Third-culture Kids and “Home”

We recently experienced two cultural incidents with our children that reminded us of the unique issues faced by third-culture kids. The Wikipedia definition of TCK is: “Third culture kid (TCK) is a term used to refer to children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years.”

Here are some examples of how TCKs experience life in the country of their passport, in this case, the United States (a country different from the one where they most frequently reside):

Our children observed a hot-air balloon in the air, emblazoned with the statement: “God bless America.” Our children exclaimed: “God bless ONLY America?” In their thinking, that statement excluded their “home” in Europe, a country that could certainly benefit from God’s blessing and an outpouring of His Spirit in the hearts and lives of the Germans and the many immigrants who arrive daily.

In another incident around 4th of July, we observed a street festooned with American flags. Our children exclaimed, “Where are the German flags? We’re German!” No, our children aren’t German; and will probably never be German (because we, their parents, aren’t German natives); but our children have become more accustomed to German cultural norms and consider themselves to be established in German culture. This reality may cause our children to, at times, feel out of place in the United States, even though they are U.S. citizens. Their experiences are vastly different than the majority of U.S. citizens, and may at times be at odds with American cultural norms.

Each of these, and many other such examples, gives us pause and reminds us that our children identify more with the country where they live most of the time, rather than the country that issued their passport. As we spend extended time now in the States, we will be able to present different cultural customs and norms to our children. We hope in the process to sensitize our children to the differences present in any culture, and especially to help them evaluate any culture’s customs in light of what Scripture teaches. Even in the identification of cultural norms, we seek to adopt values that honor God, even if those values are at odds with the culture(s) around us.