Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What's That? Wednesday: TCK

Do you know what a TCK is? (We didn’t until we got ready to move to China.)
Let me give you some clues...
Jamie and I are not TCKs (and we will never be TCKs), but our children are.
The children of our expat friends here are also TCKs.
I have at least one friend from the US, who was a TCK.
Once a TCK, always a TCK.
TCK = Third Culture Kid
Third Culture Kid is a whole new idea for us.  TCK is a term that is credited to an American sociologist, Ruth Hill Useem, “to refer to the children who accompany their parents into another society”.  
I just put a put the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Revised Edition by the author David C. Pollock on my Amazon Wishlist.  He describes TCK as “A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of  their developmental years outside the parents’ culture.  The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any.  Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”
In other words, my children are not having an American childhood at the moment.  They are not doing the same things that their American peers are doing.  School is different, food preferences, vacations and even modes of transportation are different.  But, my children are not having a Chinese childhood either.  Although we are in China, they are not being raised by Chinese parents.  So, that puts them in an unusual category and they most relate to those children that are also  Third Culture Kids.  
During our cultural training last year, we were told that our children would probably adjust well to the move to China, but that the transition back to the United States would be more difficult (also called repatriation).  Yikes!   I don’t have to start worrying about it now, but it certainly is a topic that I am very interested in.
It’s also interesting how this phenomenon of TCKs is influencing things that might seem completely unrelated, such as Girl Scouts.  This spring I started a Girl Scout troop for LBean and some of her friends.  Because we are a troop not stationed in the US, we belong to the USA Girl Scouts Overseas.  During a live webinar that I participated in last month, I found out that USA Girl Scouts Overseas was actually started as a way to serve military families (and it still does), but now the expatriate families out-number the military families.  In the webinar there were expat troop leaders from Japan, Shanghai, the Middle East, Europe and other locations.  Just another example of how the world is becoming much smaller!

 My rockin' Third Culture Kiddos:

EBean on the playground before school.

LBean running though the water hose during a picnic
with our Italian friends.

Still having fun in the water!


  1. I LOLed at this. I almost purchased this book yesterday! I am wanting to read it as well. We really think way to much alike.

    1. Really?! Hmmm, we do need to talk soon and yes it is scary sometimes how much we think alike!

  2. I'm so glad expat parents know what TCKs are, read and learn about it. I am one, a (Dutch) TCK but I was born and bred in Africa. When I was 19 I went to Holland to study at university. Wow, that was a shock, no one had prepared me for that transition. These days there is more information about TCKs, and that's great. Being aware that the "return" can be most challenging can help. My advice would be just keep the conversation going with your lovely girls. Want to know more about my experiences? Check my blog. Wishing you well.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I think you're right, keeping the conversation going and being willing to talk about things (instead of ignoring the difficult topics and hoping that they go away) is the best way. I will check out your blog!

  3. Its not easy. Its not always hard. We talked with @ alot the year we were in the US about this is different; not good, not bad, different. And different is ok. And now we're back here and again we talk about different. There is a lot of talking and processing and then talking again that goes into this whole TCK thing. Thus you should join us in June so you're kids can play with other TCKs. They really do get on together beautifully.

    1. Yes, we need to have our TCKers get together. We are still working on the details! I think you're right to make the distinction that things are different and there isn't necessarily a good/bad element. It certainly is a our cultural trainers told us, you have highs and lows in your home country, but when you live abroad, you experience higher highs and lower lows.

  4. I came across your blog via DrieCulturen. That is a great book. If you ever get a chance to listen to anyone talk about TCKs, GO. I learned about them as a single teacher. It was so helpful when I married a TCK and now that I'm raising them.
    Look forward to reading more about your adventures.