Third Culture Kid: The Introduction

Third Culture Kid: a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any.

Every person has a story.

I’ve spent the last 2-3 years attempting to write bits and pieces of my childhood and teenage years as a Third Culture Kid or TCK. It has been primarily difficult for two reasons.

1. No matter how many adjectives, stories, or pictures you tell few, if any, are able to identify with your individual experience. This is true no matter who you are, but especially true in this context.

2. It’s easy to feel unqualified or inept because there are so many others who have experienced this cultural chasm much more deeply than I have.

Despite these hurdles, I will at least attempt to share my story in the hopes that more discussion and recognition of this subject will be birthed.

A few disclaimers to begin:

If you find yourself relating to this idea of being a third culture kid, don’t undermine that identification. I spent years undermining my connection to this group simply because I thought only missionary and military kids fit the bill. Being able to identify myself in this group has drastically helped me understand myself and how I view those around me so much better.

If you can’t identify with this third culture kid (TCK) business, it’s okay. I’m not expecting everyone to identify with this group, nor feel obligated to. My hope for those of you who are not TCK’s is that you can gain insight into a world often full of misunderstanding and cultural faux pas.

If you can identify with it based off your travel or work experiences as an adult, that’s also not a bad thing. You may be a Third Culture Adult (TCA), which is something I (or perhaps some other inspired individual) can expound on in the future. In the age of “going into service” and vast amounts of global opportunity, this group is becoming increasingly larger and broader. When you fully engage yourself in a culture different than the one you came from, returning “home” can be a hard and frustrating thing. Your experience matters and should be addressed more often. However, this first part is primarily about those have been raised in other cultures and/or countries based off of parents’ jobs, schooling, ministries, etc.

In the world of Third Culture Kid-dom, every single story is different, even within families. My youngest brother has known a very different childhood than I have, mostly because we have actually lived in one house longer than 5 years now. In fact, most of his life has been primarily one culture, which means he wouldn’t necessarily relate to the TCK idea.

Whether you are a TCK or not, I am convinced that every story matters. So even though I may be spending a large portion writing about my childhood and experiences as a Third Culture Kid, I don’t believe that those who have lived in one primary culture all their lives have less to offer than ones who have continuously traveled the world or moved around. My goal is simply to share my story in order to engage discussion.

If you have stuck with me thus far, thank you. The beginning of the story is coming up in the next post!

(For more detailed info on different types of TCK’s, facts, etc, check out




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