What Identity Means To A Third Culture Kid
It’s a modern dilemma that’s gone on for decades. As families migrate to find a new home for a multitude of reasons, the children that grow up, as a result, find themselves in a unique identity crisis that keeps them searching for an answer. This is an old problem that is rarely discussed. The products of migration usually find themselves clinging on to any semblance of home, whatever or wherever “home” may be.
Third Culture Kids
Imagine living in one country for your entire life, no matter how short it is so far, and then being forced to move to another place that you have no knowledge of. Travel guides and websites can only tell you so much about a place but rarely can they speak of the true culture of the people there. Third culture kids (TCKs) are an outcome of parents who brought them to live in different parts of the world, making it difficult for them to attach to an environment that they can completely embrace. They are nomads who seek to understand what their culture is.
It is a strenuous exercise for them to answer a seemingly simple question: “Where are you from?”. Any TCK will tell you that that is a long story and will most likely try to breeze through their travel history. That’s why they’re called third culture kids. They’re trying to embrace a culture of their own because wherever they go, they’ll never seem to belong.
The Meaning Of Home
For a lot of people, when they are asked about their origins, they’ll say that they’re from their home country. But what does it mean to a third culture kid that has a nationality which is different from the country they grew up in? They will be forever conscious about their answer because they don’t know if a country that is not their own will accept them.
Not all third culture kids are citizens of the country they grew up in. That makes it more difficult for them to identify what home is to them. Even if they go back to the country of their nationality, they will still feel foreign to their inherited culture. What they know, how they act, and all of their thoughts will have been influenced by another country. It is difficult for any third culture kid to truly assimilate in their home country unless they spend enough time in it.
To TCKs, home usually has a more personal meaning than any geographical location. For some, home is their family. Others find their meaning of home to be the country they spent most of their time in. It is a place they know, grew up in, and where they made connections in hopes to settle down. As you can probably tell, home is a sensitive topic to a lot of people who are still trying to figure out what that means. It is essential to their identity.
As mentioned before, TCKs ponder often about what their identity really is. Do they adapt to their nationality’s culture? Or do they stick to what they’ve known all of their lives; even if there’s a chance for them to be deported? Identifying identity for all TCKs is another sensitive topic. As they are molded by the societies they’ve been exposed to, they will find that they have become an idiosyncratic product of their travels.
That is why clinging to any form of their identity is crucial to them. Little reminders, such as simply wearing custom birthstone rings that allow them to know how to start telling their complicated story can act as a steady reminder to themselves that they can never be lost. Eventually, third culture kids embrace their multi-cultural attitudes because each one has molded them into the person that they are today. Throughout their travels, they have gained unique perspectives of life. They tend to be more sensitive and respectful to customs that are not their own because they find sanctity in the ownership of such.
Third Culture Kids are going to be some of the most interesting people you will ever encounter. But even though you might have a myriad of questions for them, just try treating them like anyone else. They would rather hear from you and your life because, for them, your life is interesting. As they get older, it gets more difficult to assimilate into a culture. So your stability is something they envy. They’d like to stay in one place for once and maybe tend to a garden for years on end; know the same people, learn one language, and live one lifetime in one home.