Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Ruth Hill Unseem’

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 termย  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. ๐Ÿ™‚


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