TCK and the third culture

by Translation Guy on December 4, 2009

TCK– That’s the new TLA for Third Culture Kids, (TLA stands for Three Letter Acronym, FYI)

Third Culture Kids is what author Ruth E Van Reken calls the kids who grow up outside either parent’s homeland. These global citizens are rooted in a couple of different cultures, not just one like us native sons and daughters.

Not only is their number increasing, but so is their social impact. I mean one of these TCK’s is the President of the United States, for crying out loud.

I’m raising one myself. Japanese wife, Pennsylvanian husband, Manhattan household, an intoxicating blend of sushi and scrapple. But I guess my daughter would only qualify as a TCK  if you recognized Manhattan as an autonomus island off the coast of America with its own unique folkways. I just got back from PA this weekend and it seems quite different to me, at least.

And while I may think she has her own culture, to my 14-year-old I’m from a distant galaxy known as the “Planet of the Old People.”

OK, so I’m disqualified to blog on this on the basis of personal experience.
But she really does think differently, and I think some of it is about her unique cultural experiences.  Seems like all her classmates come from some similarly diverse backgrounds too.

Van Reken wrote on this in the Telegraph a few weeks ago:

If we see the TCK experience as a Petri dish of sorts – a place where the effects of growing up among many cultural worlds accompanied by a high degree of mobility has been studied – then we can look for what lessons may also be relevant to helping us understand issues other cross-cultural kids (CCKs) and others may also face. It is possible we may discover that we need to rethink our traditional ways of defining diversity and identity. For some, as for TCKs, “culture” may be something defined by shared experience rather than shared nationality or ethnicity.

Culture as distinct from nationality makes a lot of sense to me. Wish I had time to read more than the reviews. Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds. Maybe I’ll make my daughter do a book report for me. Hmmm, probably not culturally appropriate.


  1. Franchesco says:

    Also abbreviated 3CK’s…

  2. Chinney says:

  3. Secordig says:

    LOL, the planet of old people – I love it!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I work with the TCK – great org.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Agreed, great organization!

  6. Thanks for plugging TCK here Ken – it seems that this will do much to increase awareness :)

  7. I have a 15 year old boy and I know exactly how you feel Ken!

  8. krystal79 says:

    HAHAHAHA! I LOVE it Ken!

  9. Weaver says:

    An interesting ‘experiment’. TCK’s tend to have more in common with one another, regardless of nationality, than they do with non-TCK’s from their own country!

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