Third Culture Kids- Living overseas with children

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Loving this life! My three monkeys in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica.

A Third Culture Kid is someone who is not a native to the country that he or she is growing up in- think missionary families, military families or foreign business families.  In our case, our TCKs are not entirely American, nor are they Costa Rican.  They have spent more years living outside of America than inside.  For my kids, “home” is Costa Rica.  Because of this awkward way of growing up, TCKs make a third culture among themselves.  They best relate to other kids that have grown up living abroad.  They seem to “get” each other, regardless of the country they grew up in.

This blog will give you a little taste of what it’s like to be a Third Culture Kid.  This is the opening of the book by Heidi Sand-Hart called “Home Keeps Moving”.

You might be a Third Culture Kid if…

*You can’t answer the question, “Where are you from?”

*You speak two languages but can’t spell in either.

*You flew before you could walk.

*You have a passport, but no driver’s license.

*Your life story uses the phrase, “Then we went to…” five times.

*National Geographic makes you homesick.  (I love this one.  I would also add that walking through EPCOT’s International Village felt oddly normal.)

*You don’t know where home is.  (Indicated by the long pause you get when you ask them “where are you from?”)

*You’d rather never say hello that have to say goodbye.

*You read the international section of the newspaper before the comics.  (what’s a newspaper?)

*You have friends in or from 29 different countries.

*You wince when people mispronounce foreign words.

*You never take anything for granted.  (Except the fact that you live where others vacation.  We are less than impressed when people on Wheel of Fortune win a trip to Mexico or Costa Rica.)

*You speak with authority on the subject of airline travel.  (and know how to handle your passport and fill out immigration paperwork.)

*You know how to pack.  (and wait until the last minute to do it.)

*You feel odd being in the ethnic majority.

*You feel you need to move after you’ve lived in the same place for a month.

*Your pocket money makes you a millionaire in one country and a pauper in the next.

*You’ve had more vaccinations in your lifetime than your neighbor’s dog back home.  (Amen!)

*You consider any travel under 8 hours to be a “short trip”.  (So true!)

*You’re an expert on jet-lag remedies.

*You have frequent flyer miles on 5 different airlines, but not enough on any of them to get a free flight.

*You can easily guess a strange’s nationality by their accent.

I can truly agree with every single one of those.  Our missionary life is wonderful and different- full of blessings and difficulties.  Last week I stood on a beach with my children and examined a nest of sea turtle eggs that we found.  Then we took 10 steps into the ocean to catch sand dollars.  We live an amazing life and it’s nothing like America (not that we don’t like America, we love it too!).  I don’t begrudge one hardship when I think of all the benefits that come with this lifestyle.

Do you know a TCK or are you an exPat family?  Please add to the list by making comments below.  It’s fun to share our experiences of living and thriving overseas.

3 responses »

  1. Pingback: Change and Permanence – Living Within the Tension « communicating.across.boundaries

  2. Great post! I found myself nodding to a lot of the bullets that you have listed. I’m a fellow TCK and am originally German-Japanese but spent a majority of my life living overseas. I don’t think I have a home anywhere but rather try to establish multiple “homes” around the globe. I typically blog about my experience as a TCK and what it means to adapt to a new culture. Check it out! http://www.chasinghiromi.com

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