I Am A ‘Third Culture Kid,’ Are You?


Madrid, The City I Grew Up In (Photograph by Pedro CZC)

I am a ‘Third Culture Kid’.

Even though I am a Kuwaiti, English is my first language and the bulk of my life was spent living abroad: London-born, five years in Rome, eight years in Madrid; two High Schools: New English School in Kuwait and The Oxford Academy, Connecticut.; a Washington DC graduate, who additionally worked abroad for a substantial number of years.

But I am not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have had my kind of life. Third Culture Kids are global citizens: creative, independent, cosmopolitan, multilingual, tolerant, higher than average I.Q., we can live anywhere but we never really belong anywhere.

Here are some characteristics from Wikipedia:

90% feel “out of sync” with their peers

More welcoming of others into their community

Some of them come to terms with the tremendous culture shock and loss that they have experienced. They gain a broader understanding of the world through their varied experiences, while others spend most of their adult life trying to come to terms with those same issues.

Lack a sense of “where home is” but often nationalistic

Depression and suicide are more prominent among TCK’s

TCKs share more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCK’s from their own country.

Some of them come to terms with the tremendous culture shock and loss that they have experienced. They gain a broader understanding of the world through their varied experiences, while others spend most of their adult life trying to come to terms with those same issues.

I have many Kuwaiti friends but I also tend to shun those who don’t know where I am coming from, the shallow fixated on the material and social aspect of society, ignoring culture and arts – Third Culture Kids need the intellectual stimulation, if it isn’t there those people might as well talk to a friggin’ wall.

I am positive there are thousands of us in Kuwait and elsewhere; people who went to foreign schools, lived abroad, or lived in Kuwait as expatriates and always seem bound here (the way I feel bound to Madrid or Connecticut or Rome). I have been fortunate, through the miracle of the internet to regain and maintain contact with old friends (some dating back to the early-70s); all my friends stem from different stages in life (elementary, high school, college), all religions (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu et all) and countries, ranging from Brazil, to Egypt, to Australia.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to revisit Madrid for business (‘The Iraq Donor’s Conference’). However, I was unable to revisit old haunts (i.e. school, home) since it was a full schedule: wall-to-wall meetings. I didn’t even have the chance to walk down to the Villa Magna Hotel lobby and just reminisce about the old days.

Later on during a busy day I was standing on the hotel balcony with one of my colleagues, looking down at the beautiful, majestic city of Madrid; an emotional moment for me, I blurted out “You know my family resided here 30 years ago when we moved to Madrid.” He glanced at me, exclaiming “So? What’s the big deal? I stayed here too during the 70s.”

He just didn’t get it.

Most people are born and raised in one city or country. They grow up with the same friends, they watch their city gradually change, they have roots, they are part of their surroundings, and the tentacles of stability and familiarity are embedded in their psyche. However, Third Culture Kids feel like they’ve lived a dozen lifetimes; we are almost always haunted by a childhood memory: an old friend, a city, an old home we no longer live in. Nevertheless, we have the distinct ability to look at a problem from two different perspectives: insider and outcast.

It’s strange isn’t it? We spend half our lifetimes looking forward to living in our home countries; then spend the other half looking back at the past. We don’t belong anywhere.

Are you a Third Culture Kid? Is it a blessing or a burden? How do you feel about life and your purpose in it?

Resources :

Third Culture Kids

TCK World

U.S. State Dept: Third Culture Kids

Interaction International

76 thoughts on “I Am A ‘Third Culture Kid,’ Are You?

  1. i’m a third culture kid.
    born in london. then we came back to kuwait. we still go visit london in summer every year since i was born. but i do know how it feels like… i don’t think it’s a burden or a blessing. it’s just who we are.

  2. Yes, I’m a third culture kid. I’m Hungarian, but grew up in Kuwait, went to college in the US, did my MA in England and now I’m freaking out that if I start working in Hungary two week long holidays to like Greece every year will be the only time I can get away from here…
    Although as you said it’s both a blessing and a burden, I believe overall it’s a blessing. This might sound strange, and usually I don’t like to compliment myself, but I think I’m a very able person because of all this traveling and living in different places. I can take care of myself in most situations.
    At the same time, I’m quite antisocial, and I find it that I don’t have patience with the average Joe type of people anymore. When people start asking me to “Say something in Arabic” or “Did you ride camels instead of cars” I prefer to just walk away, because I’ve been answering these type of questions for 15 years…
    Here in Hungary I come accross a lot of envy, and it seems people can only handle all this info by criticizing it. Everyone immediately presupposes that Im a spoilt rich kid. When I say I studied in the US the reaction generally includes the conviction that the US education system is much weaker than the European. When people hear I lived in Kuwait, a whole rant about supressed women and terrorists follow.
    So often I remember a word or expression in English rather than Hungarian, and people interpret that as me being a snob or just showing off.
    So, in conclusion, being a third culture kid is cool if you’re around others like you.
    I can’t wait to have my own kids to mess them up this way too (o:

  3. I’m a 3rd Culture Kid too!
    Parents are British, Moved to Kuwait when I was 2, til Gulf War, then to Singapore for 4 yrs, then returned to Kuwait til I left in 2000 for Uni etc. My parents left Kuwait 2 years ago and now live in Paris.
    I think it is a blessing because you get to interact with people you may not have previously ever thought you would have! I’ve grown up with indians, arabs, pakistanis, chinese, japanese, koreans, british, american etc etc you name it!
    You get a sense of what the world really is! You learn not to be racist and you learn languages and cultures a hell of a lot better.
    However saying that, it does mess with you mind! I do not know my nationality anymore! Sure I’m technically british but my heart is in Kuwait since I’ve lived there most of my life. It’s where I grew up, where all my best friends are where where all my memories are!
    But the benefits outweight the bad bits 😛
    3rd Culture Kids rock 😀
    Oh & how could you forget our weird messed up accent?
    One minute I have a british accent, the next american, then next kuwaiti!!!

  4. The best Blog topic in AGES and I completely understood and loved your post, Amer.
    There are many of us all over like you said. People don’t *get* us.

  5. Yep. TCK. Born in Alaska, when it wasn’t a state. In and out of Germany most of my life, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France, Qatar, and now Kuwait. At home everywhere . . .except at home.
    Have you heard of “re-entry?” When we try to go “home” again?
    Fortunately, I have a home and family and go there often enough to be known and accepted . . . but can I ever truly settle there?
    We just are, aren’t we? Not good, not bad, just doing the best with the life we’ve been given.
    But I have to admit, you got my heart beating and the blood flowing faster, reading all the entries from my brother/sister TCKs. I can usually recognize a fellow TCK at any gathering, can you?
    It’s a special life, not without it’s own problems. GREAT post, Amer. (Sorry for babbling on and on)

  6. Third Culture kid here!
    Born in the US, and raised by my single American mother. I have lived in three states (Virginia, Colorado and California). I moved to my Kuwaiti father’s house after college and have been in Kuwait for most of the past 12 years. I also have spent significant time in London as many Kuwaitis have.
    I have to agree with much of what Q8sultana has said.
    I have to say it has been both a burden and a blessing. It is blessing in that the world is a much smaller place, and I have been able to shed much of my narrow American thinking while still retaining many of its better qualities. I can function in most any situation but feel comfortable in none. I am intellectually diverse and can speak on many topics but feel uncertain to take a firm stand on anything because I can see the other sides point of view. There is no doubt that all of our different experiences have afforded us an “educated” view of the world but the Burden for me lies in the mental torment it brings. The feeling of being alone and then wanting to be alone.
    The thing I miss is the feeling of landing back in the states and feeling home, feeling understood and feeling like I knew what was going on around me. Now when I land there, I only get a vague feeling of belonging, while I still don’t get that feeling when I land in Kuwait.
    Lastly, it has also made me question everything. “Why is it done like this?”

  7. WOW!! Too many! And you think you’re the only one when you sit alone thinking about the past!
    Or that’s what I thought!
    It’s not just that it feels you don’t belong! I was told that I didn’t. Don’t want to go through painful details, but I just want to say: I know what you mean!
    I have to say GOOD POST!!!

  8. Thanks for linking to me, or I would never have found your blog and some fascinating ones that you link to – a whole new world! To which, as a TCK, I can only say – yay!
    For me, being a TCK has been both burden and blessing. Re-entry to the US for college was horrible, and I didn’t understand why. Years later, at a reunion of Woodstock School (an international school in India), I went to David Pollock’s workshop on TCKs. For me, as for many alumni, it was a revelation: so THAT’S why I’m so weird!
    My “solution” was to marry an Italian and move to yet another country – Italy is a nice happy medium between India (where I spent many happy years) and the comforts of the West. But I still have to travel a lot, too.

  9. Very courageous of you to bring up this topic. Thank you, Amer!
    After some struggle, I used to think of myself as being a global citizen, a concept that would remain only in my head for obvious reasons, but the more I think about it, TCK is probably a more correct term, one that’s easier to use in public.
    I do see myself as having a lot of the characteristics that the Wiki article mentions, and I put it down to simply having had my horizons truly broadened and my perspectives truly enriched so much by my experiences of living in Kuwait, Canada, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, Cyprus and the UK, and visiting many more countries in many corners of the world.
    And being in a job that further continues to keep me travelling on work it certainly has made adapting to new places and cultures so much easier because I have learned that when you peel away the veneer of language and culture all human beings are pretty much the same no matter where they are or how advanced (or not) they may at first seem to be.
    I think the increased sense of nationalism (which I definitely possess) comes not only from not having a sense of wanting to identify with a home “mothership” but also from being able to analyse things from an insider’s as well as outsider’s perspective and reaching the heartening conclusion that at the highest level every single nation is actually just trying to do its best for itself (i.e., its people) in the future.

  10. Thanks, Amer. FYI, if people buy the book from my site http://www.beginningwithi.com/aboutme/tcks.html I’ll get a cut – but I strongly recommend it WHEREVER you buy it from.
    I bought the book years ago. When I finished the first chapter, I went to Amazon and sent copies to my dad, my mom, and one of my best friends. My mom was herself a TCK (American born in Cuba), so it gave her new insights into her life. My dad had never understood why my experience of overseas life was so different from his, and now finally did. My friend was unable to finish it – she still hasn’t come to terms with her own TCK issues.

  11. Excellent post Amer. Here’s my rundown without sounding like a show-off:
    Born in Kuwait, moved to Oxford, England from age 4-6, back to Kuwait in private (arabic) school till end of high school with annual summers in England. A year in Paris after high school. Washington DC for college and then back here since then… with travels to wherever I can go, whenever I can
    I frequently feel very different to my Kuwaiti friends who have not lived abroad and even with those who lived the “closed-circuit” Kuwaiti life as students where they didnt mix with any foreigners and barely learned the language to get by…. They just don’t get me!
    They don’t understand how I can pig out on “machboos diyay” and then swoon over foie gras and other European delicacies. They cant understand how I like old Kuwaiti songs AND the latest in Indie rock. They hate that I look 10 times better in jeans and a blazer than they do in their their flashy getups. These are all things I picked up living abroad that they’ll never get
    They think I’m too westernized and not Kuwaiti enough. An overgrown “chicken nugget”
    I gave up trying to fit in and being something I’m not… and I’m much happier for it, and somehow became more friendly with more people of wildly different backgrounds.
    So now there’s a name for people like us? Who knew?!
    Thanks again!

  12. I am a Arab citizen, born in London, lived in Kuwait (which is why I still check Kuwaiti blogs!) and consider myself TCK.
    I think all you posters above have done a great job in opening up and just writing and trying to describe what its like….I really feel like I am among kindred spirits!!
    Nice job all. Never forget we are talented, cultured, smart, can do anything!

  13. Thanks all for the comments, obviously this topical (and personal) topic struck a chord with you all and I appreciate the posts, the candor and the personal insights. I have been writing on the Blog for almost a year and have not seen such a swift and verbose reaction to a post.
    There are misconceptions everywhere concerning where we lived and the kinds of people we are I totally understand where most of us are coming from.
    I think Solymar was honest when he spoke of ‘mental torment,’ there is an abundance of that to go around for most of us and I totally understand when Nora-Cassandra and other speak of being told you ‘don’t belong (I used to get offended when my Arabic was ridiculed or when people viewed me a tad differently, but with age and wisdom , I realized those “differences” are an endearing trait and part of what makes me who I am).
    Deirdrem, Dubai Sunshine, Lailyq8, Don Veto, Ananyah, Toomz, Tinkertoo, Sultana, Mish, Intpatr, Zaydoun et all, I didn’t know you all had such a background but it’s quite impressive, now I know why you excel as great communicators and bloggers. And all your traits in one way or another are connected to the TCK background and are what make you who you are. In a way you are all one in a million and stand above the crowd.
    It’s true sometimes we focus on the negative aspects of being a TCK (I am guilty of that) but we should all be proud: we can work anywhere, with anyone; even though some of us may be low-key we can walk into a reception or party and talk about anything with anyone.
    Yes, Intlxpatr, I can spot TCK’s a mile away, they are not necessarily the “Westernized” types (that is a misconception) but the ones who are slow to open up and tend to analyze the surroundings, but when they do open up, you can’t shut them up, their passion is infectious! (btw that crack about Alaska not being a State when you were born cracked me up).
    For me it’s been a burden and a blessing for the obvious reasons that you all touched on (i.e. languages, tolerance, not fitting in etc) but you know when I realized – when it really hit me (as a Kuwaiti) that being foreign born and raised (TCK) was a blessing: the invasion of Kuwait … I could work in any corporation, anywhere, at any time, after college, regardless of how long the invasion dragged out. People like us might not fit in ministries and government institutions, we might not know how to play the local ‘social game ‘ but we can work for Time-Warner, Paribas, Saatchi and Saatchi etc with the best of them (come to think of it most TCK’s I know work in the private sector not the govt.).
    That’s not a curse, it’s a gift. The good outweighs the bad.
    Maybe we should all form a TCK organization/group in Kuwait…
    Thanks all for the comments, appreciate it.

  14. “Maybe we should all form a TCK organization/group in Kuwait…”
    In your own way, I think you just did.
    There is a fraternity of TCK’s. It just exists. We know one another.
    I bet the comments keep coming, too.

  15. WOW! There’s just too many of us out there, isn’t there?
    First off, Amer thank you for the best blog post I have ever read. Truly!
    I am a TCK as well. I might not have as a diverse travel experience as most of you guys have but I am still young and have a lot of time ahead of me 😛
    I am Syrian, born in Kuwait. Lived in Kuwait until the War, moved to Syria for a couple years and then came back. Went back to Syria for 3 more years and then went to the UAE for another 5 years and now I am back in Kuwait.
    I have always been “different”. My accent was much derailed from my parents’. Always had friends that were not from one country or another. Always felt a belonging to Syria but never felt at home in it.
    I can’t remember one day that I did not dream about traveling the entire world and meeting all sorts of people. The Wikipedia list of TCK’s characteristics you’ve included fits me and my life.
    It’s definitely NOT a burden. I will always think of it as a blessing, because I know we understand more about the world than any other person does. We are the world.
    You’ve hit a home-run with this post in all of us and I am really glad I ended up here.

  16. A lovely post indeed. It was great seeing and reading the experiences of other fellow TCKs.
    My experience as a TCK has been both a blessing and burden for me all through out my life.
    But I really started suffering when I was 23. I had just returned to Kuwait and was immediately thrown into a hardcore indigenous Kuwaiti atmosphere as a ministry/government institution employee. I felt like a complete foriegner with a different sense of humor and perception. With time, I began to realize that everything about me was wildly different; my work ethic, my lifestyle, my attire, my personality, my interests, my experiences and my thought process.
    Having said that, I see this as a blessing. My cultural experiences have molded my character, enriched my curiousity, developed my independence, and like Solymar, cultivated an acute sense of cultural perception. The burden, however, lies in fitting in, being stimulated, and trying to find someone that understands you

  17. One thing I’ve noticed about meeting other TCKs is there’s an instant “click.” We share a similar background and outlook even if we haven’t actually lived in any of the same countries. I feel more at home with TCKs than anyone else in the world, no matter what countries they were actually born or lived in.

  18. …I didn’t know you all had such a background but it’s quite impressive, now I know why you excel as great communicators and bloggers…
    Thats sweet, although my blog has died since I’ve been stationary…(o:
    I’m expecting Nibaq to kick me off kuwaitblogs any day now…(o:

  19. I have never heard the term Third Culture Kid. It labels and classifies something could never verbalize-I just felt it. I just thought I was different.
    I wasn’t American, even though I was born there, I wasn’t Irish even though thats where my mother is from and we spent every summer there, and I definately did not feel Kuwaiti even though I lived here. The only Arabic I spoke was enough to get by with my beloved grandmother. I lived in an American bioshere in Kuwait. It was difficult growing up different in a critical society.
    As a teenager it was hard to seperate what was normal in a western culture, but an embarassing taboo here. Don’t forget that was judgemental Kuwait in the 80’s, not “free kuwait” of the 2000’s.
    Thanks to globalization the cultural gaps have shrunk and the differnces are not as evident. Also, Kuwait post invasion has become radical, either very closed or super tolerant.
    I thought it was interesting that you noted that TCKs gravitate to eachother cause that is so true! Most of my friends are half halfs too.

  20. There is a certain sadness to this issue, but one needs to keep moving and doing what they can. i read a lot,use the pc, write, just make my own life as stimulating as i can. friends come and go..we make new roots for our chilldren..
    i feel great tho being part of this topic and i wish you all the best.

  21. How neat – so many of us thinking about our TCK experiences and our time in Kuwait, probably all around the world, but crossing paths at this short moment in time and all connected.
    The TCK book was recommended to me last summer by a couple old enough to be my parents, who were also both TCKs. I was born in Sweden, moved to the US around 2 yrs old, and then to Kuwait at 10 yrs. I was there as a teenager, until the invasion. It was unbelievably difficult to be on vacation in the States and find out I could never go home again – my friends were scattered all over the world. I read through some of their letters from 1990 just recently, and it was a bittersweet walk down memory lane. What a tragedy to experience at 16, to find your home obliterated and no way to know who survived and who didn’t.
    And “reentry” was hard – beyond the “did you ride a camel to school” questions, the changes were abrupt and frustrating. I could speak five languages but didn’t know what Homecoming was.
    In the end, it’s not surprising that I ended up marrying another TCK. Neither one of us could have kept up a relationship with someone who didn’t have a deep attachment to somewhere completely different.
    How good it is to hear from so many TCKs!

  22. Great Post Amer, and great job all of us.
    It is refreshing to have these conversations (even if only on the internet).
    I may feel alone at times but i don’t feel alone in here.

  23. Hey Solymar, pleasure having you all, I really got to know the backgrounds of many here – amazing – plus it gave us an opportunity to discover others blogs like Closet Diva, Kinano..
    The book posted by Sultana and Deirdre also is a must (order it through De’s blog)
    I’ll try to do a weekly or bi-monthly post here for the TCKs so everyone can blow steam and just talk.
    PS – I think this thread broke the record for number of posts for this blog.

  24. Just the other day I updated an article I wrote 5 years ago about immigration (referring specifically to Italy),which also reflected on the fact that the children of immigrants become sort of TCKs – they’re a different culture than their parents. In extreme cases, that can even be dangerous for them.
    (I guess it could be dangerous for me, too, in George Bush’s America, to tell some average Americans what I think of my “homeland”…)

  25. I remember when I came back to the UK (home of my parents, I class Kuwait as my home), I got bullied at boardin school because of the wealth of my parents, my accent, and the fact that most of them never even left the frikin country. I thought I was weird and stupid… but as time flew past, I knew that I was lucky to be a TCK.
    As TCK, we are different that others. We don’t have the same close minded mentality, we can gel with other cultures more easily, sure we all have messed up accents, but that makes us unique.
    My brother calls me a STUCK UP KUWAITI COW because of my accent and the fact that I switch to talking in Arabic without knowing. I’m the “odd one out” in my family; the rest have a british accent except me, and they make fun of that!
    I generally feel that no one can understand where I’m coming from, unless they are a TCK. I do not have a clue where my HOME is, even though I regard it as Kuwait. I sometimes get upset because I want to “belong” somewhere.
    But yah, TCK still rock!
    Love the logo Amer & this post! You should totally make a TCK group hehehe maybe on facebook THE Q80 TCK’s hahahah

  26. Born in the U.S., after four months moved to the Philippines for a few years, returned to the U.S. and spent many a summer in Venezuela (friends) and Italy (family). Have a lot of different nationalities married into the family on my mother’s side, e.g., Thailand, Haitian (via France), etc.
    I have two children who have me as their mother and their father who went to England for 1 year (H.S.), Scotland for a few years of college, finished up college in the U.S. and now travels with me to the States and Italy where I have family in both.
    On top of having all of that thrown into the mix, my mother comes from a family who at one time lived in a one bedroom home with 9 children, 2 parents. My father comes from a comfortable background. My mother was raised Catholic, my father was raised Protestant. I’m also in an interfaith marriage.
    Somehow it all works and has made me the person I am today. I wouldn’t change a thing!
    P.S. Deirdre – Ciao! I loved your website and will be visiting back soon.

  27. I’ve been having problems with Firefox today and so I ended up commenting twice, sorry about that.
    P.S. Bostonian – I’m from Lexington. 🙂 Parents live on the Cape.

  28. I’m a third culture kid too. I’ve always set boston as my standard and i never really identified with kuwait. I never seemed to fit in with other people, I’m too US minded. My first language is english. Oh yes, and no i will never get in a dishdasha and drive to the 8adsiya game listening to majeed with the shabab. That crap just scares me:P
    Youre right man, people just dont get us.

  29. Guys & Gals.. the trick is not to “belong” or insist on not belonging… but to be comfortable enough not to care whether you belong or not. We are not outsiders, We’re just a different part of society
    On Dress sense:
    I wear a suit to work, and jeans when I’m not.. but I also like wearing a dishdasha from time to time because I treat it as dressing up, especially in winter with the red “chmagh”
    Amer.. you said “the ones who are slow to open up and tend to analyze the surroundings, but when they do open up, you can’t shut them up, their passion is infectious”… that pretty much sums it up!

  30. Stinni: Welcome to our little club and thanks for sharing your background.
    Zaydoun: you said you were a DC graduate…GW I assume?
    AU, class of ’91 here. We must have bumped into each other at one time or another.

  31. Amer
    GW.. class of.. never mind!
    I don’t think we ran into each other there, but the funny thing is that I personally know your entire family.. except you!

  32. “I don’t think we ran into each other there, but the funny thing is that I personally know your entire family.. except you!”
    Zaydoun: Aye I do know who the man is behind Clark Kent!
    Remember the following: Hamburger Hamlet (M Street), Bistro Francaise, Au Pied Du Cochon, Brikskellers, KB cinema (opposite Georgetown Mall), Fifth Column..
    I could go on and on but I shall spare you the mental anguish.
    Ananyah: No meetings til everyone is here and ready.

  33. Dear Amer,
    Thank-you for posting your blog on TCK’s. I’m an adult TCK who lived as an American in Italy from the ages of 12-16. I wanted to tell you that I felt connected to your experience in Madrid when you went for the conference. Thank-you for posting that personal moment in your blog. I had a similar experience recently with a recent return trip back to Italy with my husband, a Sri Lankan who grew up only in Sri Lanka. I fully understand where you were coming from and your feelings and emotions. I wanted to let you know that I felt similarly on my trip back to Italy and my husband had a similar reaction as your colleague. It helps to know that there are others like ourselves out there and that we are not as unusual as perhaps our parents, coworkers, or others might think. We seem to have a special place in our hearts for those places, experiences, and people of our past. For me, although I’m not Italian by blood, I feel like maybe I’m a bit Italian by having lived there during a crucial part of my life growing up. Thank-you for writing about your experience because I do not feel like I’m alone.

  34. Tawnya and Stinni: Thanks a lot for passing by and sharing your background with us. I think the childhood era of our life is especially crucial and in many ways more hauntingly nostalgic than other parts, simply because we were children, growing up, learning, finding our way. Nevertheless, as children we had an honesty, a desire to mingle with others or not focusing or caring what their backgrounds were (social, financial, ethnic etc) – in some ways we were purer and TCK kids *keep* that tolerance, that purity with them.
    Personally, I went to British schools in Madrid (Numont, Runnymede) and made some of the best friends ever (we still keep in contact and actually have our own webpage: http://www.oldrunnymede.blogspot.com …Spaniards, Egyptians, Israelis, Brazilians, Dutch, you name it, all getting along and still sharing strong bonds.
    Q8Sultana: If you did the AU semester in 2001 then I am old enough to be your great grandfather. Seriously, I hoped you enjoyed DC, I think its a great city and a great college town.

  35. Amer… great memories, I went back last summer and its changed so much. You won’t recgnize downtown DC at all!!!
    But a lot of the “institutions” you mentioned are still there

  36. Thank you for this intriguing post. Ironically the term TCK is somewhat new to me although it seems I fit the description exactly. Although I am Kuwaiti I have lived in the Far East, the US, and different places in Europe. I liked this statement “TCKs share more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCK’s from their own country.” Also the idea of being very nationalistic is true I think. It’s because you feel like somewhat of an ambassadress to your country abroad, especially since Kuwait is so small that most people abroad never get to meet a Kuwaiti aside from yourself so the onus is on you to give a good impression. But I do admire people who have retained friendships since kindergarten. I have no such thing. Also, as soon as you become comfortable in a place you end up having to move for whatever reason. Still, getting so much international exposure makes me feel like I had a wonderful advantage.
    Question: I don’t think you’re a TCK if you just go to college abroad, I think it’s applicable if you’re raised abroad from childhood. Is that correct?

  37. 1001 Kuwaiti Nights: Thanks for passing by and sharing your thoughts.
    Your question: “I don’t think you’re a TCK if you just go to college abroad, I think it’s applicable if you’re raised abroad from childhood. Is that correct?” is a *smart* one and I’ve often wondered about that myself although I probably think college is not enough to be a TCK. Having said that I know people who have changed upon returning from college but they tend to just settle in smoothly even though they may gravitate away from the norm. I have a college friend – kuwait born and raised – who spent *8* years in college (don’t ask) and didnt want to return and when he did return he settled in but still feels the people and the system are “mutakhalefeen” (backward).
    Maybe someone else can answer your question? Any opinions guys and gals?
    Zaydoun: “But a lot of the “institutions” you mentioned are still there”
    ROFL I almost spilled coffee over meself laddie over that ‘institution’ crack.

  38. RE: 1001’s question, I think there are also third culture adults, people who get a taste for a broader vision of life and spend their life in persuit of it. You can go to college somewhere else and come back and never think again about it, it’s possible. And, alternatively, you can listen and learn new ways of thinking, coping, problem solving, and enlarge your toolbox. You can’t be a third culture KID but maybe a third culture adult?
    (Wooo hoooooo, Amer, this post just keeps going and going!)

  39. Great post. it’s incredible to see how many TCK’s are around in the world. I’m Canadian, moved to the US at age 10, spent 14 months in Geneva Switzerland when I was 13 and now am back in the States (Boston) for school. My parents are first generation canadians from german and italian families, and having spent a lot of time in toronto, I can appreciate the cosmopolitain and diverse aspects of TCK life. I currently live in Boston in a university living group of international students, most of which are TCKs too. I lived in residence for a while, but switched because I think it is so much easier to relate to people with the shared experience of living in a culture that is different from your own.
    Regardless of where you’re from, the moment you step into another country’s culture, you are changed, and I think TCK’s are the ones who recognize this the most.

  40. Nice topic!
    I was born in Jordan, raised in the States (Arizona and Michigan) , then back to Jordan and now in Kuwait.

  41. I’m a TCK as well. Born in France while my parents were living in Germany. Stayed in Germany for 6 years. Then back to France for almost 2 years. Then spent a great deal of my life in Tahiti, French Polynesia. Moved back to France for studying. Then in the US for another year. Back to Tahiti. Then moved to Geneva for a couple of years. I live now in Paris and I’m feeling the urge to move again….
    If you want to know more about TCK, check this book: Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. Reading this book opened up a whole new world of understanding who I am and what I feel but was struggling to put up words on… May it help you too and people who contributed with their comments !

  42. Cambridge MA, Geraldine, Elijah, thanks for your input.
    I do sincerely hope TCKers find happiness and solace in their lives after all the hustle and bustle of the geographical and cultural challenges.
    On a personal level, I find it helps to remain in contact with friends who were part of our past, specifially friends who one was raised with. I guess they are akin to ‘war buddies’ in the sense that there is a certain bond there, irrespective of any personality differences.

  43. Same here, I just figured out that I’m A TCK too, I posted a entry about this subject in my blog. But yours is better, keep it up!!

  44. I myself fall into this.
    I was born in Australia. My mother is Kuwaiti, and my father is 1/2 Hungarian & 1/2 Lebanese.
    Since leaving Sydney, I grew up in:
    Geneva, Paris, Tangier (mainly), London, followed by a year-long stint in Kuwait.
    As an adult Ive resided in:
    Beirut, Denver, Houston, and Los Angeles, before returning here…
    After 2 yrs here in Kuwait, with a prior 10 yr absence, I often find myself struggling on similar fronts as yourselves.
    I’m always on the lookout for birds of my feather. You’re welcome to connect and say hello…

  45. great post- i myself am one- just moved back to singapore, have lived my previous 8 years in china (i’m 15)… it’s been interesting. and thanks for your post.

  46. Jezz.. I’m one too… I’m us born but I’ve lived in 7 places so far and still counting!!! You never notice how many other there are out there at the time, but seeing something like this… you really know that are ARE other out there!!hahaa

  47. hey man nice post.. im indian.. im 17 years old.. i was born in india.. once i was 2 weeks old, the moving began….Bangladesh, India, the USA, Israel, the UK, India and currently Vietnam. yea so its fun.. haha

  48. Hello all you fellow TCKers! It’s great to know I’m not alone in this world in my struggles…
    I agree about the “mental Torment” aspect you spoke about, the never ending feeling of knowing “I don’t belong”. You never fit in with any of the groups in any country you are, even if you return “home”, wherever that may be. That is mental torment indeed.
    I’m Egyptian by birth and my father was a diplomat. This meant we travelled a lot when I was younger (Denmark and Brazil). When my Dad retired, we lived in London for 15 years, where I finished my schooling and University.
    Since then, I have worked in the U.A.E., The Netherlands, the U.K and now in Kuwait.
    My “spiritual” home is London. But I never counted Brits as close friends. They never understood me. My current(country) hosts are Kuwaitis, but they don’t get me either…Nor do Egyptian expats, who are my “compatriots”….Its crazy!
    You never find you are 100%comfortable with any one culture or one group of people except the ones you grew up with. Even then, you may have got together at a later stage in life, and they may have moved on mentally where you haven’t.
    Amer, I think it is an EXCELLENT idea to have meet-ups. Any news of those? Since it’s your post, I propose you to organise it.
    I would be excited to attend.

  49. Welcome all to the Blog and thanks for your comments.
    It’s great to hear from all of you.
    I am indeed working on a TCK meet-up in Kuwait – maybe sometime in April or May – stay tuned all!

  50. i have found great insights into your writing, and i would like to write a followup. before i start iam going to have to give you a small introduction to who i am.
    I have lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. born in the united states but moving back to Riyahd when i was 2. i was born in a Hijazi family from madina/makkah. i grew up with a lot of prejudice toward me since i was not tribal. i grew up multi-cultural, watching TV form transformers to the Cosby show. feeling that i never belonged there, i found my way into the states where i have been studying at Oregon state university for 5 years now.
    even though i didn’t grow up in multiple geographical areas, i have lived in multiple states of mind. i think that that led to me developing symptoms similar to “a third cultured person”. getting ready to go back to Saudi Arabia soon, i will be faced with so much “reverse culture shock.”
    its nice to learn about other people’s experiences. i hope for all you third cultured persons a great struggle. a beautiful struggle.

  51. Welcome Abdulla, thanks for sharing your background with us; you are absolutely right about the ‘reverse culture shock,’ it is unavoidable.

  52. Oh Amer, did you ever dream when you wrote this post that it would assume a life of it’s own, and be such a help to so many people? Wow.

  53. I never did Intlx – it was one of those flukes.
    I was just doing some ‘internal venting’ – as I call it, something personal I wanted to get off my chest – but I didn’t think it would strike a chord, to be honest, after all the average number of posts I get per item are around 5…
    But I’m humbled, I really am, and it’s good to know there are kindred spirits out there.

  54. Hello everybody,
    Its been very comforting to read your comments and to realize that we are not alone, although thats how we may feel sometimes! Throughout most my life, I have always been a bit too enthusistic when I reply to the question “how was it like to have to make friends and leave them every few years?” I always said something like “the educational experience of living in different cultures is far greater than any other gift a parent can give their child…and you will be able to tell true friends from others as they will always be your friends, regardless of distance.” Although I still do believe this, lately I do feel the negative aspects of growing up in such an unstable environment. Do any of you experience any sort of trouble maintaining a close, special relationship with someone because of your difficulty in becoming vulnerable/opening up emotionally? I know one of my other TCK friends does, and we were wondering if thats due to being TCK’s – any comments?

  55. I’m woefully late on this post, but I wanted to add a few things for posterity.
    A person who lives internationally later in life – perhaps for university – and comes back changed – the so-called Third Culture Adult – has been named in the literature a “Global Nomad” or “Global Citizen.”
    I came to the TCK life a bit late, as a teenager when I came to Kuwait for high school. I haven’t stopped moving since. In some ways, though, I feel I was always a TCK because I was raised in environments within the US that were very different from where my parents grew up and from where I was born, and I never felt I belonged because my parents’ culture was not the normal American culture, and we were raised very differently from my neighbors and friends. Moving to Kuwait was incredibly freeing for me. Indeed, I was different and that was okay!
    My very best friend is also a TCK. I met her only a few years ago, and though we have incredibly different citizenships and lived in very different countries, we connected on a deep level due to our shared TCK experiences.
    Wonderful post & comments!

  56. Hi, I just came across your blog while searching for TCK. I just got introduced to this term yesterday by my supervisor. And now it all seems to make sense. My parents are pakistani, I was born in Pakistan, my passport country is that but I grew up in Bahrain. Went to college to the US…and just got married to a non TCK, I was always searching for a home and I could never understand that while I missed shawarmas, and abaya clad women…i wanted and yearned for american icons… and now after all these years it makes sense. 🙂

  57. Hi I too found your site searching for TCK. I have three young kids and have just moved them to Indonesia. This article has been great for letting me know what to expect and how to help them adjust.

  58. born in the states lived in mexico, panama, states again, United Arab Emirates, states again, Ecuador, Egypt, and now back in the states for university

  59. i’m making a book on people from around the world, trying to embrace the third culture as my final piece of art work at university as i am a third cultured kid. funny, my lecturers and professors just dont seem to get it at all……makes things A little difficult.

  60. I am a TCK, because I was born in Romania, but was raised as an American. My parents are your average English-speaking Americans with no connections to Romanians otherwise. I feel American, because I live in an English-speaking home, attend a Protestant church and do not have any friends whom are native Romanians. I cannot dream about living in Romania, because I’m too American (sorry if that sounds odd to anyone).

  61. In this day and age we are all American to some degree or other Cristian – welcome to the Blog and ithanks for sharing.

  62. Hi, Iam also a third culture kid,who was born in the northern part of india and ,but my family is from the south of india. I have lived in both parts of india for a couple of years .I spent my childhood/teenage years in europe as a Austrian citizen and now iam in University in UK.Being a third culture kid has always been an advantage for me,it made more adaptable and flexible to move around the world.It has never been hard to answere where iam from,because i like to say that “my home is where ever iam”.The whole world lays under my feet.I have learnt alot of language at a very younge age already and more over,i have lots of international friends.Iam glad and proud to be a TCK!!!!!!

Comments are closed.