Third Culture Kids

A Third Culture Kid or TCK for short is a young person who has lived for a significant amount of time outside of their parents home country. Sometimes called Transnational Kids or Cross Cultural Kids, their personal identity will be different from both that of their parents and the cultures in which they live. They become a hybrid of the two; hence the term “third culture”.

There are approximately 600 million people worldwide who live outside of their birth country for various reasons; some families only live in countries for a set period of time (e.g. diplomatic staff, military families, those who work for some international corporations), others move out of necessity (displacement due to war etc) and others permanently migrate to another country.

The diagram above can help people understand how they are different and similar to both their parents and the wider culture. They can use the structure to figure out what aspects of their identity come from where, and what they also find difficult. For example some young people lose the ability to speak their parents home language so can find it difficult to converse with grandparents.

How about you? Are you a TCK? What have you found to be the difficulties and the strengths you’ve gained from living away from your parents passport country?

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Counsellor and Training Specialist supporting Globally Mobile Populations and International Schools.

2 thoughts on “Third Culture Kids”

  1. Hi Alyssa. Love you bringing attention to the TCK/CCK community. It is a passion of mine.

    I wonder if you would be willing to update your graphic to better reflect the TCK model, as it doesn’t accurately depict Third Culture and causes confusion. You can find the original diagram in the Third Culture Kid Experience books (editions 2 and 3) by Pollock/Van Reken/Pollock.

    You can read more about the complexities of Third Culture Kids/Cross Culture Kids in our blog series ( The second article shares examples of flawed diagrams and unpacks the good and bad with them.

    1. Hi there – thanks for bringing this to my attention. The diagram has been updated (from one I nicked from your article!)

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