Monday, 1 August 2011

Adult third culture kids an under-tapped source of high quality expats?

Recently I came across an interesting article about adult third culture kids (ATCKs). One of the conclusions of the article written by Denise A. Bonebright is that ATCKs could represent an under-tapped source of high quality employees. It states that successful TCK hires would be able to approach international assignments with a well-developed global skill set and a desire to experience an international mobile lifestyle. Yes I could image that to be true. Adults who have moved around the globe as kids often have a desire to travel and even sometimes a desire to live in different countries. This is often what an expat does.

Wikipedia says: An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence.

I also came across an interesting blog post Third Culture Kids starting Careers written on a blog called ExpatriateLife. The author explains that it is sometimes difficult for third culture kids to get a job because they have not been able to have a part-time job through highschool. On the other hand she clearly lists the advantages of TCKs such as: the ability to adapt quickly to new situations, willingness to relocate, fluency in more than one language, cross cultural skills, a global network of social contacts just to mention a few. All the characteristics I just mentioned are a real advantage if an ATCK would choose to become an expat.

Then I discovered something on another site: On this site there is actually a page on Third Culture Kids: Growing up Overseas and to my surprise they say the same thing. They speak of TCKs and say that they are not truly socialized in any culture but that TCKs are Global Citizens. They go on to say that it is easy for global citizens to become global careerists (expats?) I am an ATCK, so I am a global citizen. It is something I hear from others TCKs is that "this world is there home". That's what I would call a global citizen. Aysha, a TCK says the same thing in an article. She writes that we are all born in the same birthplace and share the same homeland: Earth.

In a survey done with ATCKs they said they had a strong foundation of international skills and abilities, but they felt they had limited opportunities to exercise them. If they were working as an expat there would probably be more opportunities to use their experience as a global citizen. I am not working as an expat and I actually feel the same as the ATCks. I feel that I have (cross cultural) talents and abilities that are not being used to the full in the job I have now. What a shame.

In my post From the Walk of the World to Modern Technology: My 7 links I mention this post. At the time (8th August 2011) this post on adult third culture kids becoming the future expats had hardly been read. In my mind the post did not get the attention it deserved. Now at the beginning of October 2011 this post is my second most well read post!

So what do you think? Are the third culture kids our future expats? Please share your thoughts on this, I would love to hear from you. Thanks.


  1. You've pulled together an interesting group of articles here. It's a bit surprising that several feel ATCKs are an under-tapped source of future expats because many go on to live and work overseas. It's difficult to nail down numbers of people living willingly outside their home/birth/passport country, but the consensus is that it's growing steadily. One of the main reasons is that technological advances allow many to work globally (provided they have internet connections!).

  2. Thanks Linda for your comment. It's true that adult third culture kids (ATCK) or global nomads have a desire to experience an internationally mobile lifestyle but some ATCK's find that "change" is such an ironic constant due to all the moves by their families and those around them. They sometimes find it difficult to stay with one educational path, career or job. They still keep changing, that's what they're good at.
    Some research shows TCK's typically sought careers in which they could exercise: expertise, leadership and independence. Only a small number worked for government or in large corporations.
    It's true the global careerists are on the increase and the internet really provides great opportunities!