Friday, 1 June 2012

Guest Post: Third Culture Kids - Create Your Own Culture!


From time to time, we invite others to submit articles for us to post on our blog. For today's blog, we are posting an article submitted to us by Malte Zeeck, the founder of InterNations ( InterNations is "the first international online community for people who live and work abroad." We thank Mr. Zeeck for submitting this article, and we invite our readers to check out the InterNations website for more information about an InterNations community near you. Please note that all information included in guest posts is independent of Expat Teens Talk and may not represent our views or opinions.

Third Culture Kids - Create Your Own Culture!

Third Culture Kids – countless articles, books and blog posts have been written on or dedicated to them. There are films exploring the Third Culture Kid experience, and numerous videos circulating on the internet. And yet it seems impossible to satisfy the market! Every new, well-written and well-researched book dealing with the subject is received enthusiastically by worldwide audiences. Why is that? 
In the 50+ years since it was coined, the term Third Culture Kid has become commonplace among expats. It is widely used to refer to expat children and teenagers in general – children who have grow up in many different countries and cultures and are united by one failing, so to speak: their inability to answer the question “where is home?”. In its original meaning, the “third culture” term itself hinted at the fact that Third Culture Kids had to create their own, “third” culture, because they were neither rooted in their parents’ culture, nor did they have the opportunity or the time to really adapt to the culture of the country they were staying in. 
This was because in the 1960s, when the term Third Culture Kid first entered public consciousness, most expat kids were so-called “military brats” or the children of foreign correspondents or diplomatic staff, who moved country every couple of years with their parents. They were often not given the chance to integrate into their host culture – they did not attend local schools, they did not mingle with local children or teenagers, etc. Their peer group consisted mainly or exclusively of other expat kids from various different countries. Their common language was English, but for many of them this would not be their mother tongue, so they were communicating in a language that was neither their own nor that of the country they lived in. They attended international schools where they were exposed not to one single foreign culture, but to many. As a result, these expat teens created their own, “third” culture. 
Today, things may have changed slightly. There is a tendency for expats to encourage their children’s integration into their host culture, especially if they are planning to stay in the country longer. Most international schools offer lessons in the local language, and it is not uncommon for (younger) expat children to even attend local schools. There are more and more “non-traditional” expats, i.e. people who go abroad out of their own accord and look for work independent of intra-company transfers of big multi-national corporations. Nevertheless, the traditional expat family that moves from posting to posting and from country to country of course still exists.

All these people define themselves over the term Third Culture Kid. It provides them with an identity – almost as an alternative to the national identity they lack. And Third Culture Kid doesn’t only refer to children or teenagers: many adults still identify with the term TCK – somehow the term TCA (Third Culture Adult) just never caught on. Being a Third Culture Kid has had such a profound impact on their lives that it never left them, and many of them have simply continued the life style they’ve known as a child. They are still moving from country to country, now raising their own Third Culture Kids. 
No wonder then, that there is such a high demand for literature on that topic. Expats are a distinct social group, no matter which country they come from and where they live. They have one thing in common – being an expat – that connects them across cultural and geographical borders. Expat children and teenagers are part of this group, but they must not be allowed to disappear within the “expat masses”. They have their own problems and needs, they face their own challenges, and they have huge development potential. That’s why they deserve our special attention, and that’s why books such as Expat Teens Talk are so popular and important. 

Note from the Authors of Expat Teens Talk:  Within the article you just read, there was a reference to "Third Culture Adult." While that exact term has not been pervasive throughout literature, the term "Adult Third Culture Kid" or ATCK was introduced several years ago by David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken in their book, "Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds." We encourage all readers to TALK to us and let us know what's on your mind... 

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree: "Expats are a distinct social group, no matter which country they come from and where they live. They have one thing in common – being an expat". I am a French serial expat and I have more in common with an Egyptian expat mom living in the USA than a French mom from France or an American woman who never traveled abroad.