top of page

Third Culture Kids

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Debora from Vision Factory

Author: Debora Amoah

Date of Publication: 07/04/2023

Have you ever had people looking at you strangely for unintentionally slipping a foreign slang while speaking?

Believe it or not, there are a group of people who are used to this and more. They struggle to define who they are and where they are from. Yet, they are able to maintain friendships from all around the globe. Some even have various time zones on their phone.

They are seen as Global nomads, and the world is their oyster. They speak multiple languages fluently, and may have a hard time answering the question: “Where is home?”

Third Culture Kids (TCK)

Third Culture Kid (TCK)

These people are referred to as Third Culture Kids, also known as TCKs. It is also known that most TCKs are children of expats. Their parents could be, but are not limited to, missionaries, diplomats, members of the military, and more.

In particular, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a TCK as a kid who grows up in a different culture from that of his or her parents. The “third culture” mentioned is shaped by both the culture of their parents and the society in which they grow up. Because of this, they are called Third Culture Kids.

Due to their temporary character and high mobility patterns, TCKs are unique from other

communities. Communities like immigrants, refugees, and foreign adoptees. They typically feel more at home with other TCKs and the international community than with their host culture or their family's culture.


girl looking out of window

These terms have the same meaning as TCK. TCI, on the other hand, stands for Third Culture Individuals, while ATCK stands for Adult Third Culture Kid. These terms are not well known as TCK, but are there to address older people, as they are technically no longer kids. In other words, it is to differentiate kids from adults.

Advantages of TCKs

Growing up among the world has a big impact on the way TCKs look at things and experience the world. In fact, most of them lived in various countries and have therefore encountered different cultures. Most of them made their first move before the age of 9. Mostly due to them being flexible, they are able to cope with the change that comes with it. Due to this, they usually have friends from different countries. So, to them, home is everywhere and nowhere. According to some reports and research, TCKs may be:

● Highly adaptable to different environments and cultures compared to many others.

● Capable of easily navigating between cultures, since they are used to and have

encountered various cultures. They usually have a higher intercultural sensitivity.

● They are more open-minded because of their experiences of moving around and living amongst different peoples and societies.

● More sympathetic and understanding than many others.

● Multilingual due to the different countries and cultures they have lived in.

● Better at interacting with people.

● They have seen much of the world. They get the chance to travel the world. Not forgetting experiencing diverse landscapes, and other cultures, eating different foods, conversing with different folks, and living different lifestyles.


The number of TCKs is growing as the world becomes more globalized. Some reports even say that they are the future. Also, it is claimed that with the degree to which they understand and embrace other cultures, only good things can happen. TCKs also have their fair share of challenges.

Challenges of being third culture kid

Culture shock comes with moving from one country to another. The new country they move to might have a culture that they aren’t used to or is not like the one they lived in previously.

● Feeling no sense of belonging due to moving frequently. They usually don’t have a place they call “home”. This leads them to not know where they belong.

● Great difficulty defining who they are since they are not bound to a specific culture.

Since most cultures are different, they have to learn which behavior is acceptable in

which culture and which is not.

● Lack of close relationships due to them usually moving around. Though they meet many people, it is not easy to have long-term relationships compared to “normal kids”.

● The feeling of being the odd one, compared to others as they are not able to fit in.

So, sometimes this can be because of not having similar ideas or interests to others.

● The difficulty of saying goodbye. Saying goodbye is never easy but suddenly leaving a country you have been living in for a couple of years is the reality of most TCKs.


In conclusion, most TCKs have seen a lot of the world, being global nomads. So, compared with others, the life of TCKs is vastly different. What’s more, their life can be very complicated and chaotic. Due to their transient nature and extensive mobility, it's no surprise that they face difficulties. Nonetheless, the benefits of being TCK outweigh the challenges they face.


Reference List

34 views0 comments


bottom of page