THIRD CULTURE KIDS: Facts & resources

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TCK Fact #1

“Third culture kid” includes the children of missionaries, military, diplomats, business people, or anyone living cross culturally. (25) Ruth Useem, a cultural anthropologist, first coined the term “third culture” in the 1950s while living in India with her family.

Book: Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, by David Pollock

“Third Culture Kids speaks to the challenges and rewards of a multicultural childhood; the joy of discovery and heartbreaking loss, its effect on maturing and personal identity, and the difficulty in transitioning home.” Find it here.

Blog: TCKWorld: The Official Home of Third Culture Kids

This website is the largest site on the internet with its particular mission of maintaining Dr. Ruth H. Useem's research on Third Culture Kids.” It also provides access to networking, resources, academic articles, professionals, and survey research.

Other: When You're A Third Culture Kid

WYATCK is a hysterical, but occasionally less than appropriate, gif-heavy site with plenty of relatable, laugh-out-loud moments for TCKs of a certain age. #relatable.

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TCK FACT #2

If you dread the question “where are you from?” you might be a TCK. On average, TCKs move to a new country before they turn 10 years old. TCKs grow up experiencing two or more cultures. They feel at home in their “host” countries while maintaining ties to their “passport” countries. 

Book: Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging, by Marilyn Gardner

These essays explore the rootlessness and grief as well as the unexpected moments of humor and joy that are a part of living between two worlds.”

Blog: Denizen Mag

“Denizen is an online magazine and community dedicated to people who grew up in multiple countries, international school alumni, or Third Culture Kids.”

A favorite article of ours is “The Real Challenge Was to Stay,” by Mareiki Pietzsch.

Other: "I am Third," by Katherine Zvara

For her senior thesis project, Katherine Zvara sat down with TCKs and gave them a chance to tell their story. Watch hers and other stories here.

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TCK FACT #3

Almost 70% of third culture kids end up working in a cross-cultural career or returning to a life abroad following college/marriage. According to a study of over 800 missionary kids, only 6% of have a desire to return to ministry. Check out this awesome infographic from Denizen Mag to learn more.

Book: The Space Between Words, by Michele Phoenix

"When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy." Get it on Amazon here!

Blog: Michele Phoenix

“Now a published author (Tyndale), [Michèle] serves with Global Outreach Mission as an MK/TCK Advocate, developing materials, speaking, writing and mentoring missionary families on and off the field.” Her blog is a compelling read.

Other: International Therapist Directory

The International Therapist Directory is an online listing of professional mental health therapists familiar with the Third Culture Kid and international expatriate experiences.

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TCK FACT #4

TCKs are different than other cross-cultural kids because they typically retain citizenship in their parents’ passport countries or return there later. TCKs are sometimes called hidden immigrants” because they are able to relate and adapt to multiple cultures but can also feel like outsiders, even in their passport countries.

Book: Home Keeps Moving: A Glimpse Into the Extraordinary Life of a Third Culture Kid, by Heidi Sand-Hart

“You will laugh and cry along with Heidi as she recounts hilarious and heart-breaking tales from her childhood as West blends with East.” Find it on Amazon.

Blog: Djibouti Jones, by Rachel Pieh Jones

Djibouti Jones is a blog about “Life at the crossroads of faith and culture,” by Rachel Pier Jones.

Other: Taking Route

Taking Route is an online community directed at adults living overseas and parents of TCKs that includes fun recipes, parenting blogs, travel experiences and more. It’s one of our very favorite comprehensive websites for third-culture families.

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TCK FACT #5

TCKs don’t necessarily live in the third world or even three different places. Rather, they belong to a “third,” created culture with its own specific traits. Often, a third culture kid’s most valued relationships are with other TCKs, even above those with family and God.

Book: Writing Out Of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads, and Third Culture Kids, by Gene H. Bell-Villada and Nina Sichel

This book provides a major leap in understanding what it's like to grow up among worlds. It is invaluable reading for the new global age.”

Blog: Communicating Across Boundaries, by Marilyn R. Gardner

As author Marilyn R. Gardner says,“the focus of the blog is largely cross-cultural communication with an emphasis on faith and third culture kids.” This post explores the Portuguese word “saudade” and its relevance to TCK lives. 

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TCK FACT #6

The “kid” in Third Culture Kid relates to childhood experiences, though the identifying traits stay with TCKs into adulthood. TCKs don’t always appear to have a lot in common, but we always share some common threads that make getting to know each other a unique bonding adventure.

Book: The Rani Adventures: It's a Jungle Out ThereLife is a Jungle; and Jungle Calls by Ron Snell

An MK's perspective of growing up in the jungles of Peru: pee-your-pants funny.

Blog: Third Culture Mama, by Esther Brumme

We love the honesty and depth of Esther Brumme’s writing. In her words,

“I get excited about language, culture, travel, natural birth but also delicious food and gorgeous design or perhaps deeper topics like injustice, adoption, faith and spirituality.”

Other: BuzzFeed

Buzzfeed is blessed with a very diverse group of staff writers and contributors, and lucky for us (and you), that includes TCKs!

These are just a few to start you down the rabbit hole:

26 Decisions That Are Difficult For TCKs

13 Signs You Moved Around A Lot Growing Up

22 Signs You Were An International School Kid

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TCK FACT #7

Sometimes TCKs are not equipped with the proper tools to deal with the vivid experiences, clash of cultures, and disenfranchised grief that they experience.

Book: Honourably Wounded: Stress Among Christian Workers, by Marjory Foyle

“As a psychiatrist, medical doctor, and former missionary, Dr. Foyle provides insights and special help for the stress and pressures of full-time Christian service.”

Blog: The Black TCK, by Tese

Tese writes about her experience as a TCK of color here, and she works with artists and "artivists" on their business and branding. 

Other: Dr. Rachel Cason + Life Story

"For those who feel unsettled in themselves but who do not feel themselves to be in need of counseling, Life Story work offers an alternative approach to increased self-awareness and supports client-led change." We love Dr. Rachel; learn more about her work here!

Other: We might be a little biased but we strongly believe by bringing Kaleidoscope to your next conference you will equip your TCKs with the tools they need to process their vibrant overseas experience.