Archives for posts with tag: ATCKs

I have witnessed time and time again throughout my Third Culture Kid upbringing that culture is a word that’s lost to far too many. As a TCK, I see it every single day, in every tiny little thing that every individual person does in every corner of the world, but for some reason I feel that I am often the only one that’s looking. People, many of whom are content being exactly where they are doing exactly what they do, never stepping out of that realm of security, are often the brick and mortar out of which a culture is born. They are constants, developing the world around them because it’s the only world they know.

Why, then, has the idea of culture become so broken and resistant to those that create it? I have been traveling lately, visiting family in the country in which I was born, and as I pass from town-to-town I keep witnessing the same strange phenomenon. As I sit in a pub and talk to complete strangers, I get called “Yank” or “Cowboy” or “American” because of an accent I learned years ago, one that still feels like a stranger on my lips. And I nod and smile and play along until the button is pushed one too many times about me being from America, and then I jokingly say “I’m actually not American. I was born here, raised everywhere, and have created a third culture.” And eyes flash and confusion spreads, and I smile knowing that it really doesn’t matter that they have no idea what I mean, because to them, the world outside of the town they’re in is so large that it’s as incomprehensible as the vastness of the Universe.

Then the questions come about where I’ve lived, which one was the nicest, and all those things we hear a thousand times over when we meet someone new. But when they are prompted in return with the simple question of “do you like to travel?” I find that more often than not, my conversation partner’s eyes will flash with hostility, he’ll transition to the defensive, and say something along the lines of “Why would I want to go anywhere but here?”

But it’s not a love for where they’re from that keeps them planted in the town of their youth. It’s not a sense of belonging or a lack of capital. It’s fear. Fear of that massive world, that endless line of possibilities. Fear of being out of their element, of having to make their way around something new and unique. It’s fear of a change from normality, a transition away from people they know and can predict. It’s fear that maybe, just maybe, there actually is something else out there worth seeing that, and were they to find it, it would fill them with frustration or anger at their inability to fully understand why it moved them so deeply.

That, to me, is what makes us so different. To a TCK, the world isn’t large. It isn’t scary or terrifying or something to fear. It’s just there, full of so many different faces, so many different cultures, all of which are viewing the one they’re a part of as if it’s the center of the universe, all of them with different stories and different loves, but all of them wanting one thing and one thing alone: to keep on living. It’s beautiful to see how much they differ, how much they are the same. It’s exciting to land in a country in which you cannot speak the language, in which just ordering a sandwich is a struggle.

The world is not something to fear. It’s something to love and embrace, to learn from and become better because of. With all those little twists and turns, those little cultural jumps or transitions, it’s something to dive head-first into and learn everything you can. To any TCK, I can think of only one reason and one reason alone why the world could possibly be considered a terrifying place:

What happens to us when we’ve seen it all?


The term Third Culture Kid (TCK) is one that has only recently begun to get a substantial amount of attention, despite its longstanding existence within the global community. It was coined in the 50’s by Ruth Hill Useem to describe those of us who were born in one country, or what I call “my parent’s passport country,” but have then proceeded to move in the formative years of our development to one or more “foreign” countries. The result of this transcontinental growth is something spectacular, something that can never be taught or learned or fully understood by anyone who hasn’t actually experienced it. The developing child takes the culture of their parent’s passport country, or their first culture, to a foreign land. In that land, they interact with thousands of individuals who exist within a completely different culture, this being the Second Culture. The result is that the child then adopts the qualities of the Second Culture into their preexisting First Culture, creating a unique cultural perspective known as the Third Culture.

The term TCK, though clearly using the word “kid,” does not limit the group to only children. Like everyone else, a TCK must one day grow up, and in doing so, they become one of the most globally aware individuals on the planet. They become an Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK), possessing all the skills and qualities of a cultural melting-pot, but with the ability to view the world and the people in it with an eye that’s shared by no one except other TCKs.

The largest problem for the TCK community has always been our ability to come together once we reach our adulthood. After the constant traveling of our youth, after the years of international schooling and constantly being surrounded by other TCKs with similar experiences, we are forced to enter into the global market, a world so full of people that finding another TCK is similar to hunting for life raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at night. We become stranded, unable to share the experiences and beliefs we once so openly discussed with the TCK community that surrounded us. We become, for lack of a better word, homeless.

I have been writing about the development of the Third Culture Kid community for some time now, discussing the ways in which TCKs of the 21st century have been handed tools that TCKs from just seven years ago never had the luxury of possessing. With the power of social media, global chat programs, email, and video messaging, those enormous ravines that once separated the TCK community have started to get a little easier to cross. But unless you are willing to hunt down the right groups, to post the right comments in the right places, or seek out your former networks from years passed, we still don’t posses an all-encompassing way of remaining connected to the people that share in the Third Culture.

Thanks to the work of the ThirdCultured team, however, there’s hope in bringing that illusive home of ours back together. TCKs, the most valuable assets to global business, finally have a tool that is being developed strictly for them. Thanks to the work of a few TCKs, a social networking site that’s exclusively accessible to Third Culture Kids is finally becoming available. So what does that mean for our community?

TCKs, who call themselves the global nomads or the homeless travelers, are finally able to come together in a way that has never been offered before. offers a social media platform in which TCKs from around the world can come together, get in contact, meet up in person or online, share in discussions about global topics, assist one another in dealing with transitioning into the ATCK community, finding work on a global level, or just sitting down for a casual conversation with someone who understands the world through the lens you see it.

The idea is simple: As TCKs we have been scattered across the world, seen so many things that no one else will ever understand except for the few TCKs that experienced what we experienced. With all of us littering the world, integrating back in with the First Culture and using everything we’ve learned to help better the world in whatever way we can, we end up saying goodbye to the community that truly understands the implications of our upbringing. ThirdCultured is the way to bring every Third Culture Kid back home. And frankly, I couldn’t be more happy to have stumbled into it.