What are Third Culture Kids?
Third Culture Kids (TCK) are children raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the culture of their country of nationality for a significant part of their early development years. Examples of developmental years are newborn (ages 0–4 weeks); infant (ages 4 weeks – 1 year); toddler(ages 12 months-24 months); preschooler(ages 2–5 years); school-aged child (ages 6–12 years); adolescent (ages 13–19). TCKs are exposed to variety of cultural influences. It is called Third Culture because:
First Culture – refers to the culture of country from which the parents originated
Second Culture – refers to the culture which the family currently resides
Third Culture – refers to the combination of the two cultures.
I am a Third Culture Kid too
Though we moved to Saudi Arabia in my adolescent years and I lived there for just two years, it has exposed me and my younger siblings to the wonderful experience of being immersed into a culture that is very far from your home country. It has created a significant imprint in the way that I look at things and how I approach life. It has created in me a thirst for adventure and curiosity. It has taught me life-saving traits too that allowed me to be more resilient and adaptable in the challenges I have faced in my adult years.
Even when I was in college and during medical school, I knew I was keen to the idea of living and working in another country once I was done with school. Now that I am married with kids, I realised I brought them along for the ride.
Why We Chose To Raise Third Culture Kids?
Even when my hubby was still courting me, I was transparent to the fact that I plan to work overseas, hoping to practice my medical practice overseas. My hubby who never planned to live other than our hometown, somehow (and maybe reluctantly at first) was open to the idea joining me in my expat adventure and to start a family in a different country.
Choosing to raise Third Culture Kids is not an easy choice. It comes with lots of sacrifices and challenges raising kids in another country with more obstacles, less comforts, expensive nanny fees to no nanny at all, many more. It is tempting to accept our parent offer to leave the care of the kids to them in the Philippines to save cost and for us to concentrate on working abroad for the family’s future. But also, my husband emphasized the importance of us, being complete as family and us, raising our kids ourselves. Though it is can be very difficult for us and expensive too, raising our kids in a totally different country, the thought of being apart from them would really break my heart. I symphatized with those who wants to bring their kids with them in their new country where they are currently working but unable to because of certain circumstances, very difficult logistics and unfortunate hindrances. Some have shared with me, how much they wish they can bring their kids with them but one of the challenges in being based abroad is that you will be placed in a living situation which would be extremely difficult, even impossible and severely impractical to bring your kids along. Some reasons would be: that work contract doesn’t provide family joining opportunities; government only allows certain visa or pay grade to get dependent visa for family; work hours is very erratic & spending time or caring for the kids would be very hard; finding helper/nannies in the area is hardly possible or impractically expensive, etc. We were blessed to have been given this opportunity to have our kids with us here. So we would take in the difficult because besides the joy of having a complete family and rearing them ourselves, we have realised many advantages in raising Third Culture Kids.
Why Raising TCKs are Awesome
Having our kids with us along for the ride has wonderful advantages because living abroad, “away from our village” will makes us as a family, hence making us closer to each other. And the nothing can top the feeling that we are complete as a family whatever challenges and changes we faced overseas.
Here are the reasons why we love raising our kids abroad:
1. They become resilient
The changes experienced in living abroad strengthens one’s resiliency. The many different challenges encountered will provide excellent opportunity to develop skills in facing variety of adversity thrown on their way.
2. They learn to be flexible and adapt easily
If you are placed in a country with a vast degree of difference from your own country, in order to survive you have to be able to adapt fast and be flexible. Or else, if you have poor adaptability to new situations, you will definitely not survive living abroad or you will choose to go home to the comforts of your home country. Remember, you are just a visitor of the current country you are living in, even if you have permanent residency card. You should adapt to the country, not the way around.
3. They are multilingual
When kids study abroad, there are some curriculums requiring them to study the language. Our eldest used to have Chinese class in Singapore. He can sing Chinese songs and even teach me Chinese words & phrases. Here in Oman, we enrolled them at an Indian School which is the only English school near us. They have Hindi class for them to learn the language. For English-speaking countries, kids will eventually develop the accent or slang of the country to communicate well with their peers.
4. They will cultivate the love for adventure, ignite curiosity of other cultures and instinctively love to travel
Being exposed to different culture and enjoying the experience of the wonderful foods & marvelous sites, TCKs couldn’t help but get more curious in checking out the culture, foods and sites of other countries. There is no fear of exploring the unknown because they were able to handle living in new country and manage to adjust well.
5. They will have friends around the globe
The collection of friends are widespread from own country, to the countries they lived in as well as countries they have travelled to.
The Ugly in Raising TCKs
Not all things are nice and pretty when raising kids overseas. It had its dark side which should be best address as well.
1. Confusion of own’s “real” culture
Yes, there will be sort-of a confusion which culture they will adhere to. A perfect amalgamation of two cultures is needed to avoid this.
2. Sense of entitlement
Some kids just because they have their “eyes opened to the world” they have developed a sense of entitlement that they are ‘better’ than those who are not exposed to living abroad. This is a very unhealthy attitude which my husband and I definitely will not allow our kids’ to develop.
3. Lost touch of culture of origin
Same as #1 but more on forgetting totally the culture of origin. It is very important that kids know and understand their roots. My husband would teach our kids our hometown dialect during bedtime and asking them to repeat often. We also want to let them explore the Philippines when we go home for vacations.
4. Lack of permanency
There will be an inevitable feeling of lack of permanency if you are constantly changing residence constantly. There is a feeling being a nomad, feeling displaced, not very sure where you truly belong.
5. Cultivate an escapist mentality
Because of the ability to navigate foreign waters skillfully, when things gets rough in current situation, one may easily transfer country to country to seek that ‘perfect‘ country of residence that never exist. This kind of attitude foster this negative escapist mentality which doesn’t solve one’s problem heads on.
Despite of the cons in raising kids abroad, my husband and I are still adamant in bringing our kids along as long as the opportunity allows it in our vagabond lifestyle.