A window into a TCK experience

08 Sep

I read a great post on 8Asians over the summer. The author is a TCK, and he talks about his TCK-ness being what defines his identity, rather than passport or country he lives in or accent he speaks with. It is a great window into a TCK experience – one of many different TCK experiences. Read the full article here.

Here are a few quotes from the article…

I don’t feel this sense of being torn between my Asian heritage and my American culture–I belong to both, yet feel connected to neither.

I love this. The author is comparing a difference he perceives between immigrant culture and a TCK perspective. The second-generation immigrant often struggles to find an identity that combines the culture of their parents and the culture they are living in. It seem that for some TCKs there is less of a struggle – that it is okay to be both at once. Perhaps this is because when TCKs grow up in international communities, this both-and identity is normal. Others may try to label them, but within the TCK community it is fine to claim several different cultural/geographical identities.

Here is one of the best descriptions I’ve read of the struggle to answer the seemingly simple “where are you from”:

As a Third Culture Kid, asking us “Where are you from?” usually ends up in either spouting off a mini life story and explanation, followed by an assertion that we’re not weird–or by a confused look and awkward search for words. Does it mean what my ethnicity is? Where was I born? What school did I go to? Where did I grow up? Where do I get my accent?

This is a lovely, whimsical description of a TCK world.

We didn’t know that a visa was a credit card when we came to the U.S. for college, we drunk dial friends internationally, we memorized the different time zone differences so we knew when to contact our friends, we don’t feel the need to be American or any other citizenship, and we talk about traveling to different countries like they aren’t far-off, exotic lands, but just other places that are as easily accessible as a simple bus ride to the other side of town.

When the world is home, nowhere is exotic – but there is always another corner of home to explore.

Related article: Nathaniel compares working with TCKs in Cambodia to working with Chinese-Australians in Sydney.


Posted by on September 8, 2011 in TCKs


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2 responses to “A window into a TCK experience

  1. Alaine

    November 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Small world! I remember when Johnny posted that on the TCK forums and facebook.
    I think its easier to be a TCK in the international school system – which provides a safety “bubble” but when TCKs graduate and venture out into the rest of the society, thats when questions of identity can resurface. TCKs don’t fit a specific mold of any one culture but can be change to fit into anything. Thats the positive of being a TCK with chameleon tendencies. There are downsides though, and that is often being misunderstood even by their close friends.
    A friend of mine wrote to me today to tell me that she finally understands how difficult it is to be uprooted and to have to adapt to a different culture. She moved from the States to Israel for Love and has spent the past year adjusting to life there. I was very moved that she chose to tell me about her experience and that she finally has a glimpse of what its like for me as a TCK. I think people should open up possibilities to live in different countries or different communities with a distinct culture that is not in their “safety net” range so they can understand more about other cultures, themselves, and not pass judgement on TCKs that are trying to cope with their identity issues, grief, and adaptation.

    • Tanya

      January 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      There’s something really special about being able to share an experience with friends/family like that. When my sister moved to the other side of the country she changed some of her attitudes toward my overseas experiences. She didn’t even leave the country but she experienced some of the isolation and dislocation. It was a bonding thing to be able to offer her advice her friends couldn’t help with.


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