- Third Culture Kids
- Monday, 15 April 2013 12:20
Third Culture Kids are well-known for their creativity in literature, art, music and film (as I pointed out in a recent blog post). Whether through blogging, singing, painting, photography (or whatever the medium), so many TCKs I have met find it therapeutic to use these vehicles to share their story, their love of the world or their multicultural identity. Today, following a bit of a hiatus, I want to share with you two wonderful YouTube videos that were passed on to me recently. I love each of these for the richness of the experiences and emotions that they represent. Enjoy!
I'm a TCK by Declan Lowell
National Anthem Mashup by Grant Woolard
Third Culture Kids, how do you share your TCK experience and why do you think you do so?
And what are some of your favorite Third Culture Kid films, art, songs or books you have come across recently?
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- Third Culture Kids
- Wednesday, 28 November 2012 15:42
Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are no longer a marginal culture. We’ve known this for a long time now. Once known almost as an oddity, today, TCKs are one of the most rapidly growing populations. TCKs from almost every combination of nations imaginable are taking up office in nearly every industry around the globe. It’s no wonder that the film world is forced to recognize the existence of TCKs. Some films are even focusing their whole storyline around Third Culture Kids. Here is a selection of four recent Third Culture Kid films worth your while if you want to understand, reflect on personally or get a group discussion going about the Third Culture.
1. Somewhere Between (2011)
Type: Documentary film (88 mins) NR
Director: Linda Goldstein Knowlton
Storyline: Somewhere Between tells the intimate stories of four teenaged girls. They live in different parts of the US, in different kinds of families and are united by one thing: all four were adopted from China because all four had birth parents who could not keep them, due to personal circumstances colliding with China's "One Child Policy". These strong young women allow us to grasp what it is like to come-of-age in today's America as trans-racial adoptees. At the same time, we see them as typical American teenagers doing what teenagers everywhere do...struggling to make sense of their lives. Through these young women, and their explorations of who they are, we ourselves pause to consider who we are - both as individuals and as a nation of immigrants. Identity, racism, and gender...these far-reaching issues are explored in the documentary. And with great honesty and courage, these four girls open their hearts to experience love, compassion, and self-acceptance.
Third Culture Kid themes: Pursuit of identity, adoption, belonging
2. The Road Home (2010)
Type: Documentary Short (21 mins) NR
Director: Rahul Gandotra
Storyline: Sent by his parents to an international boarding school in the Himalayas, Pico grapples with his identity as he escapes from his boarding school in search of the road back home to England.
Third Culture Kid themes: Belonging, pursuit of identity, “home”, school, Indian-British TCKs
3. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
Type: Drama/Comedy (124 mins) PG-13
Director: John Madden
Storyline: British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than its advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways.
Third Culture Kid themes: Not directly a TCK film but deals with culture shock, India/Britain, thriving cross-culturally
4. Neither Here Nor There
Type: Documentary (35 mins) NR
Director: Ema Ryan Yamazaki
Storyline: "Neither Here Nor There" is a 35 minute documentary that explores cultural identity for people who have grown up in places other than their home culture, known as Third Culture Kids. Through the stories of six subjects, the film investigates the often overlooked effects on adults who had international upbringings, their struggles to fit in and an eternal search to belong.
The film is also a self-exploratory journey for the filmmaker, a Japanese-British raised bi-culturally and in an international school system, who now lives in New York. In her last year of college, she attempts to figure out what she is in the context of the world.
Third Culture Kid themes: Asian Third Culture Kids, international school TCKs, identity
What are some of your favorite films on the subject of Third Culture Kids that you would recommend watching?
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- Third Culture Kids
- Friday, 15 June 2012 22:25
When I returned to my passport culture a few years back, I was forced to face my webbed closet of pent up prejudices and questions surrounding both my identity and resettlement. Working through our move for several years, combined with being married to a monocultural American, had me thinking that I had most definitely aced that class of knowing who I am as a Third Culture Kid. Then I found out I was pregnant.
I am quite thankful pregnancy is a long journey of nine months (technically ten!) because I spent most of those months wondering if our children would grow up to love the world or to “just” love their town. Would they inherit my gift of languages or remain monolingual? Would they ever become TCKs themselves or would they, in fact, detest air travel?
I recall at least one painful discussion with my [normally patient] spouse after having received our first American football jersey gift for our son. For me, little newborn boys dressed in sports apparel represented American values I deeply disagreed with: to be the biggest, fastest, greatest. Knowing that so much more was hidden under the iceberg of that innocent jersey, my husband told me that, by the way, he simply wasn’t prepared to withhold our child from watching American football or playing it if he wanted to (oh Lord, no!) just because his mother was a TCK. This was coming from a man who despises American football – but this wasn’t about football. He went on to explain that there was nothing wrong with giving our son exposure to each of our cultures but that our child wouldn’t simply become our clone. If, down the line, our child wanted to take part in a 4th of July parade, papa would let him do so. “What!? Don’t you prefer to promote global family values in our home??” I protested.
As I continued to toss and turn, wondering how on earth I could raise a global-minded child in the middle of America, especially with the realization that we wouldn’t withhold chintzy Americana from our child, I came to realize that I actually still didn’t fully accept certain parts about living here. Somehow, all this time, I had actually been able to live in my comfy foreigner bubble with very little contact to people who live in my town. As my pregnancy progressed, I was forced to wrestle with the tension I felt, because I could think of nothing worse than for me to pass on my own emotional baggage to my child before he even had a chance to speak. Instead of teaching him how to be a cynical, unpatriotic citizen, would it not be so much more beautiful to teach him how to become a global citizen – with the ability to thrive in each of the cultures that make up our family, without exception?
That conversation around baby sports apparel got us thinking about how we would intentionally weave and embrace both of our diverse threads into the intercultural fabric of our child’s world. I came to realize that by shutting out my passport culture altogether, I had deprived myself of real friends and any benefits of living in this country. How did I find that out? Well, as soon as I allowed myself to open up the doors of acceptance, I instantly made lifetime friends in our same life-phase. I also was forced to admit that even if we are only here for a season, it is a great place to be with young kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I still wouldn’t dress my newborn in sports apparel and don’t expect me to have any tears flowing on the 4th of July – but I no longer feel I must guard my children from experiencing these things. Instead of constantly having to fight for which culture is most welcome in our family, we are both committed to intentionally raise our children to embrace all facets of growing up in a multicultural and multilingual home.
Practically speaking, papa will speak English to our child and impart the fun things about his culture: being pulled in a little red wagon, selling lemonade on a street corner, or enjoying great customer service. I will speak my languages to our children, sing nursery rhymes in my language at bilingual mama groups, celebrate national holidays and ethnic foods, and the joys and frustrations of the Third Culture. Together, we have chosen to give our children the gift of living free from our own cultural prejudices and to value what each parent brings to our family, knowing that each facet our children receives will make them passionate lovers of this world. Wait, isn’t that what I wanted in the first place anyway? :-)
How about you ATCK parents? Did you have an identity crisis when you became a parent? How does being a Third Culture Kid change your parenting? What are some specific Third Culture values you have been able to impart to your children? What are some tips you would give new TCK parents like me?
Blog post by Esther (a TCK blogger).
All images used with permission from guest blogger. Lemonade stand credit: Flickr Creative Commons Robert S. Donovan
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- Third Culture Kids
- Friday, 13 April 2012 23:51
Let me begin by making an apology. I cannot believe it has been this long since I last posted a blog. As is the whole world, I too have been incredibly busy. However, I did expect that, although I was on 2 continents and speaking in 4 countries, I would be able to write a short blog. What was I thinking? With that off my chest, let’s look at the fourth stage of Third Culture Kid development!
A few weeks ago I began a short series on the behavioral evolution of the Third Culture Kid. The first of the four stages is the Cultural Sponge. This is the initial phase of Third Culture Kid development that ushers in cultural learning and begins the etching of what is normal in the TCK’s growing up experience. In stage two, we talked about the Cultural Chameleon, the essence of this stage being cultural adaptation combined with developing personal patterns of transition as well self-awareness and self-preservation in the midst of his changing worlds. In stage three, TCKs begin to question their identity and to wonder where if anywhere they belong as they become Hidden Immigrants in their passport country.
Today I would like to explore with you the fourth stage of “The Evolution of the TCK”.
Stage Four: The Trans-Nationalist
After thinking through all the stages mentioned above, we finally come to the last stage, the elusive stage of Third Culture Kid development, when he or she becomes a “trans-nationalist” or “global citizen”.
The developmental journey of the Third Culture Kid to the stage of being a Trans-nationalist is a long one. Some TCKs never reach this point. In actuality it may be easier to identify this TCK in terms what he/she is not rather than what he/she is.
- This is not the TCK who finally reaches adulthood and decides to live internationally again because he cannot adjust to living in his primary passport country.
- This is not the TCK who decides he has had too much mobility in his life and decides he never wants to move again so he plants himself somewhere and grits his teeth and says “Never again will I move. It is just too painful.”
- This is not the TCK who makes the decision to live internationally because he does not want to feel trapped in his primary passport country.
- This is not the TCK who hides his history to the point of denial. This TCK’s story might be unknown to others. He never makes references to his international life. It is as though it never existed, which most certainly brings about a level of guardedness and lack of vulnerability in his relationships.
Rather, the trans-nationalist is the Third Culture Kid who has completed a successful transition back to his primary passport country. He is the TCK who may or may not desire to live internationally again but has developed the skills needed to live, even thrive, in the country that has legal claim to him though his developing experiences were in another country.
Psychologist Nancy Schlossberg defines a successful transition like this:
“A transition can be said to occur if an event or non-event results in a change in assumptions about oneself and the world and thus requires a corresponding change in one’s behaviors and relationships.”
This TCK is one who has developed skills to live in any culture and uses those same skills in his passport country. Skills like cultural tolerance, adaptability, being observant, culturally adventurous or linguistically adept are used by this TCK wherever he lives. He might be a cultural mentor, bridge the cultural gap or be a cultural diplomat. These skills are who he is. He isn’t stuck in his past, but treasures his past and still years later may periodically mourn his past. However, the grief he feels is good grief rather than bad grief. Having said that, he does not glorify the past or tell himself life will never be as good as it was when he was a kid.
This TCK has grown up! He is not afraid of change. He is not afraid of stability. He can objectify his life and experience and he understands and accepts who he is. He is the new global citizen and he has a fantastic story to tell.
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- Third Culture Kids
- Tuesday, 28 February 2012 23:31
A few weeks ago I began a short series on the behavioral evolution of the Third Culture Kid. The first of the four stages is the Cultural Sponge. This is the initial phase of Third Culture Kid development that ushers in cultural learning and begins the etching of what is normal in the TCK’s growing up experience. In stage two, we talked about the Cultural Chameleon, the essence of this stage being cultural adaptation combined with developing personal patterns of transition as well self-awareness and self-preservation in the midst of his changing worlds.Today I would like to explore with you the third stage of “The Evolution of the TCK”.
Stage Three: The Hidden Immigrant
At some point, our Third Culture Kid returns to his/her passport country. This event ushers in the third stage.
It has been my experience in the 25+ years of working with Third Culture Kids that the Hidden Immigrant stage is the most difficult and painful part of the evolutionary journey. The TCK returns to his passport country and sees people who look like him, speak the same language, dress like him but at the same time they are nothing like him. Interests are different, experiences rarely intersect and neither the Third Culture Kid nor the Mono-Cultural Kid find much to say to each other.
Unknowingly, they have embarked on a cross-cultural situation. But this is a cross-cultural experience like no other. Prior to this stage most cross-cultural encounters have been obvious. It may be skin color, language, clothing, etc. that set the TCK apart from the mono-culturals around him. But when the TCK returns to his passport culture most of the differences are beneath the surface and are rarely seen. But when they are, they are often looked at as strange quirks at best at worst socially slow or under developed. In either case, the child is known not as a TCK but rather a person who is socially out of step.
During this stage many TCKs begin to question their identity and to wonder where if anywhere they belong. It is not surprising to see TCKs embrace the TCK label at this stage when they may have disregarded it before returning to their passport country. Why? Because for many TCKs this is the first time they have spent a prolonged period of time in their passport country. It is no longer a holiday place…they live there. For the first time, reality hits that citizenship and cultural belonging are not the same.
Potential pitfalls during the Hidden Immigrant stage:
- Deep loneliness
- Being trapped in the past
- Overly critical of the passport country
- Habitual anger and bitterness
It is true that most of these 5 issues may happen during the early part of the Hidden Immigrant stage and must be worked through, but it can become unhealthy and potentially dangerous if any of these become a permanent feature in the TCK’s life.
TCKs, ATCKs, parents, caregivers - I'd really love to hear from you. Do you remember yourself being in this Hidden Immigrant stage? What are some of your memories from that stage? Do the potential pitfalls above ring true to you? If so, which are/were some of the hardest to overcome? What advice would you give to other Third Culture Kids in this stage?
Stay tuned for Stage Four in this series: The Trans-Nationalist!
Photos used with permission.
Red windows, courtesy of GypsyMe.