Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) are people who grow up in countries outside their passport country because of their parent’s work. They are child expats. Many of them grow up feeling restless and unsettled.
TCK’s are always having trouble with the concept of home. They say they don’t know what home is, where home is. They act jealous of people who have lived in the same house all their lives, who are constantly surrounded by familiar places and people. I don’t think they really are jealous. I think the majority of them are happy the way things are.
When I was growing up, it was very strange to have a life like mine. People in the USA could not wrap their heads around it. I would tell people I lived in Mexico, and they would say, “Oh, Where in New Mexico do you live?.” It was too alien.
Things are different now. It is much more common for people to go live in another country. If all the expats today lived in one place, they would form the world’s 5th largest country. Six million Americans and 4 million English people live as expats. I assume a lot of them have children who are becoming TCK’s at this moment.
TCK’s love to complain about not having a home. Not knowing where home is. I think this happens when they return to their home country and find it is difficult to relate to their peers and are treated like they are outsiders. Of course they are outsiders. Society dictates that people who are different are not “normal” and often not accepted. This creates a problem for the TCK’s and they then start looking for “home.” Yet, they are actually the lucky ones because to them home can be anywhere. The world is home, the road is home.
Many years ago my cousin came up with this idea that at some point everybody would intermarry and cultures would be so intermingled that everybody would be grey. No more white, black, brown, yellow. Just grey. That is kind of how I think of TCK’s. They are so open and mixed up and similar, they are grey.
One thing about TCK’s — they tend to be creative and expressive. Many famous actors, writers, and politicians are TCK’s. I found a new film the other day — I AM HOME: thoughts of a nomad. It isn’t particularly uplifting but it gets the message across and is kind of soothing. Three women are featured and each gives her own definition of “home”. The filmmaker is Anastasia Kirillova who was born in Russia, grew up in Sweden, and lives in the UK.
One of the women featured in the film is Gabi Menezes who is currently finishing up a documentary called The Cure of Homesickness. Check out her website here. In the film her home ends up being on a train car, constantly moving.
Narges Bayat’s home is on the water with the countries she grew up in represented as an archipelago all around her. The final woman featured feels at home in an airport looking forward to the next destination. This last woman is Heidi Sand-Mart who wrote Home Keeps Moving.
It is a 15 minute film worth a watch.
Kathleen Gamble was born and raised overseas and has traveled extensively. She has a BA in Spanish and has worked in publishing, printing, desktop publishing, translating, and purchasing. She also designs and creates her own needlepoint. She started journaling at a young age and her memoir, Expat Alien, came out of those early journals. Over the years she has edited and produced an American Women’s Organization cookbook in Moscow, Russia, and several newsletters. Her first book, Expat Alien, was published in 2012 and she recently published a cookbook, 52 Food Fridays, both available on Amazon.com. You can also follow her blog at ExpatAlien.com.