Voices from a third culture

This is the first draft of a magazine created by the Culture Studies students to highlight the unique experiences of third culture kids.

This is the first draft of a magazine created by the Culture Studies students to highlight the unique experiences of third culture kids.


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Culture Studies<br />

VOICES<br />

FROM A<br />

THIRD<br />


By sharing their stories, our <strong>third</strong><br />

<strong>culture</strong> kids can welcome other<br />

nomads. #inspired #fulfilled

Where are<br />

you <strong>from</strong>?<br />

• For most people, this is the easiest<br />

question in the world to answer. They will<br />

respond without hesitation and tell you,<br />

not only their birthplace, but the exact<br />

suburb or geographical area.<br />

But for <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kids (and adults) this<br />

question is a minefield.<br />

What happens if you are “<strong>from</strong>” a country<br />

where you have never lived? Or maybe you<br />

are “<strong>from</strong>” two countries but where not born<br />

in any of them?<br />

And what happens if your mother tongue<br />

is…well…neither your mother’s or your<br />

father’s tongue?<br />

If you are part of the Swiss International<br />

School family then you are probably a <strong>third</strong><br />

<strong>culture</strong> kid so we hope that you will enjoy<br />

reading more about this special community.<br />

Yohan’s Story<br />

When your father is <strong>from</strong> Germany, your mother is an Indian, and you were born<br />

and raised in Qatar, your cultural identity becomes a matter of great concern. It is<br />

a concern in school, a concern in public life and a concern at home. Many<br />

questions arise. Am I culturally free and open-minded, or am I just culturally<br />

rootless? Third <strong>culture</strong> kids like me learn a lot as we get along in a <strong>culture</strong> where<br />

neither of our parents belong. Where exactly are you <strong>from</strong>? This is a question<br />

that I find myself trying to answer, wondering whether the answer should dwell<br />

on my nationality, where my parents were born, where I live now, or a<br />

combination of all these different backgrounds.<br />

How overwhelming can life as a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kid be?<br />

What is a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kid?<br />

Third Culture Kids (TCK) is a term coined by Dr.Ruth Hill Useem (1915-2003) that<br />

refers to children and individuals who have spent significant parts of their early<br />

development and formative years of life in a <strong>culture</strong> different <strong>from</strong> that of their<br />

parents. These children build relationships and broadly identify with all the<br />

<strong>culture</strong>s in play but do not have full ownership in any of the <strong>culture</strong>s. The kids'<br />

life experiences assimilate aspects of each <strong>culture</strong>. But, these kids derive the<br />

sense of belonging <strong>from</strong> the relationships they create with others of the same<br />

background or sharing similar experiences (Pollock, D.C., & Van Reken, R. E.,<br />

2001). These children usually make their own version of <strong>culture</strong>, different <strong>from</strong><br />

the existing one due to influences of the parental <strong>culture</strong> and the <strong>culture</strong> they are<br />

living. It is called <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> (Faye, N., 2016). It is a new <strong>culture</strong> that results in<br />

the mixing and merging of parental <strong>culture</strong> and birth <strong>culture</strong>.

Do I fit the bill as a Third Culture Kid- ? Yes, I am rightly<br />

and perfectly a Third Culture Kid because my mother is an<br />

Indian, my father is German, and I was born and raised in<br />

Qatar.<br />

The Dilemma of Cultural Origin<br />

Where exactly am I <strong>from</strong>? Depending on the person<br />

asking and the context, I usually have different answers.<br />

My answers and story keep changing, just like with all<br />

other Third Culture Kids. I often go for the short and<br />

straightforward option: Germany and India. Other times I<br />

go with a long explanation of my mixed German and<br />

Indian cultural origins and affirm to the person asking that<br />

I feel like my real home, the only home I have known in all<br />

my life, is Qatar. The next question is always harder. Are<br />

you a Qatari? Due to the fact I am a Third Culture Kid, I am<br />

more comfortable omitting details of my origins. Instead I<br />

provide information to such a level that others will find it<br />

easier to digest and understand my roots. All over the<br />

world, Third Culture Kids are living with cultural dilemmas.<br />

Benefits of Living as a Third Culture<br />


Life as a Third Culture Kid can be liberating and overwhelming at the same time. Living with no strong cultural identity to and<br />

attachment with both the parental <strong>culture</strong> and the <strong>culture</strong> of birth is liberating to say the least. Like all Third Culture Kids, I consider<br />

myself to have strong capabilities of crossing <strong>culture</strong>s with ease and be more culturally adaptive, highly open-minded, better in<br />

communications, more culturally empathetic and, most importantly, bilingual (Useem, H 1999)<br />

Unlike non- Third Culture Kids, I am perfectly aware that there is more than just one way of looking at cultural situations. Living with<br />

parents who belong to two different cultural backgrounds and being born in a different <strong>culture</strong> means I have at least three ways of<br />

understanding wrong answers. Because I feel like a cultural outsider in all the cultural experiences surrounding me, I am well<br />

capable of appreciating different points of view. For example, when growing up among other kids in school, I was regarded<br />

different <strong>from</strong> the other kids because of the way my mother dressed me, the type of bread that she chose for my lunch and many<br />

other things as these were not the norm in my <strong>culture</strong> of birth. My social group in school was also cultural outsiders. In this way, I<br />

was able to understand the strength of cultural differences and similarities at an early stage of my life<br />

I objectively consider myself more emotionally intelligent than my non-Third Culture Kid friends. I can control my emotions, I can<br />

notice, register and understand social norms more proficiently than my other peers. What about cultural adaptability and making<br />

relationships? Compared to other peers, I am more culturally adaptive as far as organizational, ethnic and national <strong>culture</strong>s are<br />

concerned. Furthermore, I am well aware of more than one world view in <strong>culture</strong> and form relationships easily because I am<br />

linguistically and culturally open-minded.<br />

There are multiple positive elements of being a Third Culture Kid, but there are some downsides that only Third Culture Kids<br />

experience. I am not an exception. For example, I often struggle with personal and cultural identity and loyalty. I am not sure<br />

whether I should define myself more as a Qatari, German or Indian. At the end of the day, I will have to assume one, two or three<br />

identities depending on the situation. When meeting relatives <strong>from</strong> my mother’s Indian side, I struggle with being an Indian and<br />

when I am with my father’s relatives, I assume a German identity. A dilemma occurs as a result, and I frequently end up in these<br />

gatherings bringing none of the three- an empty vessel. On the side of food choices, my eating habits are greatly shaped by my<br />

mother’s cultural backgrounds. However, I find it easy to appreciate different dishes <strong>from</strong> different <strong>culture</strong>s.

Multicultural and Multilingual<br />

Environments<br />

As a Third Culture Kid born and raised in Qatar, I am<br />

linguistically competent. From speaking English and basic<br />

Arabic, to understanding Hindi and German, I fit well in<br />

every linguistic environment. I switch languages with much<br />

more ease than other non-Third Culture Kids in my social<br />

groups.<br />

"Inshallah"- is a term I use a lot which means "God willing"<br />

or "only by God's grace" will anything happen. For example,<br />

"I will see you tomorrow, inshallah," implies that only God<br />

knows if the speaker will be alive another day. As a built-in<br />

excuse, "inshallah" is commonly employed by someone<br />

who has no intention of performing what you're asking<br />

them to do, then claims that it is out of their hands and up to<br />

a higher force! As-salamu alaikum, or "Peace be with you," is<br />

a frequent Muslim greeting. Regardless of their native<br />

tongue, Muslims greet each other with this expression<br />

worldwide.<br />

Islam is the most popular religion in Qatar practiced by<br />

67.7% of the population. Hinduism and Christianity are each<br />

practiced by 13.8% of the population. I understand that<br />

Islam is as important as Hinduism and Christianity. I would<br />

not have the same religious relativism if I were a non-Third

Cultural traditions in Qatar are highly influenced by the<br />

country’s historical backgrounds of Bedouin descendants<br />

that trace their origins in the Middle Eastern deserts. The<br />

traditions are also influenced by Islamic <strong>culture</strong> that tends<br />

to be conservative. Having said that, my German heritage<br />

is comparatively less conservative. I am perfect in<br />

appreciating and living in <strong>culture</strong>s with desert nomadism,<br />

flashy cars, camel transportation, Bedouin carpets and<br />

tents and national symbols present in Qatar and those<br />

considered foreign in either India or Germany. <br />

Despite many efforts to root out gender imbalances in<br />

Qatar, gender-based segregations in public places still<br />

exist in the country to women’s disadvantage. This is<br />

highly unheard of in places such as Germany. Owing to<br />

the fact that I understand both <strong>culture</strong>s, it is possible for<br />

men and women to live in and try to eradicate these<br />

cultural biases without causing cultural stress in Qatar.<br />

And we have a lot to learn <strong>from</strong> Qatar too.<br />

These are some benefits of living as a Third Culture Kid in<br />

Qatar. Therefore my message as a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kid is as<br />

follows: Be appreciative of all <strong>culture</strong>s and strive to<br />

understand them <strong>from</strong> an insider’s point of view.

Cedric’s Story<br />

The world as we know it is enveloped with phenomenal and<br />

unique <strong>culture</strong>s that create diversity amongst us humans,<br />

Qatar is known to be a hive of people <strong>from</strong> every corner of<br />

the globe bringing us together. As a result of this many of us<br />

come <strong>from</strong> a background known as being a “<strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong><br />

kid”, but what exactly does <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> mean? It is a group<br />

of children who spend their development years overseas,<br />

shaped by the multicultural norms of the places they've<br />

lived, and the peripatetic spheres of their parents, who<br />

usually have labour requirements that causes them to move<br />

a lot. Consequently, this may seem like traveling and going<br />

through outstanding amounts of experiences is great but<br />

you have to take into consideration many other factors<br />

(Editors of Merriam-Webster<br />

I am Filipino, my mother is <strong>from</strong> the Philippines and my<br />

father is <strong>from</strong> France. I was born in Nice, France but have<br />

spent most of my life abroad in over 5 countries.

Firstly let me introduce myself: I am Filipino, my mother is<br />

<strong>from</strong> the Philippines and my father is <strong>from</strong> France. I was<br />

born in Nice, France but have spent most of my life abroad<br />

in over 5 countries. Due to these conditions, I was exposed<br />

to a variety of <strong>culture</strong>s <strong>from</strong> different parts of the world<br />

encountering many forms of customs and traditions. I'm<br />

very grateful for such opportunities to have met people<br />

with different beliefs allowing my knowledge to expand<br />

and being more open-minded about certain topics.<br />

On the other hand, it may be very difficult at first during<br />

the transition period as many <strong>third</strong> kid <strong>culture</strong>s may feel<br />

neglected or left out as they are introduced to a new life.<br />

From my experiences I can indeed agree that this<br />

statement is correct, throughout my life there have been<br />

moments where I was consumed by the thought of not<br />

being able to fit into such a new environment.<br />

Consequently, this issue will usually tend to dissolve as you<br />

will find people who have many similarities compared to<br />

you, allowing you to find a temporary home.<br />

The word temporary has a<br />

very profound meaning to<br />

<strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kids. <br />

It seems that a very common issue that is developing<br />

amongst us is a difficulty to create relations and get<br />

attached to our new life. <br />

With my research collected, this is very much due to the<br />

fact that we believe having such commitment with people<br />

will cause mental stress moving to new places. This may<br />

seem like a reasonable idea but in my opinion, I think<br />

you should not discard social interactions with others to<br />

save yourself <strong>from</strong> getting hurt but embrace the<br />

moments created in order to progress as a person. <br />

Another aspect that I<br />

struggled with was having<br />

trouble finding my “identity”.<br />

Third-<strong>culture</strong><br />

kids fear of being questioned about where they're <strong>from</strong><br />

derives <strong>from</strong> their experience growing up between<br />

<strong>culture</strong>s. While they feel strongly attached to their host<br />

nations, they do not feel totally at home in any one <strong>culture</strong><br />

as they may not have witnessed long enough of a certain<br />

<strong>culture</strong> to label themselves.

Attending a local or international school is a decision that<br />

has a significant impact on a kid's sense of belonging;<br />

programs like the IB Curriculum may make a child more<br />

adaptable, but a local education provides more<br />

opportunities for immersion.<br />

According to a Denizen poll, the average <strong>third</strong>-<strong>culture</strong> child<br />

has relocated at least once before the age of five and will<br />

move at least four times during their lives. 85 percent can<br />

communicate in at least two languages, and 47 percent can<br />

communicate in at least three. I have fallen into this<br />

category as moving a lot has forced me to adapt to learning<br />

English ,making it my most fluent language, but I have kept<br />

my origins meaning I can speak French, English, German<br />

and Tagalog. <br />

This introduces the academic side of <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kids.<br />

“In 2001, it was found by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics<br />

that 61.7 percent of 2001 high school graduates were<br />

enrolled in college. That same year, it was found that 95<br />

percent of the TCK population were either enrolled or had<br />

some college education.” (Wikipedia Contributors)

As a community, it is very important to be self-aware and<br />

know more about your surroundings as more than 220<br />

million people are <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kids!<br />

How can you be considerate about their struggles, teach<br />

your youngster to listen to their "internal voice" as well as<br />

the one that dominates. Dr Carr-Gregg argues that being<br />

proactive and "reframing things in a positive way" might<br />

help to change this negativity. Reframing can help us<br />

overcome negative beliefs and feel more in control and<br />

happy. For instance, if the child believes, "Again, a new<br />

school, I won't be accepted or make any new friends,"<br />

educate them to reframe the thinking as "a new school, a<br />

new beginning filled with intriguing individuals who will<br />

turn out to be excellent friends.". Another element in<br />

addition to this is to guide them in order to find a hobby<br />

that they are passionate about in order for the transition<br />

between <strong>culture</strong>s to be smoother and allow them to feel<br />

accepted.<br />

In conclusion, “the constant move and<br />

amendment of friends can disrupt their<br />

social lives and can result in withdrawal,<br />

isolation, or anger. While some <strong>third</strong><br />

<strong>culture</strong> kids reflect on their experiences

SISQ students<br />

are inspired to<br />

support<br />

others…<br />

• In our “creating <strong>culture</strong>”<br />

units, students identified<br />

how challenging it can be to<br />

go to a new school in a new<br />

country and they decided to<br />

write some messages to<br />

support any new students<br />

who might be feeling<br />


Where is your home?<br />

Dear Third Culture Kid,<br />

Which <strong>culture</strong> do you belong to? Hard question, right?<br />

Especially when you have parents <strong>from</strong> different <strong>culture</strong>s,<br />

and you happen to be born in another country. Well, in case<br />

you didn’t know, you are under the category of “Third<br />

Culture Kids.” Nice to know that you aren’t the only one in<br />

this world who happens to live away <strong>from</strong> your home<br />

country. Third <strong>culture</strong> kids are children who spend a long<br />

period of time in many different countries which aren't their<br />

own. Think about it for a second - there could be a lot of<br />

advantages! But, we all know that when you have an<br />

advantage, you always have a disadvantage.<br />

In this letter, you will learn all about you being a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong><br />

kid – the ups and the downs and everything in between. I am<br />

also one of you and this is my experience brought into your<br />


Advantages of being a TCK!<br />

It is befitting that I enlighten you about my <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong><br />

background. My dad is German, while my mother is Indian,<br />

and I was born and raised in Qatar. Going deeper into my<br />

lineage, my great grandmother is Burmese, and my<br />

grandmother is Turkish. Therefore, my <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong>, just like<br />

those of other <strong>third</strong>-<strong>culture</strong> kids, is influenced by both my<br />

parents’ <strong>culture</strong> and the <strong>culture</strong> of where I grew up.Third<br />

<strong>culture</strong> kids have the advantage of being immersed in<br />

multiple <strong>culture</strong>s, which, <strong>from</strong> my experience, provides<br />

excellent cross-cultural skills.Many TCKs are multilingual,<br />

which means you can speak multiple languages. Speaking<br />

multiple languages helps communicate to other people,<br />

not only your kind. This will help build friendships as you<br />

can see other people’s perspectives.Another clear<br />

advantage is your ability to adjust to new situations quickly.<br />

Because you move around so much, you can adapt to<br />

change more than people who only move once in a<br />

lifetime. You are so used to everything changing, that<br />

sometimes you don’t even feel it as you don’t mind.<br />

Adapting to situations also means that you will not spend<br />

time thinking about your circumstances but be satisfied<br />

with your new life. You will also find it easy to get back up<br />

when life knocks you down as it will be easy to find new<br />

ways. <br />

You are a resilient, <strong>third</strong><br />

<strong>culture</strong> kid.<br />

You also feel empathy towards others especially someone<br />

new in the society because you know how it felt when you<br />

were an outsider. You have been there, the new person in<br />

this new world, so you know how it feels to be in a different<br />

place, which makes it easier for you to show empathy to<br />

others.<br />

Diversity does not threaten<br />

you. Have you ever seen<br />

someone wearing a hijab?<br />

Did you stop them and laugh<br />

at them? No, because you<br />

are a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kid. TCKs<br />

do not stare....

Now for the disadvantages...<br />

You are a foreigner to your own <strong>culture</strong>. This happens a lot<br />

to a TCK as when we go back “home.”, we do not fit in our<br />

original <strong>culture</strong>. From my experience, when I go back to my<br />

mother’s homeland, I cannot speak their native language<br />

making it difficult for me to communicate with my family<br />

members. This can lead to misunderstandings and fall outs<br />

as we cannot understand each other. When I go over to my<br />

father’s homeland, I find it uncomfortable how my family<br />

members ‘freely talk’ as I do not swear. My extended family<br />

may eat food that isn’t halal even though I have adapted<br />

the Arab <strong>culture</strong> of Halal food.<br />

mean I am a lost soul. We TCKs have each other. I hope this<br />

helps keep your spirits high, that you do not stand alone.<br />

TCKs are everywhere, and you are lucky enough to have a<br />

passport stamped a lot of times as some people cannot<br />

afford a passport and never see or experience in their<br />

lifetime what you have before the age of 18 . This is the life<br />

someone else would just want a day of and it is all yours. I<br />

hope this letter will get you comfortable on being a TCK as<br />

it will have a major impact on you in a beneficial way. Trust<br />

me!<br />

Yours sincerely<br />

Lydia<br />

No pets allowed. Because of the constant moving and<br />

shifting, having a pet will add on to the family burden. Pets<br />

are very hard to shift <strong>from</strong> countries as it is expensive and<br />

may take a lot of time. So, scrap that out of your bucket list<br />

as it is not going to happen till you move out. But at least<br />

you don’t have to sift kitty litter or clean up after the dog !<br />

Well, this wraps up your life story. Remember, you are not<br />

the only one going through bereavement, I am one of you.<br />

From my experience as a TCK, I never had the chance to<br />

feel the <strong>culture</strong> of my home countries, but that does not

A message <strong>from</strong><br />

arianna<br />

I always try to be a glass half full kind of girl and <strong>from</strong> my<br />

own personal experience I do know that being a <strong>third</strong><br />

<strong>culture</strong> kid can actually be a really good thing. It’s like we<br />

understand each other in a way. My mother is <strong>from</strong><br />

Scotland, while my father is Italian but was raised in<br />

England. They have both lived in Qatar for almost sixteen<br />

years. I was born in Qatar and therefore as a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong><br />

kid I live a life, which has been influenced by a blend of<br />

Scottish, English, Italian and Qatari <strong>culture</strong>s. Some people<br />

say it’s truly unique to be a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kid however,<br />

sometimes you don’t know when to call a place home.<br />

Born in Qatar, I have lived here all my life. I attended the<br />

same primary school <strong>from</strong> the age of three until aged<br />

eleven and I know that this has provided me with great<br />

stability. Since the age of two months, I have travelled and<br />

been exposed to many different countries and <strong>culture</strong>s. My<br />

parents wanted me to experience this as it gives me an<br />

opportunity. Since I can remember, experiencing life in a<br />

multi-cultural and diverse society has been completely<br />

normal to me. As an individual, this makes me confident<br />

because I feel open-minded, tolerant, adaptable and<br />

accepting of people <strong>from</strong> every pocket of the globe.<br />

Having an understanding of mixing <strong>culture</strong>s is truly<br />

remarkable. Communicating with people who are <strong>from</strong><br />

different <strong>culture</strong>s, races, religions and those who speak<br />

different languages is something that is natural and does<br />

not faze me. I am a very well rounded person and the fact<br />

that I have multiple <strong>culture</strong>s shaping my mind, personality<br />

and spirituality makes me feel special and unique and I<br />

love this about myself! However, being a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kid<br />

based in the same country since birth, attending only one<br />

school, having the same best friend since I was three and<br />

having pets makes it much easier for me to be positive<br />

about being raised as a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kid. I know other kids<br />

are not so fortunate and it must be seriously tough on<br />

them.<br />

As in life, there are always some challenges. Even for<br />

myself, and more so for <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kids who have had no<br />

choice but to bounce <strong>from</strong> country to country and <strong>culture</strong><br />

to <strong>culture</strong>, there can be a downside. For me personally, I do<br />

not get to see my extended family in the United Kingdom<br />

as often as I would like. Although every summer I spend

two months in the United Kingdom, there is a sense of disconnect<br />

because one whole year passes before I see family again. A lot happens<br />

and changes in one year. This sometimes makes me feel that I have<br />

missed out on so much, and I don’t like that feeling. Additionally, people<br />

come and go in the life of a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kid. Sometimes it can feel like<br />

friends are family and then overnight situations change and those<br />

people are catapulted out of your life. This can be terribly upsetting and<br />

disruptive in feeling stable and settled. The idea of making new friends<br />

and connections, unable to have pets and studying in unfamiliar<br />

languages must often feel exhausting and sometimes even terrifying.<br />

Sometimes they might even give up on the idea of finding best friends<br />

because they can’t face the pain of getting up and leaving again. They<br />

may struggle in understanding their own sense of identity and where<br />

they actually belong.<br />

In closing, I would like to welcome you again to our SISQ community. I<br />

know as a <strong>third</strong> <strong>culture</strong> kid you might be feeling all sorts of crazy feelings<br />

right now, but let me just reassure you, you are not alone. There are<br />

many of us here, and we are thriving in the SISQ community at this time.<br />

You are going to feel a great sense of belonging because those around<br />

you empathize with your status and want to make you feel at home, for<br />

however long that may last. <br />

It is a journey to look forward to.

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