Friday, July 12, 2013

Third Culture Kids

Our recent move to Saudi Arabia has highlighted a number of interesting concepts for our family of six, one of these being the notion of 'Third Culture Kids'. What is a Third Culture Kid?
A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her 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. Accessed from
This is something I had never heard of before coming to Saudi Arabia. Upon meeting a range of people with vast International experience I soon became familiar with the idea.  For example, a child in my class proudly proclaimed that her mother was born in China, her dad was born in a different China, she was born in America and her brother was born in Saudi Arabia. In her 4 years of life she has lived in America, Saudi Arabia and China. She is conversant in Mandarin and English and has understanding of simple Arabic phrases. Now that's what I call a TCKid.

The following link provides a lighthearted take on characteristics of a TCK (see images below). My husband and I have a blended family with four children. I am NZ Maori and Cook Island Maori born in New Zealand. My husband is a Niuean born in New Zealand - we consider ourselves PolyKiwis. Our oldest three children have been immersed in NZ Maori/NZ/Niuean/Cook Island an Tongan cultures as these are the nationalities they identify with. After learning of the TCK concept my husband and I considered the impact this would have on our own children. We feel that our kids have a good handle on a sense of belonging to NZ but can definitely see our youngest child being influences heavily by her surroundings - she has embraced Saudi culture and the Arabic language with open arms and often flicks between her different cultures - whether it be via language, music, traditions or ways of being.

The video below 'Third Culture Kids"  indicates there are not so good things about being a TCK, research suggests these kids find it hard to settle down, suffer from depression and constantly feel a lack of belonging. This video confirms that, but suggests a glimmer of positiveness when the last speaker refers to the website TCK World where TCKids can find others like themselves.

Then why is the idea of our own children experiencing, embracing, enjoying other cultures something that we have strived for? I reflected on this in a recent interview with the creators of, interview can be seen here. My husband and I watched as many of our friends migrated from New Zealand to Australia in search of a greater lifestyle, including very close family members. We decided very early on in our marriage that if we were to move it would be to a place so far removed from our own culture that our kids would experience a culture shock and if we were going to give up our huge support system it would be so that our kids would experience life on the other side of the world. 

Obviously Saudi Arabia meets this criteria and then some. We are delighted with the opportunity to bring our 4 children to the other side of the world to explore new cultures, smells and ways of being. They may not be TCKids, they've not spent enough time outside of their own culture to be called this - yet! But we welcome the opportunity for our kids to be outside of their own culture so they can value their own.

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