Saturday, April 23, 2011

Third Culture Kids

T is for Third Culture Kids. "Who in the world are they?" you might ask. They frequently find themselves asking that same question.

At least one whole book has been written on this subject and I will just give a brief summary here.

Third culture kids are those who are raised in a culture that is not the culture of their parents, although it may include many of the customs of their parents' culture. Often they take on characteristics of the culture in which they are living, yet are not 100% part of it. They identify most closely with other Third Culture Kids instead of with those of either their parents culture or the culture in which they find themselves living.

Our children are third culture kids, two of the three having been born and raised in Brazil. They consider themselves to be more Brazilian than American, but frequently feel like fish out of water in certain situations in each of the cultures. They are neither Brazilian nor American but a curious mixture that makes them members of a rather small group known as third culture kids.

Children of missionaries, of diplomats and of military personnel who live with their families in another culture are all part of this "small" group. They are blessed with a unique perspective, being able to identify and observe both the strengths and weaknesses of each culture. But they are also often emotionally tied to both cultures while belonging to neither and this can definitely be stressful. They are children without a country, yet having at least two "homes."

John was one of these third culture kids. Even though he was born in the United States, most of his growing up years were spent in Brazil. Three of his high school years were spent at boarding school - yet another culture. Returning to the USA for college wasn't easy. There were many challenges and many things, such as how to manage a bank account that were completely foreign to him. Most of the friends he grew close to were other missionary kids (MK's) who understood and had the same kinds of challenges. One of his closest friends was Korean but had been raised by missionary parents who lived in Japan so he had 3 cultures to deal with.

Have you known or do you know any third culture kids?


  1. That's very interesting. I never really thought about how difficult it was for your kids to adjust.

  2. A relative (one nationality) and spouse (a second nationality) lived in another country (a third nationality) where their children were raised. Does that make the children third culture kids once removed?

  3. Thanks to Wycliffe, I've known many!

    Including the PARENTS of those MK's!

  4. With thanks to Wycliffe, I've known many MK's, including their parents!They ALL have trouble dealing with dealing it from ALL countries.

  5. I am from England and my wife is from Sarawak, Malaysia. We live in West Malaysia and had a daughter born to us here, who is now 3 years old. She is a Malaysian citizen but her character and personality and the way she speaks is very much English. So she's kind of stuck between two worlds.

    Great blog, I'm also participating in the A-Z challenge at Duncan In Kuantan

  6. Bonnie, thanks for commenting. It was always an adjustment for us too. Since we came back to the US in 2003, we finally felt like we "fit in" here about 2 years ago.

    Karen, yes, and Wycliffe has special programs to help with those adjustments because understanding them is always helpful in adjusting quicker.

    Gail, I think it still makes them just "third culture kids." :)

    Duncan, thanks for your comment. There is a book called, Third Culture Kids that you might find helpful. Sorry I don't know the author right off the top of my head. I'll stop by your blog in a bit.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts.