Cross Culture Kids

Finding a Culture and Place to Call Home

Third culture kids grow up in cultures that are different from their own as they follow their globe-trotting parents, and often face unique challenges. Most of them are from expat, immigrant, biracial families and don't have a choice when their parents decide to move, whether it’s for work purposes or other personal reasons.

Both my parents are Taiwanese and I was born and raised in Taiwan before moving to NZ for a significant period of my early adulthood after high school. I hold two passports and dual citizenship from two different continents.

My nephew, 11-year-old, who has a Taiwanese mum and a British dad, he was born in China, had lived in China until he was 6, and then the family made a move to Ireland, a place where he will finish his high school then will pursue his tertiary studies elsewhere again. He spends Christmas in England, summer in France, Chinese New Year in Taiwan, and has family dinners in 2-3 languages. These are just a couple of very common examples of people live between cultures either alone or with the family. My multicultural professional counselling work with immigrants, international students, local people, and also my own personal social connections with diverse groups provide me a very rich insight into TCK and CCK.

Jenny Hsu

is a New Zealand trained and registered counselor experienced in working with the immigrant, expat, and international student populations. Jenny has worked extensively in New Zealand, and was the school counselor for Taipei European School for many years, advising students of various ethnicities. Hsu is dedicated to collaborative therapies and helping people view their identity as separate from their problems.

TCK/CCK have friends are mixes of amazing diversity, they get along better because they speak the same languages and understand the dynamics of growing up in the Western and Eastern environments.

While others see differences, they often see similarities that they are all connected. It is the experiences and the intercultural dynamics that have shaped and influenced TCK/CCK their identity and worldview. With adequate support, they embrace and absorb a bit of everything from every culture and experience. They slowly find themselves deeply rooted in one culture and another culture and come to accept themselves and their life fully, then continue to shine and flourish into adulthood!

Ruth van Reken’s Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK) Model, from Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds (2017), p44

Most of the TCK/CCK don’t have a choice when their parents decide to move whether it’s for work purposes or other personal reasons.

Common Sentiments Shared By Third Culture Kids

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Don’t know how to answer “where are you from?” or “where is home?”

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Change schools from country to country before they really make any friends

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People say they are not “traditional” or “local” enough

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Often have to say goodbye to people around them before they're ready to leave

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Speak in a mixed of languages naturally but people may accuse them of showing off

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Have parents from different racial or cultural backgrounds

Unique Challenges, Strengths and Cultural Identities

Social Skill

I’ve heard them talking about leaving pieces of their hearts in places they’ve lived but instead of losing pieces of their heart, they build strengths that non-TCK/CCK don’t have. Yes, saying goodbye hurts but they also learn how to say hello. We can encourage them to acknowledge that moving is hard and be kind to themselves. I have come to understand that I need time to grieve when I move between cultures even now as an adult and that’s why TCK/CCK especially needs that extra care and we need to be sensitive to their grieving process at this young age. It’s the resilience skill they are processing and it needs adults’ support during their transition so they know it should be seen as a change, an adaption in their life not as a traumatic experience or memory.

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