with their parents’ home culture or with the Indian culture that surrounded them. She used the term “Third Culture Kids” because TCKs integrate aspects of their birth culture (the first culture) and the new culture (the second culture), creating a unique “third culture.”
Third Culture Kid Blogs:
- Families in Global Transition is my favorite organization for all things expatriate, including Third Culture Kids and Cross Cultural Kids. This is where you can connect to people all over the world who know what it is to live, work, and think globally. They hold an annual conference that is an amazing time of connection and growing. Their mission is the following: “Families in Global Transition is a welcoming forum for globally mobile individuals, families, and those working with them. We promote cross-sector connections for sharing research and developing best practices that support the growth, success and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world.“
- TCK Training is founded by Lauren Wells and is a dynamic, growing organization aimed The mission of TCK Training is to cultivate thriving Third Culture Kids worldwide by equipping, encouraging, and empowering TCKs, adult TCKs, & those who support them through research-based awareness. Their approach is public health and preventive care focused, which I love.
- Cultural Transplants – Resources for Third Culture Kids – Comprehensive resources for TCKs that include articles, websites, blogs and more. Take a look! You won’t be disappointed!
- TCKids – TCKid is a active global community of Third Culture Kid (TCK) adults and youth across geographical boundaries.
- UYD Media– UYD Media is a youth media and digital content creation platform by the Third Culture Kid, Global Nomad, and Millennial community and those who love them. They create and distribute authentic content across all genres and platforms that informs, entertains, and celebrates UYDers who are “using their difference to make a difference” in today’s increasingly interconnected and globally-oriented world
- Denizen Online Magazine – Denizen is a now archived online magazine that was dedicated to today’s Third Culture Kids. It represents the modern global nomad community, complete with attitude, expression and creativity. The articles are still available though it is not currently posting articles.
- The Black Expat – If you’ve been around the adult TCK world for long, you know that we have some voices missing from the table. I love this site and the people who founded it. Stay tuned for some great things coming from this site.
- Explore Life Story – your voice, your tribe, your place – Dr. Rachel Cason is a researcher and counselor who has a unique approach to helping TCKs through something called Life Story. Life Story is best described by a quote from the site: “Life Story was born when I observed that impact of the life story interview used during my doctoral research was reaching beyond the academic.Life story interviews offered a clear therapeutic benefit to my respondents as they walked me through their life experiences. The Third Culture Kids, or expatriate kids, I interviewed found themselves recalling incidents long forgotten as story connected to story, and the echos of the past were heard, resounding in present-day lives.”
- Home Keeps Moving – Blog for the book Home Keeps Moving. “Heidi Sand-Hart’s “Home Keeps Moving” authenticates the TCK experience. Her personal stories demonstrate the tangible reality of the TCK theories we have been reading and hearing about for years.” – Tina L Quick, author of The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition
- DrieCulturen – All about kids growing up in other cultures. Third culture kids. Expat kids. Refugee kids. Immigrant kids. The author of the blog is Janneke Muyselaar-Jellema and you will find this to be a wonderful resource with some excellent articles.
- Michele Phoenix – After a lifetime as a Missionary Kid and twenty years teaching them abroad, Michelle launched a stateside ministry devoted to helping them and to educating the Church about their strengths, struggles and needs. Michele primarily focuses on the subgroup of missionary kids.
- Expatsincebirth – A blog by an expat-since-birth multilingual mum living in the Netherlands. Ute’s subtitle says it all: “A blog by a plurilingual expat-since-birth, linguist, researcher, mum of three, living in the Netherlands and writing about bilingualism, multiculturalism, parenting abroad, and the international life. There are great articles and resources on this site, particularly for those raising multilingual children.
- Elizabeth and Jonathan Trotter – This dynamic duo lived and worked in Cambodia for seven years. They are still actively engaged with people working overseas through counseling and writing. Elizabeth is also an Adult TCK. Their writing alternates between contemplative, deeply challenging, and fun.
- Gathering Mustard Seeds – a blog by a college student raised in Japan, Australia, and Romania. Great writing and reflections, though not many recent articles as of 2022.
- Third Culture Kid Life – Thoughtful and insightful musings of a TCK by James R. Mitchener. “Being a TCK means so much more than words, it holds so much more weight than a metaphor, and it’s so much deeper than the definitions created by psychologists to describe it. It’s simply something you are, thanks to a lifetime of having culture after culture poured into your own and shaken all up until you’ve become something so supremely different that you can hardly recognize yourself.”
- And then we moved to…. Not a purely TCK blog, but Mariam spent the past 15 years as an expat, living in 7 countries and 3 continents. She has traveled to over 50 countries and is now raising 2 multicultural and multilingual kids. Mariam invites us into her blog to see the inside of a family who packs up their lives again and again and adjusts to new countries. Her work is delightful.
- The Displaced Nation – A great blog for international creatives. Displaced nation inspires us to find a home for our wanderings and displacement through the arts. This too is more archived articles and less current, but continues to be useful to those who are looking for articles and information.
- Communicating Across Boundaries – If you’re reading this post, you are here! Join me as I write about all kinds of things, including travel, living between but mostly in Boston, grief, TCKs, cross-cultural interactions, world events, and faith.
- Paracletos – Cultivating a Community of Care – Paracletos does just what it’s name suggests: it comes alongside people, helping them live effectively overseas. Paracletos gathers resources and networks to offer the best support possible. Again, while not TCK specific, there is so much there that can help families and that ultimately helps third culture kids.
- Velvet Ashes – Velvet Ashes is an online community of women serving overseas. Many of them are parents or adopted aunties of TCKs. They have some excellent essays that speak to both to the head and the heart about TCKs. Their site is also visually beautiful!
- A Life Overseas – While this site is for adults that live overseas, primarily in mission work, there are also great resources for TCKs.