Life is a never-ending series of moves.
For some people, these moves started when they were still kids. They might be born in Country A, raised in Country B, and are currently living in Country C.
These individuals are known as third-culture kids.
You might be thinking, “What are the ups and downs as a third culture kid?”
In this blog post, we’ll cover the definition and talk about the realities of third culture kids.
What are third culture kids?
They are children who have been raised in a cultural environment that is different from their parents. This could be due to being born in a foreign country or spending extended periods of time in a country other than their parent’s homeland.
And no, they’re not just expats or diplomats’ kids. Third culture kids can come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some are military brats, others are missionary kids, and still, others are simply kids whose parents have chosen to move abroad for work or lifestyle reasons.
Whatever their background, though, all third culture kids share one thing in common: they have a unique perspective on life.
Here are some of the advantages:
Third culture kids are often more able to take care of themselves better and are more independent.
For one, they’re often more adaptable and flexible. They’re used to moving around and adjusting to new environments, so they’re not as clingy or attached to their old routines.
More than often, third culture kids often have a strong sense of self. They know who they are and what they want, so they’re not as easily influenced by peer pressure.
You will also find them to be more mature than their peers. After all, they are exposed to more challenges and adversity in their lives, so they’re often better equipped to handle problems on their own.
Being able to see the world from different perspectives
Third culture kids often have a more global outlook on life.
They have the perspective of their home culture. This is the culture that they were raised in and what they identify with the most.
On the other hand, they also have the perspective of the host culture – the culture that they are currently living and experiencing daily.
Don’t forget to add other cultures that they have been exposed to through travel and interactions with people from all over the world.
As such, they might be more likely to understand and empathize with people from other cultures, and as a result, be less judgmental.
Being open-minded and sensitive to cultural cues can be a real asset in today’s increasingly connected world.
On the flip side, third-culture kids can also feel like they don’t quite fit in anywhere. Here are some of the struggles they face.
Never finding a sense of belonging
They never feel like they truly belong anywhere because they come from different places.
When people ask a third culture kid where he or she is from, it is hard for them to explain.
They don’t come from one specific place.
As an adult, it’s tough to see where their parents are from as their home country even if they might spend a portion of their childhood and adolescence there.
But if he or she went back to the first foreign country that was supposedly home, they still feel like an outsider because people would see them as someone who is new.
And realistically, after living most of your life in other places, that place would probably feel like a foreign place to you.
After all, you have always been an outsider looking in and observing things.
It’s not a bad way to live, but it does make it hard to find a sense of belonging anywhere.
Struggle to maintain relationships
Third culture kids are used to friends coming and going. It’s just a fact of life when you live in multiple places.
Even if you try to fit in, you get rejected by your peers for being different. You don’t understand the cultural references and it can’t be translated to what you want to say. The extent of the rejection means that you essentially give up on your home or host culture.
Third culture kids find it hard to attach themselves to anything because they know it is all temporary.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t treasure the little things that stay constant. We may not have a home country, but we have a home in our hearts. And that’s where we’ll always keep our friends, no matter where they are in the world.
For third-culture kids, language is always a hot topic.
It is a common misconception that because third-culture kids are exposed to multiple languages, they would be able to learn any language easily.
In reality, it is often quite the opposite.
The constant change in environment and language can make it harder for third culture kids to learn new languages.
While it may be still true that third-culture kids can end up being bilingual or multilingual, there are still many who struggle with language learning.
On one hand, you might not be fluent in the language of your birth country. But on the other hand, you may not have the same level of proficiency as a native speaker of your current country. As a result, one might find it a struggle to express yourself or be often judged by others and seen as less competent.
It can be frustrating to know that you are perfectly capable of communicating in multiple languages but still be told that you are not good enough. But hey, being able to speak or even understand multiple languages is definitely an asset in today’s globalized world.
Becoming an adult and ending up as an expat
For some third culture kids, the sense of rootlessness and wandering can be so strong that they end up becoming an expat as an adult.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that these individuals will never really feel settled in any one place.
There is always the longing for something else, something more.
It can be a bit scary not having a place to call home, but for third culture kids, it is just a way of life.
So there you have it, a brief overview of what it means to be a third culture kid.
It’s not an easy life, but it definitely has its perks.
Before you go
If you’re a third culture kid and you plan to be an expat, let us be a part of your expat journey.
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