To whom it may concern,
Congratulations! You’ve recently befriended/started dating/have hired a Third Culture Kid. It’s likely you’ve already asked the “Where are you from?” question and were completely bewildered by the answer. Here are some tips for success:
1. We’re really not trying to brag. When we tell funny stories about our trips to South Africa or Turkey, we’re not trying to impress you. We just want to share with you important memories from our childhood and personal history.
2. Speak up for the flag. When TCKs get together, we tend to bash American culture. We don’t mean to be offensive, but comparing cultures is just the way our minds work. But your cultural experiences, whatever they may be, are probably just as (if not more) meaningful as ours. So speak up.
3. Be patient, ask questions. TCKs suck at pop culture trivia. And we ask stupid questions all the time, like “What’s a burrito?” We’re just trying to navigate various cultures at once, so humor us. At the same time, ask us questions too. We don’t like it when people make assumptions about the places we’re from, but we love it when people are interested in our backgrounds. We’re pros at sharing stories and flaunting our well-organized Flickr.
4. We’re oversharers, but only to a point. According to the book “Third Culture Kids,” by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, TCKs jump into deeper communication levels faster because we’ve had to constantly and quickly form new relationships. But here’s the thing — once you get to know us, you might find that we keep you at bay. We’re just so used to leaving (or being left by) people who are close to us that sometimes we don’t want to form very deep relationships, for fear of losing them.
5. If you’re dating us, don’t be offended if we don’t invite you home for Thanksgiving, or if it takes you years to meet our parents. They’re kind of far away. Are you OK with Skype-meeting them?
6. If you’ve hired us, use our strengths. According to TCK expert Van Reken, TCK’s think outside the box and can appreciate different points of view. They are “socially adaptable and intellectually flexible,” she writes. Don’t believe me? Read Van Reken’s article, “Obama’s ‘Third Culture Team,'” yourself. More than 80 percent of TCKs say they can relate to anyone, no matter what race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality.
7. We’re sorry if we leave at a moment’s notice. TCKs will try to maintain an international dimension throughout their lives. We have lived highly mobile lives and rarely feel deeply rooted anywhere. So, if we leave, it’s not that our relationship to you isn’t important. It’s just that leaving you does not mean that our relationship is over. In other words, if we get offered that overseas assignment, we’re going to take it. To us, crossing country borders is like crossing state lines: a formality.
8. The best thing you can do is be our friend. And you’ve done that already.
We’re normal. We promise.
Your TCK friend.
Written with kind advice from Denizen contributors Suzanne Leung, Kathy Lin and Jon Charnas.
But wait, there’s more!
From WikiHow: How to Understand a TCK