third culture

The fantastic gift of being a Third Culture Kid

Hey kiddos, it’s your own Third Culture Mama here (with papa chiming in!). It’s your parents who watch from the edge of our seats as you slowly attempt to recreate a world of meaning around you. I see that you are in that cultural sponge phase, redefining every aspect of life as you know it. I never could have anticipated it would be such a frightening-exciting thing, to watch you transition from your familiar North American life to a new European one. As a mother, it may just be that I feel the pain of your adjustment even deeper than you ever will. And I can tell you that seeing signs that you are thriving, will be one of the greatest things I will get to experience in this lifetime.

I’m with you on this roller coaster adventure, partly because I take responsibility for dragging you into it, partly because you three kids and I are soon going to be sharing one same culture. It’s the Third Culture and it’s a vibrant, beautiful and never-a-dull-moment culture. Papa and I are fond of this culture so much, that we always dreamed of a day you’d be given a chance to become Third Culture Kids too.

With that said, I want you to know that as you grow up, you’re gonna read all this lit. about how Third Culture Kids live a life of loss and grief and will always wonder where they belong. That’s a real part of the sacrifice we people on the move face. There is such a plethora of articles available on those topics that they sometimes overshadow the TCK joys. But you know what? It can’t and shouldn’t end there.

Let mama tell you a secret: there is SO much more to the Third Culture than that. There is so. much. more. on the other side for you to discover if you are willing to embrace the whole process to becoming a completed Third Culture Kid. A Trans-Nationalist of sorts. It’s a wild journey, but I promise, it’s a really exhilarating one.

Rascals, I’d encourage you to recognize any struggles you will have faced and work through your judgement towards monoculturals. I’d invite you to process your story until you can thrive in all of the cultures that make you YOU (including one day returning to your passport culture and wrestling with your feelings about it), but then not to stop there. What a waste that would be. Don’t miss out on the chance to revel in the fantastic gift of being a Third Culture Kid.

Thanks to an unpredictable life, you’re learning perseverance, patience and resilience far beyond your years. You know, like when we showed up late to that music class with blisters cause we couldn’t find the damn building. We walked all over town from one building to the next and started to learn not to give up.

With every new experience (and gosh aren’t there ever a ton at the moment), you are becoming so courageous. Like when I left you to fend for yourself at that music class, locking onto your fearful eyes, asking you to trust me just this one time. You did it, and earned that first invisible medal of bravery. Each little medal earned builds up your knighthood of courage until you one day you are able to walk confidently into the brand new, free of fear.

And, because you have had to be brave, you’ll be empathetic and compassionate towards others. We know do how to weep with those who are having a hard time, don’t we, because we’ve been through some of those ourselves.

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Even at a tender young age, you’ll be able to lead others by the hand and show them how not to fear new experiences. You’re becoming wise beyond your years and you’ll have the gift of being an interpreter of language and culture thanks to the daily juggle you get to experience in your developmental years.

You’re already learning to be resourceful and creative in a whole new way. We’re finding new ingredients for old recipes, right? Or stand-in tools to build new furniture. Or how about ways to entertain yourselves when you are each other’s only playdates! Trust me, these are lifelong problem-solving skills that make us a flexible and even a low-maintenance people group. Because we have learned to give up things from our other culture, improvise and get ready fast to never ever miss out on life’s great adventure.

Straddling cultures often opens our minds to a new way of doing things. This makes us adaptable here but also open-minded and curious about life around the world. It’s a little weird but we sometimes feel at home all around the world, even in completely foreign settings. The foreign doesn’t frighten us anymore. It’s even possible that some of the thrilling experiences or wild things you are getting to eat now will have given you that unquenchable thirst for adventure.

Our Third Culture’s world-shaped heart makes us natural change-agents. Most of our culture longs to understand world affairs and play a proactive part in change. International news topics sometimes become our smalltalk. That’s because countries aren’t just distant shapes on a map for us, they represent homes of people close to our hearts. It’s people old and young (not just your peer groups!) we’ve met along the journey: lots of internationals, and plenty of monoculturals.

Speaking of people, we have an especially tight family bond not only because we have had to overcome some isolation, and have gone through all this change, but because nobody else has our same story. Forever, you’ll have your siblings to process the oddities of your parents’ choices (hey!) and the unique nature of your growing up years. How cool is that!?

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You also have friends all over the world you didn’t even know you had! Shhh.. if you will listen to your heart, it may beat a little faster when you meet people who also dance between cultures. We find our belonging in relationships with people of the same wacky international upbringing. It’s a fast-growing and friendly culture, unafraid to challenge the status quo.

The thriving Third Culture Kid isn’t only an advocate for the ethnicities he has become acquainted with. He has developed that unique ability to transfer his cultural intelligence to brand new places. He is a spokesperson, a peacemaker and yes, a bridge-builder par excellence.

Oh sure, like everyone, we have our issues, but we hope you will one day see what a phenomenal gift it is, to be a Third Culture Kid.

5 thoughts on “The fantastic gift of being a Third Culture Kid

  1. Yes!!! Thank you for writing this. While all the struggles people focus on to write about are real to many TCKs, not nearly enough of us are writing about the joys and unique gifts it also brings.

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