What is a Third Culture Kid ?
Third culture kid (TCK) is a term used to refer to children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years.
The definition is not constrained to describing only children, but can also be used to describe adults who have had the experience of being an ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid). The experience of being a TCK is unique in that these individuals are moving between cultures before they have had the opportunity to fully develop their personal and cultural identity. The first culture of children refers to the culture of the country from which the parents originated, the second culture refers to the culture in which the family currently resides, and the third culture refers to the amalgamation of these two cultures. The third culture is further reinforced with the interaction of the third culture individual with another expatriate community one would come to encounter.
Today, the population of third culture kids, also referred to as "third culture individuals" (TCIs), is increasing with globalization, transnational migration, numerous job opportunities and work overseas, accessibility of international education, and various other factors. The number of people who are currently living outside the old nation-state categories is increasing rapidly, by 64 million just within 12 years, reaching up to 220 million people (2013). Since TCKs' international experience is characterized by a sense of high mobility, they have also been referred as global nomads. Furthermore, their multicultural experiences away from their motherland at a young age, give them other unique nicknames such as "cultural hybrids" and "cultural chameleons".
Some well-known TCKs include the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and Abby Huntsman, daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to China and former Governor of Utah Jon Huntsman, Jr., who lived in Beijing and various other Asian cities due to his father's career path. Currently, there are as many bilingual children in the world as there are monolingual children. TCKs are often exposed to a second (or third, fourth, etc.) language while living in their host culture. "TCKs learn some languages in schools abroad and some in their homes or in the marketplaces of a foreign land. . . . Some pick up languages from the servants in the home or from playmates in the neighborhood" (Bell-Villada et al. 23). This means that TCKs obtain language skills by being physically exposed to the environment where the native language is used in practical life. This is why TCKs are often bilingual, and sometimes even multilingual.