Thursday, March 5, 2009

Multi-Cultural Kids: Help My Student With Her Project!

You might remember how I wrote about "Third Culture Kids" a few months ago in this post. I'm blogging about the topic again (then again, I'm often blogging about it by virtue of raising my girls here) because a student of mine is doing a project on the topic. 

As a short recap, "Third Culture Kids" are kids who are raised in a culture other than that of the their country of citizenship (or the country/countries of which their parents are citizens). The term "third culture" is used to reflect their unique experiences: they're not like all the other kids from their country of origin who are born and raised there, and they're not like all the kids who are natives of the country where they're living -- they have their own overlapping space, a "third" culture, if you will. 

My student could really use any input from other TCK's in writing her report. If any of you are adult TCK's or are raising TCK's, any quick thoughts you -- or your kids -- could share would be REALLY appreciated! You could email any comments to me at or you could share quick comments on this blog; I'll pass all information on to her. 

Below you'll see long list of questions; you needn't answer all of them -- but if any of them really strike a chord with you, do share!

Third Culture Kids Questionnaire

Where is "home"? (When you're asked "Where are you from?", how do you answer?)

Do you have an idea where you'll be living in two years -- four years -- six years -- as an adult? 

Do you think that any of your friends from your country of origin have ever considered question #2?

What culture(s) do you follow in your home?

If you speak more than one language, what language do you think in? Does it vary? If so, according to what circumstances?

In which educational system have you spent the majority of your schooling thus far? (Is it a system of your native country, of the country where you're living, or of yet another country?)

Do you ever find it hard to communicate with your peers -- both when you're in your native country and also when in the country where you're living? For example, you speak the same language or share the same citizenship, but they just don't "get" you fully -- or you them?

If you do find that peers and relatives "back home," in your native country, don't understand you fully, what are some things that you wish they could understand? 

Has anyone in your family grown up in multiple cultures; can any of your relatives (or your parents) understand your particular experience on a personal level?

Who do you think understands you best? (Friends back home, your siblings, your parents, friends who are citizens of the country where you're currently living, or other kids in the country where you're living who are also expats -- either from your country of origin or not, for example?)

What are some differences in behavior and beliefs that you've noticed between your country of origin and Russia?

Have you adopted cultural behaviors from both the culture(s) of your parents and the country where you live? Do you exhibit those behaviors simultaneously, or do you "switch" from one identity to another depending on where you are and who you're with? 

Can you think of any cultural behaviors that you exhibit in Russia that you wouldn't in your native country -- and vice versa? (For example, wearing tight jeans and high heels in Moscow, but not in your small town in America... Or sitting on the floor with friends in America, but not in Russia... Or calling friends past 10 p.m. in Russia, but not in England...)

Have you ever felt "culture shock" in both the country where you live -- and the country where you are from? What things are the most surprising to you when you reenter each country?

What do you think are the best parts about growing up in a multiple cultures? What are the hardest parts?


Anonymous said...

Wow! This post made me think that, even though technically I'm not a Third Culture Person insofar as I grew up and still live in Russia, I can't help feeling very much like one.

Even though I've spent most of my life in my native country, I don't feel particularly Russian. I've always felt more at home in the States than I have here. I've always loved the American culture more than my own (I do like Russian classics as well as certain old Soviet movies, but I just HATE modern Russian TV while being addicted to American sitcoms like Friends, Gilmore Girls and Scrubs).

Russian is my native language and yet English sometimes feels much more natural to me. My Russian is clearly better than my English, and yet sometimes Russian words just can't convey the subtleties of meaning that I'm trying to get across. Yet at other times, I just have to say something in Russian and the English translation won't be good enough. So, it can be really frustrating talking to someone who doesn't speak both of those languages fluently. I just feel I can't make myself fully understood unless I can mix Russian and English in my speech.

On the other hand, I'm fully aware that, no matter how Americanized I get, I'll never become 100% American and there'll always be a part of me that's Russian. So, I think, in my own strange way, I can relate to what TCK's must feel. It can be a pretty lonely feeling.


Anonymous said...

I am not technically a TCP either, but I can write volumes on the subject. I will try to answer your questions and send it out. There is usually more than one answer to all of these questions. The answers change with time your spend in another culture and sometimes even with political environment.
What I find interesting, that even the places I did not want to go to or did not liked living in, have a mark in my heart. When your hear something in the news or read an article in a magazine, you know how the place feels, taste, smells for real.It gives me a different feeling than a place I never lived in. I feel much more connected to places I spend some time in, even if I did not like it.