With mounting globalisation, and workers jumping from one country to the next, where do expat kids call home? W When children come to the end of their time at Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur, they receive a leaving kit. Inside: a sour sweet, a length of ribbon, a […]
“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture(s). Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background . ”
— David C. Pollock, developer of the TCK Profile, founder, Interaction, Inc., co-author Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds
As Ruth Useem wrote in an early article describing the Third Culture, “each of these subcultures [community of expatriates] generated by colonial administrators, missionaries, businessmen, and military personnel—had its own peculiarities, slightly different origins, distinctive styles, and stratification systems, but all were closely interlocked.”1
In other words, for all the differences of background, nationality, ethnicity, and purpose for living internationally among the groups, there were some fundamentals they all shared that transcended those differences. It was here in the early days of cross-cultural interchanges that a new way of looking at “culture” began. It was also here that the impact of how such a lifestyle impacted children began as well.
Common characteristics of Third Culture experience (for adults as well as kids)
- Cross-cultural lifestyle
- High mobility
- Expected repatriation
- Often a “system identity” with sponsoring organization/business (e.g. military, missionary, corporate, foreign service)
Common personal characteristics of TCKs (children who grow up in this world)
- Large world view
- Language acquisition
- Can be cultural bridges
- Rootlessness—“Home” is everywhere and nowhere
- Sense of belonging is often in relationship to others of similar background rather than shared race or ethnicity alone
- Many of their losses are not visible or recognized by others. With no language or understanding to process these losses, many TCKs never learned how to deal with them as they happened and the grief comes out in other ways (e.g. denial, anger, depression, extreme busyness, etc.).
- “Cultural marginality” describes an experience in which people don’t tend to fit perfectly into any one of the cultures to which they have been exposed or with which they have interacted, but may fit comfortably on the edge, in the margins, of each. (For how that relates to TCKs see http://www.worldweave.com/BSidentity.html)
Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a term describing people who spend a significant part of childhood living outside their passport countries. I’m Australian and spent two years of high school living in the USA. I didn’t know anything about TCKs until years later, however, when I began working with TCKs in Beijing, China. Thirteen years later, I am still working with and advocating for TCKs—work that I am passionate about. I am also passionate about equipping and encouraging parents of TCKs, and other expatriates, by sharing what I have learned over the years. These passions led to writing a book, for which I interviewed 270 TCKs and conducted a survey of 750 TCKs, and now I travel to speak to international communities around the world. I will be contributing several articles to China Source about the TCK experience, starting with this series of three posts covering foundational key concepts.
The acronym TCK is fairly well known in expat circles. What is less well known, however, is what these three cultures are. Most people assume it’s 1 + 2 = 3. That is, my first country (home) plus my second country (where I live) equals a mixed up third culture. While there’s a little something to that, the reality is quite different.
The three cultures are not a count—not a number of countries that influence a person. If this were so, most TCKs I know would be well past three or even four. Rather, the three cultures are three types of cultural influence. This is crucial for understanding how an international childhood shapes a person, even into adulthood. The First Culture: Legal
A legal culture is any country that grants me legal recognition. That is, the government accepts me as one of theirs—with a passport, or permanent residency (a green card, rather than a long term visa). Thirty-five percent of TCKs I surveyed had more than one legal culture.*
But having a passport isn’t the same as having experiential connections. The experience of growing up in places where I do not have legal recognition has an emotional impact. The country I legally belong to doesn’t completely feel like home, but I am not accepted by the country that does feel like home. Singapore has always been very foreign to me, but when people asked where I was from, I replied: “Singapore.” It was a reflex. In high school, when people asked where I was from, I still said Singapore, but I knew it simply meant the country printed on my passport. — Stephanie, Singapore passport; grew up primarily in China.* The Second Culture: Geographic
This is any culture that influences me because I live in it. For some TCKs, there is no overlap […]
At the 2017 Families in Global Transition Conference (FIGT) in The Hague, Netherlands, Ruth van Reken elaborated on the term Cross Cultural Kid . Children are often in more than one of these circles at the same time. (e.g. A traditional TCK who is also from a minority group; a child of immigrants whose parents are from two different cultures, etc.) This helps us understand the growing complexity of the issues we face in our changing world . The term Cross Cultural Kid is the umbrella name for many variations of CCKs including:
Domestic Cross Cultural Kid
A child “whose parents have moved in and among various subcultures within that child’s home country.” (Pollock & Van Reken, 2009) This may be from the rural subculture to the city, from the subculture in one city to the subculture on the other side of that city, from a Capital city’s subculture to the subculture of another Capital city or from one State to another. Domestic TCKs are moving across cultures, they just happen to be within one country’s border.
Educational Cross Cultural Kid
A child who moves between educational cultures such as from the eastern educational culture to the western educational culture or vice versa. In this category I also include students moving from living at home and attending the local school to living in the school boarding house and experiencing a new educational culture.
Bi/Multi-cultural or Bi/Multi-racial Children
Children born to parents from at least two cultures or races.
Children of Borderlanders
Children living on or near the border between two countries, perhaps living in one country and going to school in another country.
Children of Immigrants
Children whose parents have made a permanent move to a new country where they were not originally citizens.
Children of Minorities
Children whose parents are from a racial or ethnic group which is not part of the majority race or ethnicity of the country in which they live.
Children of Refugees
Children whose parents are living outside their original country or place due to unchosen circumstances such […]
The recent shootings of Asian Americans and whether these will be considered hate crimes, tornadoes ravaging the Southwest and elsewhere, and fears of uncertain variants of the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the news during the writing of this piece. Crises, unfortunately, are not new to us. As educators, along with feeling deeply troubled by these, we have had a tendency to focus on what we perceive is missing or lacking in the lives of our students and their families.
When it comes to multilingual, multicultural students, we often find ourselves and others using deficit-based statements that describe what we perceive, such as “they don’t know English and their parents don’t know how to help their children learn.” This deficit-based lens can unfortunately contribute to predictable odds of failure for historically marginalized students, especially during the many crises that we have encountered and will encounter in the future. However, more and more researchers, practitioners, and scholars are finding that when we focus our attention on what we perceive to be weaknesses or broken elements in the lives of our students, we fail to see the inherent strengths and assets that they bring to our schools and classrooms. Further, if we use that lens often enough, we begin to default to it as our modus operandi rather than focusing our attention where we should: on identifying, cultivating, and building on students’ existing and developing assets.
Research points to the essential relationship between identifying and acknowledging students’ personal, social-emotional, cultural, and academic assets and their academic and social-emotional growth and success (Biswas-Diener, Kashdan, and Gurpal, 2011). Similarly, using and applying the same assets-based lens to our students and their families enables us to form more effective and lasting partnerships with them. One of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises has been the manner in which educators responded with a renewed sense of purpose around partnering with and caring for multilingual, multicultural families.
Many of the educators with whom we work ask us how they can be more supportive and involved with families during crises. And, just as importantly, they also ask how they can work more closely with their local communities and beyond to provide comprehensive supports for students and families. In this piece, let’s explore how we can overcome inequities by building from the strengths and assets of each of our unique communities (including our students and families as well as the individuals, organizations, agencies, and institutions that make up our local communities). Begin with an Assets-Based Approach
We see crises, whatever they might be and wherever they might occur, as fueling our restart of what can be and is being done to band together. Indeed, if we really think about crises, we quickly realize that we are not silos unto ourselves. Our students and their families as well as members of our local, school, and classroom communities are all interrelated, interconnected, and even interdependent on one another. Further, when we take time to consider the possibilities of these overlapping ecosystems, we can truly support students to flourish.
A critical way we maintain relationships is by being in tune with others—reading facial expressions, interpreting emotions, and responding. But this has been tough over the last year. We haven’t seen each other as much, so we may be out of practice. Moreover, mask mandates have been integral to public health but affected how we read emotions. The eyes may be the “windows of the soul,” but over the last year or so, we’ve learned, eye contact alone doesn’t tell the whole story.
This is to say communicating feels different when portions of our faces are covered. But in the same way we are coming back from the pandemic, we can also renew our appreciation for the facial expressions and body language signs that helped build relationships and rapport. In particular, smiling has intriguing implications. Challenges of reading emotions
Even in the best of circumstances, reading facial expressions is tough. Computer experts have even struggled to develop an algorithm that does it successfully. And despite the fact that facial responses are innate and automatic, the average person is often wrong about how they interpret expressions, or they are unaware of them. In addition, people interpret facial cues based on their own unique perspectives, which introduces even more variability into the process.
Our interpretation is also dulled when we can’t see a whole face. This is true when we’re wearing masks, but also when we’re wearing sunglasses and when we see faces from a distance or through a brief glance. A study by the University of Wisconsin found children struggled to identify expressions. When faces were covered with masks, they correctly identified sadness only about 28% of the time, anger 27%, and fear 18%. How to successfully sync up
Reading others’ expressions allows us to empathize and relate to the people around us. And human connection is critical to our well-being. We are hardwired to connect with others. In fact, a study by the Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain, and Language found when people were in conversations with others, their brain waves mirrored each other. In addition, we have an instinct to mimic facial expressions, which helps us experience and identify with others’ feelings, according to a research by the University of Wisconsin . We crave relationships, and seeing and interpreting signals from each other are important ways we form bonds.
There may also be a genetic component to the way we relate. According to research from Northwestern University , people’s ability to quickly recognize emotions was partly based on genetics, and those who recognized others’ emotions also expressed their own emotions more quickly; consequently, there is a reciprocal relationship between expressing and interpreting emotion. More research from University of Birmingham shows the […]
I’m a parent of three children, ages 8, 10, and 13, with mixed identities. We’re Brown first- and second-generation Americans descended from Indian and Pakistani immigrants.
As a result, I’ve been keenly aware of how my kids are relating to their identities as they engage in their own paths of self-discovery.
Each has grappled in their own way with understanding how they “fit” into their surroundings. They code-switch and accentuate aspects of their identity like race, family background, and family culture to better assimilate in their communities.
When we traveled around the world as a family for a year, we all got a lot of practice in code-switching techniques. In each country, we accentuated the aspects of our identity that helped us assimilate, to be included by the community as one of their own instead of transactional tourists.
For example, in the 4-plus months that we traveled through Central and South America, we leaned into our Spanish-speaking skills and brown skin to facilitate friendships with locals.
In Cuba, we were proud when we were mistaken for Cubanos and relished an Indian shopkeeper’s delight when our bargaining language switched from Spanish to Hindi.
We loved feeling like locals but were aware of our differences, a balance that kept us culturally humble and hungry to learn.
The feeling of inclusion is powerful, yet it’s easy to take for granted when you’re used to it. Perhaps the best way to capture the power of inclusivity is to remember the painful feeling of its opposite.
Recall the hurt of realizing you weren’t invited to the birthday party or weren’t welcome to sit at the “cool” lunch spot at school. Remember those moments when you weren’t let in on the secret or didn’t get the “inside joke” that others shared?
Exclusion stings. It makes us feel like we are the “other.” We aren’t extended the acceptance, approval, and empathy afforded to those who are included.
In addition to the feeling of exclusion, we can look to science. Research tells us that social relationships affect a number of health outcomes, including physical and mental health.
A sense of belonging makes us feel that we aren’t alone, increasing our ability to cope more effectively with hardships. In other words, the stronger the connections and ties are to the communities we’re exposed to and identify with, the more resilient and empathetic we are likely to become. Here’s the catch. If we find inclusion and a sense of belonging only in like-minded people, we perpetuate implicit biases and discrimination. Put another way, creating “inclusion” through the act of excluding others falsely empowers a few while harming the larger community. For instance, the concept of patriotism hinges upon whether someone […]
AAPI mental health stigmas have only been exacerbated amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Hannah Xu Throughout the month of May, the U.S. celebrates the history, culture, traditions, diversity and many contributions of the AAPI community with Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The month of May was chosen for two reasons. One is to commemorate the first wave of Japanese immigrants to the U.S. on May 7, 1843.
Between 1886 and 1911, 400,000-plus Japanese women and men immigrated to the states, particularly to Hawaii and the West Coast.
In memory of the arrival of Manjiro , the 14-year-old fisherman who is considered to be America’s first Japanese immigrant, Congress established May as AAPI Heritage month.
May also marks the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869.
The Central Pacific Railroad, the company that built the western portion of the railroad, employed more than 10,000 Chinese laborers, yet their hard work has often been glossed over in history.
Even at a ceremony in 1969, marking the 100th anniversary of the completion of the railroad, centennial officials agreed to set aside part of the ceremony to pay homage to the Chinese workers who helped build the railroad, but they neglected to fulfill this promise — in a way that stung like a scorpion.
Instead, the then-Transportation Secretary, John A. Volpe, attributed the achievement to Americans, saying: “Who else but Americans could drill 10 tunnels in mountains 30 feet deep in snow?”
Volpe mentioned some of the backbreaking and hazardous work that was performed by a labor force consisting of 90% Chinese migrants, who were ineligible to become citizens under federal law, but they received nothing more than a passing mention. The five minutes of recognition that was promised to these migrant workers was never given. Thus, each May that passes, the AAPI community acknowledges this labor effort and reflects on the many ways in which Asian immigrants shaped this country.
For the 31 days of May, mental health advocates, organizations and those living with mental illnesses observe the importance of taking care of one’s mental wellness, and shed light on the issues that permeate the mental health industry, like inaccessibility, injustices within treatment centers, and the stigma that hinders people from seeking help.
The word stigma is defined by the Cambridge English dictionary as “a strong feeling of disapproval that most people in a society have about something.”
Stigma, prejudice and discrimination against people with mental illness is extremely normalized and can be seen in several sectors of society.
Mainstream media coverage of complex illnesses, such as psychosis and schizophrenia, tend to emphasize portrayals of violence, unpredictability and danger to others, despite the fact that close to 96% of violent crimes are committed by people who […]
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of one of the fastest-growing groups of people living in the United States. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders contain multitudes. They are a global community with a homegrown and unique perspective on America.
Their diversity expands continents and demographics. The hopes and dreams of the AAPI community are America at its finest, and its people and traditions are those that are tightly stitched into the fabric of the nation. The American dream is alive and well within the AAPI community, and we’ve gathered so many of those dreams here throughout this inspiring list of individuals.
We’re publishing The GMA Inspiration List as the community asserts its voice — speaking out and standing up as anti-Asian violence has spread amid the COVID-19 pandemic; defining itself on its own terms; and increasing awareness of their collective history and future in the United States.
The month of May is a time to remember those who have enriched the community and others with knowledge, pride and respect. We recognize that work, those struggles and the vision for the future of the AAPI community, and reflect on the idea that their history is at the heart of American history.
Welcome to the GMA INSPIRATION LIST: Who’s Making AAPI History Right Now?
Good Morning America and ABC News asked influential AAPI leaders, celebrities, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, athletes and more to nominate fellow members of the community for the list. It’s important to note: the vastness of the AAPI community means it has deep ties in countries of origin, which includes the rich Asian global diaspora. To honor the global community, we’ve provided space for nominators who do not identify as American. Most of the nominations on the list are rising stars on the cusp of becoming household names, whose influence, we believe, will become monumental. They are those who are doing the work, gaining success and sharing their talent … and making history right now.
America, meet the next generation of AAPI excellence. James Hong nominates Chris Naoki Lee
As an actor who has been a part of this business for nearly 70 years, it has been inspiring to see the rise in work from the Asian community, and I am proud to acknowledge Chris Naoki Lee as an up and coming artist. This industry certainly tries to put you in a box, or tries to make you stay in your own lane, but just as I had learned to weave my career into what it is today, I see Chris making similar bold choices as well. Not only does he work as an actor, but he continues to adapt and evolve in the fields of writing, directing, and producing. […]