First and foremost, it might be necessary to explain what a “third culture” kid is. While there is some nuance in the definition, generally, third culture means: A person who has grown up in one country and culture, such as the USA. However, their parents are first-generation immigrants from a second country and culture.
As a result, the child grows up in a “third culture”, which is a mix of their country of birth’s culture with touches of their parents’ experiences too. An adult who grew up as a third culture kid is sometimes referred to as an ATCK – an adult third culture kid.
On the outside, it might seem like this is an endlessly wonderful way to be. You have two countries that you can call home; you might even have dual nationality. You have access to two lots of history, celebrations, and national pride.
There is a hidden downside to being a third culture kid, and it’s one that many begin to feel. Let’s take a look at a few of them, and explore some ways to satisfy it.
1. You never really belong to either culture.
This is the feeling that some get, not something that is necessarily true. When there is such a potent mix of two cultures – one at work and school, and one for home – it can feel like you don’t fit anywhere. While people like this are more common thanks to globalization, it can be quite an isolating feeling.
The best way to combat this is to embrace both cultures – or neither. Don’t do anything because you have to, but instead, do it because it feels right to you. Putting pressure on yourself to identify with something you don’t is an exercise in misery.
2. You may be far from your extended family.
It’s rough growing up with friends who can see their grandparents by crossing a town when you have to cross an ocean. If you feel the lack of an extended family, it’s worth bringing it up with the people you do have. If everyone is willing, then they may wish to find a lawyer that specializes in immigration to bring everyone back together.
If that’s not possible, then utilize technology to keep in touch. You can also look for local support groups – you’re unlikely to be the only one in this position. Being around people who understands will make it easier.
3. Your parents have an issue with new country beliefs, and you following them.
This happens more often that can be counted. Say for example you’re the 21st century, modern woman – living a lifestyle your parents just don’t understand. It’s important to be considerate in this case; even if they chose this country, they’re still susceptible to culture shock.
At the same time, don’t discount your preferences. It’s time for a full and frank discussion, using a therapist if necessary. If they assumed you wouldn’t pick up some new world habits, they were naive, and it’s best to set the record straight. Given time, you should be able to find a meet point in the middle that everyone is happy with.