I read some great articles by TCKs over the (northern hemisphere) summer and decided I needed to do another TCK perspective special! There’s something special about hearing TCKs share their own experiences, in their own words. Although if you’ve read Misunderstood, chock-full as it is with TCKs telling their own stories, you won’t be surprised to hear me say that! So here is a selection of posts written by TCKs (or featuring interviews with TCKs) that cover a range of topics and experiences – including belonging, grief, racism, and identity. And there’s a range of TCK voices – from countries including Cape Verde, Jordan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, the UK, and the US. Enjoy!
A Missionary Kid’s Perspective
In a few short paragraphs, this missionary kid illustrates the tension and weariness of not fitting in – whether abroad or “at home”. The emotional burden of being rejected by peers and misunderstood by parents is captured perfectly. This particular individual eventually integrated these experiences and saw beauty in the parents’ choices, and followed them in their faith. This isn’t the case with all missionary kids. I still highly recommend reading this post, to get a sense of how it can feel for a child straddling expectations and struggling to fit in.
“Did she really understand what was going on? I already spent most of the school day either being bullied or rejected, and so after school I stayed away from the other children when I could.”
Opinion: It’s Okay to be Third Cultured Kids
The China Post
I really love this piece by a Korean TCK attending an American international school in Taiwan. The author shares the internal wrestling that goes on, trying to live and identify between languages and cultures. Any easy answers belie a deeper truth.
“If being a “third culture kid (TCK)” was counted as a privilege, I’m certainly not idle, sitting quietly halfway. At the top, I’m proud of my multicultural identity, but below it, I’m confused, frustrated, and utterly in angst, of how loosely my identity is set in stone.”
My black community accuses you
I really appreciate this very honest piece, with the story of one TCK recognising the prejudices he was absorbing and living and then embarking on mindest change.
“I ran into a huge problem when I moved back to my passport country, and I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take me to adjust. I got caught up in being racist. Over the next several years, I would need to train myself to not have averse feelings for my own race. I would need to learn not to discriminate simply because they did not speak or act like me.”
Dear America, We’re Breaking Up
I decided to add another, more recent post from TCK Town. I really enjoyed Molly’s reflections on her sense of connection (and lack thereof) to her passport country.
“I think the question “Where are you from?” will always elicit some anxiety and internal questioning. I’m not ashamed of being American, I’m just frustrated that I don’t feel like I belong here. Part of being a TCK is that we are forever searching for some sense of belonging. At least I am. I may not find that in one specific place, but I know I haven’t found that in America. Home means something different for everybody.”
You Can’t Go Back
A poignant and important message from an adult Missionary Kid. This might be difficult for some to hear, but it’s so important. There are great things that come with growing up overseas – but there are struggles, too. Pretending those struggles don’t exist, trying to only focus on the good, does a disservice to families.
“When you belong to two places, you really belong to none. That is what they don’t tell you at the transition seminars. Why did I feel that I could not share this information with this missionary? The Christian community has by and large decided that MKs need to focus on the good parts of their experience- you know- all the adventures, and in the process it becomes taboo to talk about the trauma that comes along with growing up in two different cultures… When someone is not allowed to grieve properly they will engage in avoidance behavior. They will tell themselves they feel OK, or will try to bury their sad feelings. This is unhealthy!”
The Boy Who Didn’t Cry Wolf
The Black Expat
Edgar first grew up in his father’s country (Cabo Verde) before moving to his mother’s country (Mongolia). This post shares some of his experience of living between countries and ethnicities.
“When asked what is home to him, Edgar says that the idea of ‘home’ and ‘stability’ are not terms that apply to him the way they do to the rest of the world. Now living in the US, Edgar is fluent in Portuguese, Creole, Spanish and Mongolian – and of course, proud to be a very unique Cape-Verdean-Mongolian man.”
Who are the burger kids?
A series of short vignettes from TCKs (from Pakistan, Philippines and Jordan) living in the UAE. They share some of the ways they are labelled as “other” when in their passport countries. This is portrayed as “good natured ribbing” and the TCKs being interviewed give it a lighthearted treatment, but I think it’s worth remembering that these experiences can also be painful – having your peers at “home” tell you so clearly that you do not belong.
“I think growing up in culturally diverse cities and being immersed in all those different cultures forces you to be adaptable, and it teaches you tolerance and acceptance, knowing that there, literally, is a whole different world outside of your backyard…The challenge is knowing the word ‘home’, but not having a feeling to attach to the sound of it.”
I Am a TCK, but Who Are We?
This is a long read, but it gives a really good foundational explanation of what it means to be a TCK, written by a TCK. Aneurin covers the importance of culture, the TCK experience of belonging, the disconnect of being misunderstood by others, as well as building relationships nd cultural bridges. A long read, but very worthwhile.
“If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, cultural differences can be all-encompassing. The surface level discrepancies are simple enough to identify, such as food or clothes. But there are much deeper and significant ones; perception of time, understanding of mathematics, or whether football or American ‘football’ is a better sport (seriously, there is only one winner here). Despite having a British passport, I am not British. I am a TCK. I belong to a cultural group which is not bound by time or place, but experience. It is unlike other groups and was once rare, but now has millions of people.“