My son is an honorary member of a rare Turkish believing family. Andres and his friend Ege are like two peas in a pod. He eats dinner at Ege’s most Sunday nights. He learned to plain yogurt with raw garlic for Ege’s mom. He has the privilege of sitting in while she reads scripture to her boys after dinner. When Andres spends the night there in the summertime, the boys escape the heat of the apartment to sleep outside on the balcony floor, drifting off despite the blaring television on the balcony next door.
Andres is a Third Culture Kid, just like my daughter Camille. They are growing up “between worlds,” in a culture different from mine.
Last summer I picked up the book, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken. As I leafed through it, a light dawned for me: although my husband and I experience culture shock and must adapt, we cannot fully realize what our children go through because we are not TCK’s. We were born and raised in our parent’s home countries. Our children were born in El Salvador, but our son has partially forgotten his original mother tongue. Since leaving El Salvador, he and his sister have lived in the US two and a half years and in Turkey 9 years.
Being a TCK has its blessings and its curses. I asked Andres (14) and Camille (12) what they think the privileges and problems are. Here are their thoughts:
“You get to go to countries you wouldn’t have been to and have more adventures; it’s more fun.”
“You get to try out lots of yummy food!”
“You get to meet people from different nationalities with different world views.”
“You can learn different languages.”
“You celebrate a lot of holidays, Turkish and American. That means lots of time off school!”
“You have a different perspective about the rest of the world than many people in America because you’ve spent more time outside. If there’s a problem between the US and the Middle East, we hear the Middle East perspective because we’re here, and we hear the US perspective on the news.”
“I love my English speaking youth group of kids from different churches and nationalities. I hear German at youth group, not just from WWII movies.”
“You’re disconnected with your relatives and family back home because you don’t get to see them often.”
“You don’t have many friends in America.”
“When people here find out you’re a foreigner, they assume you’re culturally ignorant, and they start to explain things, and when you’ve been living in Turkey a long time, it gets old.”
“Most TCK’s go back to wherever their parents are from and they have to readjust”
“Living in Turkey, you can never be like a normal kid, but normal is over-rated anyway.”
“There’s not many of your kind, not many TCK’s around. No one can really understand; your parents don’t understand, your Turkish friends don’t understand, and your American friends don’t understand you. Only TCK’s can relate.”
My children haven't read any book about Third Culture Kids, but their experience is first hand.
Leave a Comment and Share your own experience:
Do you have any global nomads growing up in your home? How do you encourage and help them to adjust and adapt? Do any of you have kids who have moved back to your home country? Next week I'll write a second post to share what works for our family, but I want to hear your experience as well.