Collaborating: Third Culture Adults and Those Who Are Not

Megan* grew up in three different countries on two continents. She speaks two languages, enjoys pickled chicken feet for a snack, and currently lives half a world away from her family. As a TCK in the early stages of adulthood, she has a very broad outlook on life and the world around her while wrestling with career choices and never feeling completely at home no matter where she lives. Because her family lives far away, she must lay her own foundation for connections with people and church and community.

Third Culture Adults are not a new phenomenon, and I don’t mean to write about them like they are. I vaguely attempted to write about this stage of life based off of my young adult experiences, but found them lacking. You see, I’m quite sure every TCK moves into adulthood differently. Writing my story alone wouldn’t sufficiently cover all that is to be said. Just like childhood, every experience is different. I have noted a few common themes that seem to be more prominent in the lives of those who have been raised in more than one cultural setting. However, before making blanket statements on these themes, my hope is to gather more stories and experiences outside of my limited knowledge. Namely, I want to hear from other Third Culture Adults.

While I have already asked some friends and family members for feedback, I’d also be interested in hearing from you, the reader, the TCK community at-large, and those affected or influenced by TCK friends or family members.

Before going any farther, I want to add a disclaimer that is vital to this subject: Being a TCK does not make you/us more special, talented, gifted, or superior than any other individual. It is nice to have a place or a “box,” if you will, to fit into, but I’m not looking to create an exclusive identity club for people with unique cultural experiences. This is something I realized with startling clarity after blogging my story. So maybe your childhood is different and you grew up eating strange foods or speaking fluent Cantonese. These things do matter because they so often strongly affect your worldview. However, they do not place you/us on some sort of special-ness, hierarchy scale. Sometimes I wonder if, in an honest desire to be understood, we over-emphasize our uniqueness and lose our audience in the process. I guess what I’m hoping for is that I don’t get so caught up in my own experience that I lose sight of caring about somebody else.

In this new series of posts, I want to hear from TCK’s who are now adults:

What are some strengths and weaknesses you’ve found that are traced back to your childhood experiences? Did your multi-cultural childhood feel primarily like a hindrance or a gift?

I would also love to hear from non-TCK individuals:

What strengths and weaknesses have you found in living in one primary culture? If you could tell your TCK friend one thing (whether it be positive or negative), what would that one thing be? What are pros and cons you’ve found in having friends who are TCK’s?

These are loaded questions, and it might feel easy to shy away from them. Instead of looking at it as a mountain, maybe we need to start looking at it like a bridge. My hope is that we can bridge the chasm that often seems to separate one cultural perspective from another. Perhaps we can use it as a driving force for connection. Let’s collaborate and learn from each other. I wonder sometimes if we don’t miss out on all kinds of good things because we’re too focused on the differences.

So, what does it look like to learn from each other? How would you answer the questions above? Whether it’s through comments, messages, or conversations, I’d love to hear your feedback!

(feel free to refer to Part One of this series for the definition of a Third Culture Kid and more resources about it)





2 thoughts on “Collaborating: Third Culture Adults and Those Who Are Not

  1. Great point about TCK overemphasis of uniqueness! I didn’t really think about that before, but once you mention it, it’s easy to see how that can be a tendency. I’m not quite an adult yet, so I don’t feel qualified to answer the question, but this looks like a really interesting “series.” I’m looking forward to reading more! (:

  2. Hello! I grew up as a TCK in Africa. I think as a child the experience was an adventure and I didn’t pay too much attention to feeling different from everyone else. But as I grew and in my teen years it got much more difficult. I felt I didn’t fit anywhere. I wanted so bad to be accepted my African friends because I was more African than American, but it was as if there was a huge barrier barring me from being accepted. My skin color did not help either. I was different. Then in America while I looked like everyone else, the way I thought and the things I knew or didn’t know, I felt made me awkward and not able to fit in. I tried embracing my “not fitting in” but it still hurt and I still felt alone and separate from everyone I saw. I don’t think being a TCK is only good or only bad. I think it is a blessing and a curse and some days you feel blessed and other days you feel cursed. But I do think one of the strengths is that I feel comfortable traveling to any country. I feel like I am part of the other cultures in the world and I am not just American. But a weakness I feel is that I still know I will always be the awkward one who never belongs to one place. But that’s okay. Another weakness is that I always seem to second guess myself and don’t have high self-confidence in things of the American way. I still feel as if I am missing something everyone else understands and knows. Something that I “should have got by now.” Maybe I’ve been trying to stifle one part of me to fit in instead of embracing all of who I am. And that it is okay to have different eyes than everyone around me. Because other people have eyes like mine too.

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