Magazine topic: 
Life around the world

Being a 'third culture kid'

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Third culture kid is a term in English that is used to describe children who have grown up in a different culture to that of their parents. There are great things about experiencing such a unique childhood, but third culture kids can also face many challenges.

I was born in England, to English parents, but when I was two years old my dad got a new job in  Poland. Since then I have lived in four other countries around the world, and although I have a British passport I sometimes don't feel very English at all!

One of the best things about moving around a lot when I was younger was experiencing many diverse cultures and countries. I was able to try different foods, learn different languages, experience different traditions and meet people from different backgrounds. I am also lucky to now have friends all over the world, from Nigeria to Canada, that I keep in regular contact with. Having to go to a new school every two years or so also made making new friends much easier, and I think I adapt well to new situations. And of course, moving around so much prepared me very well for my year abroad!

However, it wasn't always easy. It often felt like I had only just settled in to the new school, city and culture before my parents told me we were moving again. Leaving my friends behind was devastating as a child, and I have lost touch with many people I was very close to because one of us moved country. It was also very disorientating to have an English passport, but not feel very English at all. Because I had no access to English culture, returning 'home' often felt like visiting a foreign country. When I started university in England, references to English television, English games and English education were completely lost on me! Happily, now I feel more at home in England - although the question, "where are you from?" still confuses me!

At the time, I didn't realise how incredible lucky I was to have such an exciting childhood. Because I went to international schools, where most other students were also third culture kids, I thought my life was normal. Now I am so grateful for the unique opportunities I had, and it has made me want to continue to travel around the world for a very long time!


Have you ever moved to a new house, school or city? Was it easy or difficult for you to adapt?


Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 12 March, 2015 - 09:18

Interesting subject and the story is new to me. Because I was a first culture kid and I've never lived abroad (the longest days of my stay abroad was 10 days) and have lived in the same community since I was born. I didn't know what it would be like to experience as a third culture kid, but one day I knew a friend who was in a school where third culture kids often came and left. What strikes me is that she said 'I've been used to think that there's a best before date even in a friendly relationship'…. It never crossed my mind! Sad as it may sound, but to me, I like the idea. Contrary to her experience, I'm surrounded by old friends who are long passed their 'expiration date' (including me)! We still see each other in the past, which sometimes makes us feel comfortable when we become introverted. Not all good…
Where are you from? -We're from the same planet! :-)

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