Culture is said to be a set of common values a person lives by, based on a particular group. Cultural scholars often separate how people identify with culture into three specific subsets: the insider, or person who sticks with their original culture, the person who rejects their original culture, and the third culture kid, or the person who identifies with their original culture as well as other cultures.
As an African-American woman from a predominately white community, I interact with my original culture, a host culture, and a smattering of other cultures. My ability to find common experience and value in several cultures makes me a part of what scholars call “third culture.”
According to TCK World, the official home for Third Culture Kids,
“A Third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the third culture kid’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of the same background, other TCKs.”
Third culture is a growing culture of adaptability, and really makes for its own culture. Nomads, global nomads, returnees, first-generation nationals, and many other people can identify with the multicultural experience that is third culture. Before I took a class on diversity, I had no idea that I, too, am considered to be a third culture kid. Why does this matter? Because we, third culture kids, have the desire and ability to see beauty that exists outside of our original cultures.
Even though I am an African-American girl from a predominately white community, I often find myself at predominately Latino tailgates, Jewish holiday gatherings, and Italian family dinners. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my college experience, it’s that opening oneself to third culture is the best way to be a supportive friend, ally, sibling, and romantic partner.