Global citizens: Expat parents and their third culture kids

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Thinking about living abroad as a foreign worker can be both daunting and exciting but what if you add raising children to the equation? For most families, deciding on whether to take this less travelled path or not can be the biggest and most important choice that they’ll ever make.

Expatriation has boomed in the past few decades (which translates to a major boost in the global economy) and with it, many have chosen to build families in countries other than their own. This resulted in the emergence of a new generation of “international kids,” who may have parents from two different countries, born somewhere else, and lived in an entirely different one. That seems cool but for most of them, this kind of lifestyle can be very challenging. From dealing with different currencies and costs of living to explaining ‘where they are from,’ the struggle is very real.


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Many studies have finally defined the uniqueness and exclusivity that members of an expatriate family experience, particularly describing what it does to their children. Coined as the ‘third culture kids’ (TCK), they are children of expats around the world who spent their younger years in another country, learning its cultures and customs through educational and social institutions abroad.

However, this system does not remove the perception that they are still ‘foreigners’ to their host country—and what’s more astonishing is they do not also feel much at home in the culture of their country of origin; thus, allowing them to identify with a middle, third culture that they have learned to acquire from their experiences.


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While it’s amazing to experience two cultures at once, not belonging to either one can create this unique identity that can either make or break how they see themselves as individuals. Surprisingly, many of these TCKs were able to deal with this semi-nomadic living very well. In fact, one of them eventually became the 44th President of the United States.

It can be challenging to let your family be a part of your expat adventure, but there are several advantages that can rival the risks. For instance, showing them the world at an early age will help them have a more open and better understanding of cultural differences. In addition, as ‘world citizens’, they can develop a rare flexibility and sensitivity that not everyone can learn and acquire in a lifetime.