What is TCK?

TCK stands for Third Culture Kids.

A Third Culture Kid is someone who has spent a large part of the developmental years in another culture than the ones their parents have. Because of the time spend in different cultures these children develop a relationship to both cultures without have any sense of ownership in any of these cultures.

Term “Third Culture Kids”

In the early 50s Ruth Hill Useem, sociologist, spent a year in India with her three children. Learning how to relate to different cultures is how they first used the term. After a while they started calling the children of parents in a different culture “Third culture kids”. The reason Ruth Useem used this term is because TCKs take parts of their birth culture and some of the new culture and turn it into a ‘third culture’ very specific to each individual.

TCK facts

  • 90% of them  do not fit in with their peers    
  • 80% believe they can get along with anyone
  • 45% of TCKs go to 3 universities before getting a degree
  • 44% earn an undergraduate degree after the age of 22
  • Common professions for TCKs are: Educators, medicine, professional positions and self-employment
  • Government, big businesses or parents’ career choices is something you’ll not easily find TCKs in. Same goes for large corporations.
  • 4 times more likely as non-TCKs to earn a bachelor’s
  • Suicide and Depression rate is higher with TCKs than for non-TCKs
  • Lack a sense of belonging

How do you know you are a TCK?

  • ‘Where are you from?’ is a tricky question
  • You tend to have a culture shock when re-entering your ‘home’ country
  • Your friends are from different countries
  • Your accent tends to change depending on the person you are talking to
  • You spent a lot of time on an airplane or at the airport
  • You may not look like everyone else but don’t feel like you fit in
  • You don’t really know where ‘home’ is
  • Your life story contains several ‘then we moved…’
  • Geography of the rest of the world has no secrets for you. Your ‘home’ geography is something else entirely.