My Daughter is a TCK (Third Culture Kid)

” A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture.”

A third culture Kid 

My daughter, Natalie is a TCK . ( or better understood as Third Culture Country Kid.) She was  born in Kuwait  from a Dutch father, Filipino mother and currently being raised in not-so quintessential Arabic culture  in Kuwait. In a few more months, she will be attending  a Kindertagesstätte in Germany  where she will be stomping her feet with other kids and learn ABC   with other toddlers of her same age.  At her critical stage of language development, we hope that she learn Deutsch along the way.  Right now,at 18 months, she’s exposed to a bilingual home. Since birth, we  talked to her in English, but occasionally converse with her in Tagalog, Dutch & now German. I am not so sure which language will she eventually  be able to pick-up quickly,  Smorgasborg eh?

She loved to play with other Expat Kids in the parks &  playgroups. She interacts with multi-lingual children , most of them are 2-4 years ahead of her either speaking Arabic, Lebanese, Egyptian, Kuwaiti & American. In Kuwait, seeing a TCK is quite a norm. With the booming Expat community here, it’s no wonder that there are so many half-nationalities.It’s unlikely that my neighbor in the new building are French-Italian, Romanian-Lebanese, or Filipino-American. This diversity is coming hand in hand as Kuwait grows into a multi-cultural hub for Expatriates . She is exposed to Arabic culture and the norm of childhood here in Middle East.The other night, I had visitors at home and they were utterly surprised why she is watching nursery rhymes in German and Dutch children’s books.  They asked, what will be her mother-tongue? Hilarious but the child doesn’t know. At least not yet.

This is a typical part of common early childhood of  a TCK.  A child born away from her parent’s own culture have a unique childhood, even a special one. What they call home once they grow older might be confusing ,the dilemma is real but in a way, having an Expat parents gives them the  privilege to see the world in an expanded way. At an early age, TCK have the chance to have a cross-cultural competence or cultural intelligence : the capacity to function effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures. I have touched this on my post about 10 Surprising things about Parenthood in Kuwait and the challenges I have faced as I adapt on new culture along with my child.

As a new mother, I am very concerned about this fact. Myself , as the parent, is the ultimate responsible for my daughter’s early development and the path she goes along her adulthood. For now, she couldn’t decide yet for herself. That is why its very important for Expat parents to consider the well-being of their young tots and not just the financial, social & personal reasons of migrating from one place to another.  As I engrossed myself on learning more about this, I am fully aware that my daughter could face challenges ahead, (which is quite normal ) . One of the challenges that  a third culture child could face  is developing a sense of belonging, commitment, and attachment to a culture. When you moved from country to country for work, relocation or personal reasons, you dragged your child into these changes. With adults, it is a different sense of adapting to a new culture, so as with the children. What happens in their early years of childhood has a definite impact when they grow up.

Now why am I talking about this? Because this is an Expat Blog & I am sharing from my personal experience  & my thoughts on this matter. I know that soon, when my daughter grows-up, it would be inevitable for the question “Where is my Home ? ” for her not to come across with. Maybe she would even develop a love& hate relationship for the question “Where are you from? ” 

I wanted to share a relatable documentary film that talks more about TCK. Aspiring film-maker Aga Alegra and her international, multi-cultural team are now trying to explore the lives of TCKs in the upcoming documentary “Where Is HOME?” which shows us different perspectives of people who have spent a significant portion of their childhood overseas. It has an ultimate purpose of understanding why Third Culture Kids struggle to answer the question of “So Where is Home? ” and the implications this difficulty has on their personal identity.

What I have learned from watching this documentary is that TCK ‘s life can be the best life that your child could have.It doesn’t need to complicate things. When your child is exposed to early realities of life then these values can strengthen their character as they learn these things along the way. We, as parents need to guide them to have  the ability to feel at home anywhere in the world and the ability to easily connect with everyone on this beautiful planet. To pass on to our children what we have learned  to recreate a sense of community for ourselves with each move . To be there for our kids when they feel that they  are generally the odd-ones-out in each new community. We need to be on guard , to quickly find common ground in order to understand those around us so we can be a better example for our children. Remember, no matter where you go, your home is the only place your child feel that she’s accepted, belonged, safe & most importantly, Loved.

But as of now, I am ready for this ride, I don’t know yet what the future might brings to us after our move to Germany  but  I am excited for all the new things that we are learning in our Expat life, and with our TCK toddling away with us. I know there would be more challenges, but I also remind myself  there are also more fun &   that’s what makes life fulfilling. Every stamp on our passport does not mean travel, it means Life.

Can you relate on this post? How about you, how  are you coping as an Expat family and your child as a Third Culture Kid?

Do you have any unusual stories being a TCK?





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21 thoughts on “My Daughter is a TCK (Third Culture Kid)

  1. I’m sure she’ll learn German really quick. The nephew of my husband grew up in Manila, came here at 5 y.o and was already fluent in German after 6 months.:)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We don’t fit those categories but relate to what you are saying. In St. Louis, there are very little Mexican and jamaican community and culture. My children are both Jamaican and Mexican. How do we get them to transition when no one looks like them or has similar cultural background? I’m struggling with this issue but I like your concept of how it’s what happens at home first and foremost. It sounds like you are part of a wonderful community there!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks ! I haven’t realized this before, only when I think through about how would it feel If I am the child that will go from place to place with an Expat parents. It’s great that you are a hands-on Mom that took time to particularly appreciate this type of phenomenon. I appreciate your feedback cuz it helps me see more what’s your side of story there.. 🙂 Looking forward to read more from your side how you’re coping!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Where is home? That’s definitely one of the questions she’s going to be asking. But, the more I’ve traveled, I’ve come to realize that, home is a place you can call your own. Maybe, my own space. Coincidentally, Basil (my hubby) was born in Kuwait and spent his formative years there. His parents shifted back to India, eventually. But, I’ve always wondered if that’s what sparked his love – to explore different countries and cultures. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can relate 🙂 I grew up in Australia with Finnish parents and started school there. Later, we moved to Finland but English was already my first language. Today I’m bilingual. I ended up working in tourism though, because Finland never felt like home and it gave me a chance to travel and interact with like-minded people. So there are good sides and downsides. I sometimes wish I could be like everyone else but then again I wouldn’t change my childhood for the world! All I can say is, it definitely had a huge impact on who I grew up to become. I don’t think most people I know, even family, fully understand how deeply the English language is rooted into my bloodstream and my mind. This is a very interesting topic to me 🙂 I’m sure your child will gain lots of benefits from speaking so many languages: it’s a richness! Good luck and all the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for taking the time, I appreciate your comment so much!I’m glad that you were able to relate on this and that is important for me. I know that your parents wanted the best for you when they moved ,cuz look at you now, you were able to come out as great as you are, with open mind & confident. All the best to you too !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think, it is the right moment for your daughter to change the living place before school. Even we just had our kids “only” in so-called german speaking Austria and then moved back to Germany, when they were 17 and 11 years old, changing school was more difficult than it should be, because of some simple differences in the school system and the manner of hand-writing in school.
    Your daughter will feel welcome among all the toddlers of various families.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, I think so too. Her age is critical for language development so it would be easy for her to learn a new language, I knew this is an important factor to consider in our move. Thank you so much for visiting, I appreciate it a lot.Looking forward for more meaningful interaction with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. All very real and VERY valid concerns. “Where is home” is always a big question…it isn’t only the physical aspects of it but also an emotional attachment and sense of belonging to a place. When people ask my kids where they are from, the are likely to say “Thailand”; which is true but not quite right…and then there’s the connotation of mixed kids being from Thailand…when both their parents are not Thais. LOL. Oh, the confusion!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A great blog! How old is your daughter now and what languages does she understand and speak? I don’t have any children but I find the subject of multilingual children very interesting. Happy to have found your blog, looks like you have a lot of interesting stuff to share! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you so much..for taking time and reading this piece. I appreciate that you can relate to this even though you don’t have a child yet.
    My daughter is only 2. She understands German & English now. She doesn’t talk much that yet but her comprehension is growing.
    I am looking forward to see her progress how she will eventually pick up more of German culture once she get into ‘Kita’or Kindergarten this September.
    It always encouraged me when reading comments like you who view multiculturalism and diversity with an open Thank you!
    Hope you come back & nice to meet you here. ~Christina

    Liked by 1 person

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