There's No Home Any Place?

This is an interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor and more related to “sociocultural” factors, but I thought I would post it anyway to see if it was of interest to others.

An American by birth and parentage, Rachel has lived in Germany, Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, and now Thailand, all before graduating from high school. Experts call Rachel and her classmates third culture kids (TCKs) - part of a growing league of young people who feel like outsiders both in the country on their passport (the first culture) and in the country of their residence (the second culture).

Instead, their greatest sense of belonging is found in a “third culture” of peers for whom everywhere, and nowhere, is home.

Such children reside in every corner of the globe, from Italy to Indonesia, Brazil to Botswana - any country where American parents are working as military officers, missionaries, embassy officials, journalists, factory managers, or business executives.

With 7 million US passports issued in foreign countries each year, estimates suggest roughly 4 million American youngsters are growing up overseas. A typical expat family is on the move every two or three years.

What is the long-term impact of such an exotic, rootless childhood? That question is debated today as new websites, support groups, research studies, and dozens of books seek to advise and analyze this expanding group of global nomads.

The experts agree that TCKs are multilingual, highly adaptable, broad-minded, often untouched by racial stereotypes, and more culturally aware than their peers back home. They are self-reliant and socially mature. In one sense, they are the ideal citizens in a globalized world. But American peers are more likely to view them as pampered misfits.

Same could be said of any ‘international offspring’ from any country…except France of course.

What, so the situation doesn’t apply to Italian parents working in Japan? What kind of idiocy is this?


I think that while Americans were used as examples, it applies to everyone who grows up in this particular environment.

Absolutely Fred. Good article.

Very interesting, thanks for the article. I’m curious–I wonder how many people here, in this forum, would qualify as TCKs?

You, fred?

tigerman? Blueface666? Anybody?

Would it be ungracious of me to point out that the vast majority of parents in Brazil are Americans, and that they get annoyed when that appellation is appropriated for exclusive use by people from the USA?

That said, it’s an interesting posting and link. I feel, however, that being brought up in a number of countries does not in itself lead to a broader-minded outlook. One occasionally meets or sees people who were brought up in other countries but in extremely restricted social environments consisting largely of other expat kids. There is a danger that the exotic surroundings could become just so much wallpaper, with no real involvement with the local culture, and a narrowed version of the parents’ culture.
In this situation it is also possible that one would only get to know people from similar socio-economic groups to one’s own. Of course I am not so silly to take on that notion that rich kids are always spoilt and have no knowledge of other people’s lives, but an open-minded attitude does require meeting people from different backgrounds.

I would say that it comes down to parental attitudes. If parents are interested in and involved with local cultures, then being brought up “abroad” could be a very valuable experience. Moving frequently would be hard because of always having to make new friends, but there could be other benefits.
If the parents live in a shell, only socialising with other expats then it is likely that the children will absorb their attitude and hence not necessarily be any more open-minded than children brought up entirely in their parents’ home country; possibly less so.

The community work required by Bangkok International School seems like a very good idea.

I’m what I guess would qualify as a TCK. Spent my first 16 years in Taiwan ( with short stays in Japan and Sarawak). Furloughs “home” to Canada every three to five years for 3 - 6 months or so. As a young child I thought that I was Taiwanese, as an older child I couldn’t really figure out exactly what I was in terms of where I fit in culturally - a bit of both worlds I guess. Returning to Canada had to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t know my relatives (still don’t, really), climate, behavioral norms, education… I never really got over it.

Finally returned to Taiwan after 27 years. I feel at ease and for the most part, happy here but have realized that home can only be the place where I hang my hat.
I have friends who have grown up in similar circumstances… most of us have travelled extensively or settled in countries other than our respective “home countries”.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunities I have had… wish there could have been a better way though! I think that there has been a shift however, in the ways that Businesses, Churches, the Military and other Organizations are approaching the needs of families overseas - hopefully, for the better.

[quote=“flike”]Very interesting, thanks for the article. I’m curious–I wonder how many people here, in this forum, would qualify as TCKs?

You, fred?

tigerman? Blueface666? Anybody?[/quote]

Not me. I didn’t come to Taiwan until I was 22 years old. Having spent so much time here, however, I don’t feel totally “normal” back in the States, and of course, I’m not quite normal here either…

'…like 17-year-old Rachel Wintheiser, many of these young sophisticates begin to stammer when asked the seemingly simple question, “Where are you from?”

“Ummmm, I guess I am from Illinois,” Rachel says during a recent class break. “Or Wisconsin. That is where we spent our summers so it is home, more than any other place, I guess.”’

My upbringing was comfortable, with loving parents, although not very exotic - it was all in England. We did move around a lot, however, so I have a similar experience. People ask ‘Where are you from in England?’ I was born in London but we moved to Yorkshire when I was six weeks old. By the time I was 14 I’d lived in seven different places from the north of England to the south-east to the south-west, including a stint on the Isle of Wight.
The only thing that was constant was the rain.

I would fall into the TCK category. I have always hated that term, and always passed it off a psychological babble used to sell books. I usually tell people I am from Oregon, but now since I’ve been in Taiwan longer than anywhere, I am debating on whether I am now Taiwanese-American, for lack of a better term.

TCKs might be “broadminded” and “untouched by racial stereotypes” but nothing pisses off a non-missionary or non-military TCK than to be asked, "Were your parents missionaries? or “Were you in a military family?” :imp:

The article is right on about the bus and being perceived as a pampered misfit. It is also correct about ending relationships when they see the slightest bit of trouble. I can do my own laundry, being queer and everything, but public transportation in America does make me flip out. But a rootless childhood? I am still in constant touch with many childhood friends in the states, as well as here.

I am not really sure whether I feel I don’t belong in the U.S. is because I grew up as a TCK or a queen. I’ve been called a snob many times, but is it because I am a TCK, or am I just a snotty prick? As an American, I miss not being able to get Diet Dr. Pepper and Taco Bell once in a while, but I’ll never understand why Americans who aren’t obsessed with guns, cars or TV shows must be treated like they need their heads checked.

It’s no big deal, though, if I tell someone in the States I live in Taiwan and they say something like, “Wow, your Japanese must be really good.” Nothing to get perturbed about. There are certainly lots of hobbies and other things in the States I am not familiar with.

I guess I qualify big time. Hmmm I think that I would be the opposite. I would work much harder to save relationships than if I had lived only in the United States since I value each and every one of them to a far greater degree BECAUSE of the constant moving and meeting new people. Does that make sense? I think also that it has made me place a much higher value on continuity and so for me I get that from having Thanksgiving and New Years at the same place so while the people may change… at least the place provides the continuity and connection and allows you to remember all the previous people and experiences/fun/ etc. I also prefer remaining in the same apartment and staying at the same hotels, eating at the same restaurants when I travel abroad.

Having the exposure to so many places has meant that I can pick up and fit right in numerous societies whether here in Taipei or abroad (even the French!!!). In fact, at one time, I would have probably qualified as some sort of salon East Coaster though I was into Republican Economics, that is, until 911 when I became a big time Republican politically as well. I also would say I learned to respect and value my American citizenship a lot more at that time as well when I realized the benefits and positives of that citizenship much more clearly when compared with the alternatives. It was very easy to be dismissive of ignorant redneck America while drawling over champagne when everything was going fine. When the chips were down, however, it was those solid values that many would sneer at as trailer trash that ultimately became very important and at least to me revealed the spiritually empty, sloganeering of the dilettantish Left, which did not really seem to stand for anything. Christ, everything has to be political with me doesn’t it? Sorry.

But seriously, there we were all faced with making a choice about values (at least I felt I was) and so despite having lived very little in the US, there I was suddenly recognizing and valuing a “relationship” with the US that until then had been a very distant one indeed. Perhaps, it could be because I am getting older as well. Hard to say.

That said, I am not sure that I would be able to live in the United States. I find that life is pretty slow paced and people are a lot more home-oriented. So once they get married and have children, it seems that everyone’s focus shifts on making improvements to their homes rather than spending time with friends or family.

Also, given the drunk driving laws, there are very few parties (except perhaps in NY where you can take the subway) and that gets a bit dull too.

Finally, I am not really into what I see as the American lifestyle which is very home based but not necessarily community based. Too much privacy and too little interaction and biking and hiking and such don’t interest me nor do trips to the Mall and my biggest complaint about most American cities is that they are not really pedestrian friendly nor do they have that human element. Too many skyscrapers and cold plazas, etc and parking lots and ramps. And I hate strip malls. This is probably the number one blight on the American landscape today. And while I loathe the politics of the vacuous Europeans, the quality of life is definitely there but they too lack the energy of say East Asia or the Old World Gentility of Argentina.

Someone once told me that people have two out of three choices about how they want to live: They can have money, quality of life or close communities but not all three. So in East Asia you lose on quality of life with small apartments, etc. while in America you lose out on community and Argentina money (no financial stability) and in Europe, you get a broad coverage of the three but lose out on the money aspect (high cost of living) and some of the excitement depending on where you live.

I definitely qualify as a TCK, having spent my childhood travelling around with my parents who were both academics. The upside of this has been the exposure to different cultures and unique living environments. My childhood was like an Indiana Jones movie. This exposure has allowed me to empathize with people from various backgrounds and has led me to have a diverse group of friends and contacts around the world. I treasure this and realize that it has indeed shaped my formative years.

The negative impact of such a childhood is the “hatred of boredom.” I have a short attention span, a blunt nature, and always need to be stimulated by excitement.

In between travelling with my parents and living overseas for half of my early formative years, I lived in a small-town, redneck city, that while being close enough to a major metropolitan area, was still far enough to have “small town, heartland values.” While I respect the values of my friends in this town (my longest friendships are based with people in this town), I am bored stiff when I return. “Oh, Sally has had another baby. Great.” I am bored by the crass commericalism, strip malls, and car talk. One week back visiting and I am ready to move back to Asia or Europe.

I have British citizenship through my mother. Sadly, I feel somewhat dislocated from my home country - Canada. It bores the living daylights out of me. I always am struck by its beauty and its friendly people, but it makes for dull living - especially if you were educated outside of the great socialist monster. I remember once in Brussels having a coffee with a friend and classmate who worked in the Canadian Embassy. He lauded the Americans for their action in foreign policy and trade matters, while he lambasted the Canadians for their penchant for forming yet another discussion committee or launching the publication of another useless “White Paper.” The majority of Canadians talk a lot about nothing. I guess when you are a mouse sleeping next door to an elephant, you are bound to voice your inadequacies through pompous posturing. Americans talk even more, but at least they have the “can do” attitude that accompanies such talk.

I definitely value my European citizenship more. For me, I see a life (I am in my 20s) spent working and travelling between South-East Asia and Europe. While this means I have missed countless b-days, weddings, etc. with the companionship of my hometown friends, it also has given me the excitement I crave. Living the life of a permanent expat is addicting. I like to think that even the worst day as an expat is better than the best day back in my hometown or in North America in general.

I think globalization has been a positive development for people such as myself. We are children of the world, educated in many countries, and ready to eat what the world has to offer. And I am not just talking about girls. heheheheeh :laughing:

Overall, being an expat (young or old) is like smoking. There is no such thing as an ex-nonsmoker. You are either a smoker or an ex-smoker. Never again can you be a non-smoker. Living abroad is the same. Once you start down the path, it is hard to wander back on the straight and narrow road that most people walk on.

That’s got nothing to do with it. Being easily bored is a sign of high intelligence and/or creativity. As anyone who’s taught school knows, it is often the smartest students who are the most disruptive because they’re the easiest to bore.

Mod Lang:

I am so bored with your response. Does that make me intelligent? just curious.

love fred

Chewycorns: excellent, balanced post and something one can relate to.

Mr. Smith: You refer to your loathing of the politics of the “vacuous Europeans”. I sincerely hope that you meant that the politics, in your own eyes is “vacuous” and not the European peoples themselves, as such a sweeping generalisation would be rather unfair and unwarranted and even for you. somewhat unbecoming. Especially given the fact that America owes a great deal to the Europeans in terms of traditions and cultural heritage.

As it is Christmas Day, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

vacuous ['v&kjʊəs]
1 containing nothing; empty

2 bereft of ideas or intelligence; mindless

3 characterized by or resulting from vacancy of mind
example: a vacuous gaze

4 indulging in no useful mental or physical activity; idle

Draw your own conclusions…

[quote=“fred smith”]vacuous ['v&kjʊəs]
1 containing nothing; empty

2 bereft of ideas or intelligence; mindless

3 characterized by or resulting from vacancy of mind
example: a vacuous gaze

4 indulging in no useful mental or physical activity; idle

Draw your own conclusions…[/quote]
OK. Fred ate far too much yesterday and his blood is still busy around his stomach area, leaving his brain starved of oxygen.
Or were you referring to the French?


Well, it is true that I did eat rather a bit much (and drink way too much) but not just yesterday. It has been a steady diet of too much fat, sugar and alcohol for a month or more. Well, I suppose I could relent just a bit and say that I think the Scots are the least vacuous of Europeans. Highest on the list: I think I am going to go with the Germans. :smiling_imp:

Partisan Smith. Is that what we should call you. A man who tries to appear intellectually superior but cuts himself down at every turn.
Like Blueface but with a few knobs and whistles eh?