Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Confession to make about the term Third Culture Kids

Well I have to admit that I have a confession to make. So listen all. I hope you have discovered that I am passionate about third culture kids and that I want more people to know what third culture kids are. I want you all to know why and how cross-cultural childhoods affect children and that cross-cultural childhoods do matter.

For those who are new to this DrieCulturen blog. I want to let you know that it all started on the 12th of June 2011. As I write I want to let you know that the past 24 hours people from 8 different countries have visited this blog. You came from Germany, Singapore, India and Sweden for example. The blog is just over 4 months old and people from more than 50 countries of this globe have visited here. I am so glad you came and I really hope you found what you were looking for. In Indonesian they say "Selamat Datang" meaning Welcome!

The most readers to date were from these countries. Here's my top 5:
  1. the Netherlands
  2. USA
  3. Belgium
  4. UK
  5. Canada
Now the confession. When I started this blog I took the definition of third culture kids from wikipedia. Recently I discovered that experts like Ruth van Reken are not happy with this definition and actually think it is a little incorrect. This is the definition I found on wikipedia in June 2011.

A third culture kid (TCK, 3CK) or trans-culture kid is "someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture." 

To all the readers who have read the definition on my blog I want to say I am sorry that I had the wrong definition. The problem with the above definition is that it talks of integrating pieces of culture. Culture is not individualistic, it must be shared.

The correct definition is the definition used in the book "Third Culture Kids, The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds" written by David Pollock and Ruth van Reken. So please forgive me for leading you astray. I will better my ways from today.

“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”

While I am writing this blog post I have just discovered that wikipedia has recently changed the definition of a third culture kid. It is now a correct definition. In April 2011 Ruth van Reken wrote an article explaining what third culture kids really are.

Dr. Ruth Useem a sociologist from Michigan state was the first to introduce the name third culture kids in the 1950's. Originally her definition was very simple "A third culture kid is a child who accompanies a parent into another culture".

If you want to find more information about third culture kids visit
DenizenMagazine is an online magazine dedicated to third culture kids and written by third culture kids. It's really worth a visit.

Read my blog on: Third culture kids learning to be themselves and on cultural identity confusion and third culture kids. Well that's enough talk on definitions. I was really relieved to discover that I was a third culture kid. Relieved that there was not something wrong with me but that the feelings I experienced had to do with my cross-cultural childhood. What a relief that was, of course it does not explain everything but it gave me a good starting point from which to go forward. What are your thoughts on "third culture kids"? Are you one? How was it to discover that? Do you know one? Please share with us. Thanks.


  1. Thanks for writing about this. Back in 2006 I did a research in Den Haag about TCKs whose parents are from Indonesia. At that time I wasn't aware about the term, let alone the definition. I was made aware of the term by your blog.

    Since you mention my home country Indonesia, I'd like to add that I guess what makes TCK a TCK is their cross-culture experience. It's not necessarily have to be "cross-country." In a country with so many cultural differences from one island to another, it's easy to be a TCK without crossing the country's border. Don't you think?

  2. Hello Chrysant Thanks for your comment. I would love to read your research. Is that possible? It really sounds interesting!

    One of the reasons I started this blog was to increase awareness about third culture kids (and so more people hear about the term TCKs). You're quite right that it is not necessary to cross a border. Ruth van Reken calls these kids "domestic third culture kids": children whose parents have moved in or among various subcultures within that child’s home country. I am sure there are domestic TCKs in Indonesia with the cultural differences on the islands.

    ps. I took the photo of these 3 boys in Manado recently.

  3. Good update, I just happened to use the right definition by luck. It's good to be accurate!

  4. Thanks for the compliment. I only recently discovered it after reading an article by Ruth van Reken. When you write it's good to read a lot. I'm glad I love to do both.

  5. Thanks for your interest on reading my paper! It's about how Indonesian parents and their adolescent TCKs in the Netherlands negotiate the differences in the cultural values of sexuality. You're welcome to read all but I think chapter 4 would be the most interesting part for you. You can download it here: (the one that says Chrysant 2006).

    Domestic TCKs, wow, I learn something new everyday! I think that's who I am.

    I have a feeling that they're Indonesian kids but I didn't know that they're from Manado!

  6. Thanks for the link. I have found your research. Looks interesting. I'm going to read it!

    It's really good to learn something new everyday. I'm still learning new to blog, twitter etc. It makes life fun. Third culture kids like new things, new challenges, something new to conquer.