22 Inevitable Consequences of Being a Third Culture Kid

“TCKs are the prototype citizens of the future.”
-Ted Ward, sociologist, 1984


1. The question where are you from results in a detailed life story and biography. For most people it’s a relatively straightforward question. For TCK’s it can be tricky. Most of us have something that goes like this “Well I was born in x country but my parents are from y country and I’ve lived in a, b and c countries.”

2. You have a constant identity crisis. Are you from your birth country? Your passport countries? The 5 ones you grew up in but aren’t really from? You’re used to feeling at home nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

3. You have weirdly detailed knowledge about other nationalities and country spite no obvious connection with them. For instance I know that South African national anthem has five languages. Why? Because I overhead a Kiwi-Zimbabwean and a British-South African in my American school in the Philippines discuss it in great detail.

4. You pick up local and mixed international slang and sound weird to everyone you know. To you lekker, cool and dog’s bollcoks are completely interchangeable.

5. You have a questionable accent. Most people think we’re American, but sometimes the “hybrid international school american accent” mixed with native accents can produce interesting results. People have asked me if I’m Canadian, Australian, Kiwi, Irish, English, South African, or Dutch.

6. You don’t know what sports team to root for. Especially during the World Cup.

7. You’d never been to a house party in high school. Bars and expatriate clubs were your thing. These bars ranged from midget-boxing ringside bars, to private luxury clubs to nationality specific clubs (Nordic, British, American etc.)

8. Chances are you were either a military brat, diplomat’s kid, or your parents worked for an international organization (UN, Interpol, MSF, etc.).

9. You’ve had school cancelled for reasons like bomb threats, political protests, or riots, major political instability and serious natural disasters.

10. Knowing people who could speak 5 to 6 languages was completely normal. In fact you’re most likely multilingual yourself. Picking up languages was one of the best ways to interact to the people and was one of the best perks of being a TCK.

11. You still have strong opinions on certain airports and airlines. And you have a definite ranking of the best and worst airline food (KLM), best duty free shopping (Hong Kong) and friendliest border control (New Zealand).

12. You’re still in contact with friends you haven’t seen in years (thank you Whatsapp) because you never know whom you may see again, it’s a small world after all.

13. You know not to get too attached to a particular place. Growing up knowing you were probably going to move sooner or later made you kind of desensitized to goodbyes.

14. Your constant moving may have caused deep-rooted commitment issues. Related to the previous point, you may have trouble holding a steady relationship or job because of unaccustomed you were to stability growing up.

15. You miss pop culture references that other people know because of not growing up in the same place. You may not know Nicki Minaj or Iggy Azalea but you’re totally up-to-date with Eurovision or K-Pop.

16. You always feel foreign wherever you are. People in your passport country treat you as foreign; people in other countries treat you as foreign. It’s a battle you can’t win.

17. You are relatively adaptable compared to most people. Becoming used to constantly changing situations and new environments forces you to grow up very quickly. You know how to size up situations and make them work to your advantage.

18. People find it hard to relate to you and vice versa. It’s not that you don’t want to relate to people; it’s just difficult. You recognize the uniqueness of your experiences and your good fortune for being able to experience them but you’re also aware of the wall it builds when dealing with non TCK’s. You’re labeled as snobbish, elitist or a show-off when you might not be one at all.

19. You either hate traveling because you’re sick of it or you love it because it’s all you’ve ever known. Most TCK’s either continue on their road of traveling around and exploring the world or they choose to settle down and try to “fit in” into their passport country and leave traveling in the past.

20. People who were born and raised in one place are more foreign to you than anything else. After years of moving it seems like an alien concept. Really? So you’ve known the same people all your life? What’s it like having a place you can really call home? Does it ever get monotone or boring?

21. People find your upbringing fascinating wherever you go. Some people love the attention and the questions and the exclamations of “wow, you’re so lucky!” But it can be difficult for introverts who often find them taxing and burdensome and prefer to listen rather than talk.

22. You wouldn’t trade your experiences for anything in the world. In the end, they truly shape and form you as a person. For better or for worse, a life of constant traveling, cross-cultural exchange, and possible existential crisis have made you who you are today.Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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