Patriotism and TCKs


My second year in China I was invited to a 4th of July party where a friend made a cake decorated much like this one from Spicy Southern Kitchen

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, which means the American corner of my social media accounts is awash in red-white-blue, fireworks, and food. And, of course, patriotism. Patriotism can be a touchy subject for TCKs. It came up many times during the interviews I did for Misunderstood, with TCKs recounting stories of tension or conflict they experienced.


A few months ago I had a guest post up on Travel Lite discussing the issue of patriotism, the emotional conflict it poses for many TCKs, and my suggestion of a more inclusive view of patriotism. I shared it elsewhere at the time but forgot to post it here!

“Whenever patriotism means loving one specific country, the multiple loves of cross-cultural living can pose problems and lead to conflict – whether that conflict is an argument with a family member, a misunderstanding with friends, or a sense of emotional upset in my own heart.”

Read the full blog post here

Travel Lite later ran a separate piece by David Campbell, an ATCK reflecting on his own experience with patriotism. While recognising the inherent tension TCKs may feel between their international experience and patriotism directed toward one country, he eloquently explains the benefits he sees in TCKs developing a deeper connection to their passport countries.

“Learning to love your country of citizenship is not always easy or simple, but it is worthwhile. Deep interaction with a nation’s history and culture can help you to better appreciate the ways that other cultures differ from one another. And your own cross-cultural experiences can give you valuable insight into the problems that your country faces. Thus, my hope for all my TCK friends is that they develop a sense of connection, not only to a local community and the global community, but also to a national community.”

Read the full blog post here

I really appreciate what Davis shares here. Yes – TCKs can learn to create a sense of home, to put down roots, to choose to connect to a place. There is a section of Misunderstood devoted to exploring this idea, with suggestions on how to work through this process, and why it’s worth the effort.

A TCK who spent their formative years abroad is never going to have the same connection to their passport country as a peer who has always lived there, but that doesn’t mean they can’t invest in and develop a geniunely meaningful connection of their own – at any age.

The TCKs who feel the most at ease with patriotism – their own and others – are generally those who have successfully integrated the different cultural influences in their lives. They are able to balance their loves for multiple places, or deliberately invest in a strong connection to one place. They choose to celebrate a place without denying the other places that are part of their story.

So, this 4th of July, I hope that all the TCKs who have a connection to the US – through passports, geography, or loved ones – are able to celebrate their connection tension-free.

2 thoughts on “Patriotism and TCKs

  1. Shortly after moving to New Zealand we were invited to tea and I told the couple we would be celebrating Thanksgiving. They thought this was the 4th of July and were offended, thinking we were celebrating our independence from the mother country. “Well, what a lot of cheek!” the woman said. I had to explain that the Thanksgiving tradition originated from the Pilgrims celebrating their first harvest in the New World in the 1600’s.


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