Archive for the ‘Chapter 2’ Category

One characteristic of a TCK addressed in Chapter 2 is that they have the mentality of a representative. The authors call this system identity. In other words, TCKs base their identities (at least part of it) on the system they are working for. The authors say:

Members of specific third culture communities may be more directly conscious than peers at home of representing something greater than themselves–be it their government, their company,Β  or God. (page 23)

I have noticed, in talking to MKs (missionary/military kids) that this mentality is pretty huge, especially in my conversations with military kids. Saying goodbye to your dad or mom, who you won’t see for 6 months, 1 year, or more is not a happy occasion, but it’s life. The mission is the important part. They know that their dad and mom love them, but that the mission is what supports their lives. And it’s not weird, it is just life. I know for missionary kids, the threat of not seeing a dad or mom for such a long period of time may not exist. But the mentality of those families, is that if God calls you to move, you drop everything and move. It’s obedience to the call, to the mission. I haven’t talked to kids who move because of a business other than military or missions, but I can imagine that it’s quite similar. The mission has importance. Doing your job well requires cost, but that is the way the job is done.

I think this phrase, “it’s just life,” is something that I say a lot. I’ve had to say goodbye to some dear friends who have moved because of their jobs. Goodbyes don’t usually make me cry. It’s life. You love as much as you can while they’re here, cause they’ll leave eventually. But with that, I have hope in seeing them again. Even if it’s not till Heaven, though with the way technology is going, I “see” them on their blogs, facebook, or via Skype. I guess the mentality of “that’s just life” is a bit fatalistic. But it doesn’t make sense to get worked up over it, since that’s just the way life is. πŸ™‚

Even before I lived in the CZ, I had the “mission mindset,” as my mom calls it. Before living abroad, I lived in four states in the US. Every time we moved, it was because we felt God’s call on our lives to move to a different state, different town, different church. And after living in MD for 3 1/2 years (the longest I had ever lived in one place) we again were called to move to the CZ. Moving without the call is like running away from God, kind of like Jonah. It’s a scary idea. See, the mission is the important part. I didn’t want to move again when the call came to leave MD. But I went and was cheerful (at least on the outside) about going because life is all about obeying the call. I did become cheerful on the inside about moving again, eventually.

Another aspect of this quote is the comparison between peers at home and TCKs. As representatives in other cultures, TCKs are used to behaving in a way that helps the call or the mission. You work to blend in, to be polite in the culture, and not to draw attention to yourself. This is the way of life for TCKs. The mission is important, so the behavior you exhibit has to help the mission. The comparison comes into play when another characteristic of the TCK happens: you move home or repatriate. The peers a TCK interacts with behave differently. They don’t care about behaving so that the mission is successful. They don’t even know the mission. Is there a mission?

I didn’t realize this aspect of being a TCK until about 10 minutes ago when I started writing this! But I can think of multiple examples from my life after living abroad. I’ve actually had a couple run-ins in the last couple weeks. I was hanging out with a rather large group of friends (I think there were between 15 and 20 of us) at a local diner. While waiting for our food, some of my friends made paper planes and boats out of the paper place mats. Then they decided to go to war against each other, with the boats riding on top of the ketchup and mustard bottles. The escalation made me feel a little nervous. After all, war is noisy, even if it’s pretend, and we were starting to attract some looks from the other patrons. Our servers also gave us one of those looks. Then they decided that the boats that were out of commission should have ketchup on them (blood, right?). About this time, our drinks arrived. With straws that had wrappers. They became ammo for my friends and a flurry of wet chunks of paper flew around our table. The looks from the waiters intensified. My discomfort level was rather high. After all, this behavior was not blending in, polite, or non-intrusive. And, as we were all Christians, it was NOT helping the mission in any way shape or form. Even though we make a habit of tipping well, I think we should also behave well, including cleaning up / not causing such chaos. (I didn’t mean to moralize, just comment on the sociological aspect of this. Oh well. πŸ™‚ ) Another example was camping with some friends at a KOA campsite. It was packed the night we stayed there, and even though the quiet hours start at 11, we were up much later than that. We were quiet for the most part, but sometimes we got loud. After I went to bed, one of my friends thought that someone from our group was lost and started yelling for her (it woke me up, so I can imagine it woke up others). This was another time when we were not blending in, being polite or non-intrusive. Even in UK culture these things are rude. But it’s the culture of my generation. The thing the authors are pointing out with their statement is the TCKs are more attentive and conscious of behavior, before negative consequences happen. (Like getting kicked out of a restaurant or campsite. This didn’t happen to us, but I know of groups that have been asked to stay away from a restaurant for good.)

Ok, now that I’m done with the social part of the post I can move on to how this impacts me as a TCK on my way to Heaven. The mission for me is easy, to live in a way that attracts others to Jesus and to represent Him in the way I talk and live. I do notice what others expect in the culture. It reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s writing on living to win others for Christ:

19For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, emphasis added)

Paul was a man with a mission as well. He worked to be someone that the world respected in order to share the gospel with the lost. This does not mean that he was a people pleaser in any way. It just means that he worked to blend in, to be polite, and non-intrusive in the way he behaved, unless it interfered with the Mission. Again, the mission is the most important–and his Mission is from God. Paul represented God and his goal was to be like him. Paul represented God to those who heard his preaching. The Mission of the Christian life is that–to live for Christ.

As a TCK, I notice how I’m living in the world. As a Christian, I notice how I live in view of my Mission. I continue to be amazed at the parallels between being a TCK and being a Christian. πŸ™‚


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In the second chapter of Third Culture Kids, the authors quote a definition from a seminar hosted by Interaction, Inc. in 1989:

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 builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. (page 19)

Even though the quote is about 20 years old, it is still accurate as a description of TCKs. I think this definition helps with some confusion of how to answer the what-in-the-world-is-a-TCK? response I often get when the topic comes up. It’s obviously more information than I need in a short conversation, usually I can just say something like, “A TCK is someone who grows up with two or more different cultures. My parents have one culture, but we live in a place that has a completely different culture. I’m a blend of the two.” If people are curious and ask, I can elaborate, but sometimes it just is not to the benefit of the relationship or conversation to give a mini lecture on the subject right then and there. πŸ™‚

Dr. Ruth Hill Unseem, the person who coined the term TCK and gave us a huge amount of information based on her studies of the third culture used the very phrase “as a generic termΒ  to discuss the lifestyle ‘created, shared, and learned’ by those who are from one culture and are in the process of relating to another one” (page 21). This is probably the more user-friendly than the other definition–more of a pocket dictionary entry than a definition from ODE. A TCK is someone who as a different lifestyle than those in their country of nationality, but is able to see the similarities in others who have that lifestyle. For example someone from India who grows up in the UK is part of the third culture just as much as someone who is from Brazil and grows up in India is. They share so many similarities, that even though the Brazilian is part of the Indian’s culture, he’s removed enough that he can completely identify with the Indian’s struggles in the UK and vice versa! Cool, huh?

All these definitions make me think of some that are shaping my life, not only as a TCK, but also as a Christian:

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20-21)

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

The culture of my life, or my nature, is rebellion and rejection of God. But by his Grace, God saved me from my rebellion and gave me a place in his culture. He’s changing my nature to reflect his, so that I am growing into a new culture. One difference, is that eventually I won’t have any of my old sinful nature. I will have a new, sinless nature. But I’ll still be me. It’s so mysterious, but it’s great! And right now, as I’m being transformed through a life of faith, so my lifestyle really is like a TCK’s. Jesus, in his High Priestly Prayer says: They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:16). So I’m not of the world. But I do live here, and I am a part of the various cultures I’ve experienced in my mobile life. So there’s a mixture there. I guess the comparison breaks down a little here, but it’s still interesting to think about. πŸ™‚

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