Third Culture Kids: A Hidden Minority of the 21st Century

This post is meant for all those people who meet, befriend, work with or love a Third Culture Kid, and obviously for all the TCKs out there (especially those who haven’t yet realized they are one).

What is a Third Culture Kid?

Who am I?

My name is Killian. I am a TCK. I am 20 years old in currently find myself in Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico. I was born in Tampa Bay, Florida.

My mom’s family is from Mexico City and my dad’s family is from Chicago and Guadalajara, although he was born in California. We have Spanish, Indigenous, British, Irish, Dutch and Middle Eastern blood.

So far my life trajectory goes: Tampa Bay (US), Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Paraguay, Argentina, Fort Lauderdale (US), Mexico City (Mexico), Fort Lauderdale (US) and Queretaro (Mexico). Coming up next is a different US city for college.

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My girlfriend was born in Oklahoma, but currently resides in Cincinnati (yes, we are happily and proudly in a long-distance relationship). Two of my best friends from childhood left their countries to study in Boston and Kansas. Other great friends include a Jew, a Greek and a Hindu. During my summertime job I work with people from at least five different countries to bring a soccer program from Barcelona to the States.

Being asked where I am from can be a pain because I already know that people are going to get confused and curious and ask an endless series of questions, while perhaps, I just want to enjoy my drink or hear other people talk. Although, if I want to make conversation I know I have material for hours.

One of my favorite foods is a cross over dish my family invented between Paraguayan and Mexican food. I have an insatiable thirst for travel and diversity. After seeing and even adopting so many perspectives I have a great passion to look at the bigger scheme of things and see how everything fits together, whether it is the difference between science in American and in China, or how schizophrenia can be a disease in one place and a divine gift in another, or how one can practice justice when different cultures (and sub-cultures) give you different indications. Mere relativism isn’t enough for me. For each culture, I can’t just ‘let it be’, because I belong to more than one and the differences between them become internal contradictions for me. I need to reconcile, integrate and harmonize differences. I think you can see why I want to major in Anthropology. I can ponder over every single little thing. A single piece of clothing can get me thinking about social-economic classes, nationalities, gender identities, weather conditions, professions, personalities, production technologies, movie characters, you name it.

For me, discovering the term and idea of TCK brought a mix of feelings:

  • I felt relief in discovering that my strange combination of identities has a name. The fact that I could name it meant it was a real thing which other people were experiencing too. The concept of TCK helped me understand why I feel so different and why I have a hard time fitting in, lessening feelings of inadequacy. As I saw videos and writings of other kids who maybe looked Asian, had European parents, lived in Africa and chose to study in America, this was the glue that helped me create my own identity from all the mismatching pieces.
  • I also felt pride and excitement. I realized living in different cultures has given me skills that no other education could. From linguistic abilities to a capacity to empathize across cultures and more, travel has taken a large role in the formation of my strengths. The fact that the world is becoming increasingly globalized means that I am lucky enough to have many advantages and opportunities that few others do.
  • Finally, I also felt sadnessanger and fear. Realizing I am a TCK did mean that I wasn’t alone, but it also meant that there were few people who I would be able to relate to, and that they were scattered. Even going back to my “home culture(s)” or relatives would never feel completely right.  I read articles on the diversity of problems TCKs went through, including depression, social difference and loneliness, arrogance and low self-esteem, existential problems, uncertainty over career decisions and unstable lives. Feeling afraid and angry over these problems, I’ve wished for a regular life before.

As of right now I feel happy to say I am a TCK. It has its pros and cons, just like any other alternative and every single thing in life.

Hopefully this post and my sharing will have helped you understand the idea of TCK better. More posts on the TCK life are being prepared.

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