TCKs and the big picture

If you’re on you are most likely a Third Culture Kid, whether you like it or not, and being a TCK certainly provides you with a number of complicated and confusing challenges and drawbacks. There are huge advantages, however, if you think about the ‘big picture’ rather than the details. A paradox is often described as being two sides of the same coin, but the advantages and challenges from a TCK perspective are perhaps more similar to a number of different strands all woven together.

For a TCK the world is big and fascinating but TCKs can often be confused by local issues of politics, patriotism, or cultural values. We can often overcome such detailed rivalry and potential conflict by the inherent understanding that there are a number of different ways to look at issues. This can be seen every day in the number of commentators and journalists who are TCKs, including Henry Robinson Luce, the founder of Time Magazine, and Fareed Zakaria, the award winning author. For TCKs the challenges of confused loyalties can be offset by their naturally expanded worldview.

For a TCK the world is real. Their view of the world is not developed through social media, television, or radio reports, but by their first-hand experience. TCKs may not be present at a particular event, but they will often have far greater insight into the circumstances, context, and implications than people who have experienced only narrow cultural influence. This might be called a ‘three-dimensional’ world view. The challenge here is that TCKs can also have a far more painful reaction to an event because they naturally understand what impact it is likely to have on people like them. TCKs have a painful awareness of reality.

For a TCK the influence of a number of different cultures is entirely normal. This can be such an advantage given the enrichment that this provides and the interest that it stimulates in a variety of people and places. The challenge is often that a TCK is less well versed in their ‘home’ culture, exposing them to feeling embarrassment and even shame when they get the details wrong. This can be especially true for younger people, for whom a sense of cultural identity can seem extremely important. A lack of deep understanding of one’s ‘home’ culture can occasionally even be dangerous. And yet the advantage of extensive cross-cultural enrichment are clear, and provide valuable life lessons in the way the cultural tapestry comes together.

The TCK profile provides a number of benefits and challenges. Most importantly, it offers an opportunity to rise above the detailed complexities of life and provides a more balanced overview of the ‘big picture’.