Dr. David Pollock and Dr. Michael Gerner explain the advantages and disadvantages for Third Culture Kids (Seoul Foreign School Web Article).
Global nomads are very good mediators. Whenever TCKs move into another culture, they become very good, objective observers. They’re like cultural sponges. Those skills translate into ideal requirements for combating racism and advancing social and refugee work.
—Norma McCaig, El Paso Times
1. Linguistic ability – Many TCKs/Global Nomads are conversant in another language or have heightened interest and ability to learn a new language.
2. Cross-cultural skills – most TCKs/Global Nomads have a high acceptance level of differences. They see other cultures as different, but not necessarily better or worse than their own. Many have the ability to incorporate the best characteristics of the cultures they have experienced.
“Third Culture Kids’ role is to help the world transcend itself. We challenge outdated concepts of identity.”- Brice Royer
3. High Flexibility – TCKs/Global Nomads are usually flexible, adapting well to new situations and new environments. They tend to escape cultural single-mindedness and tend to be less dogmatic and authoritarian than their counterparts back home. Because of this TCKs/Global Nomads are usually good teachers and role models and able to generate new perspectives and thinking-skills in their listeners.
4. Three dimensional world view – TCKs/Global Nomads tend to view the world as a global entity inhabited by “real” people with the same basic human needs. Their realization provides them with a much greater potential for leadership roles.
5. Maturity – In some instances, TCKs/Global Nomads are more mature than their “mono-culture” counterparts. For example, TCKs/Global Nomads routinely deal with international travel, foreign currency, a variety of food choices, and sometimes international crisis/unrest as part of their normal lifestyle. They may actually thrive in their ability to be open and ready for change. They may also be socially mature, being able to interact comfortably with people of all ages and cultures. TCKs/Global Nomads are people who can generally rely on themselves to think clearly and act appropriately. Immigrants, the disabled, African American and Native American children often have to face real hardships and perhaps grow up faster than what might be considered ideal in a perfect world. They understand the need to work and struggle for what they want.
6. Family closeness – Because Third Culture family members have shared the experience of adjusting to a new culture, they usually describe themselves as having close family ties.
7. International orientation – TCKs/Global Nomads often describe themselves as liking to travel, and indicate a preference for a career with an international orientation. All these abilities, properly recognized and nurtured, can open doors to particular career choices that foster the peaceful bridging of cultures
What strengths might TCKs possess? Based on the results of a long-term study of students in an international school in Japan, Willis (1994) suggests that:
TCKs who return overseas as teachers often have the greatest impact. They have walked the same path. They can tell their students: ‘I went back to the States, I went through college, and I’m back again. I want to tell you that I’m glad I’m a third-culture kid. And this is the way I felt and these are the things I went through and here are some of the things you need to be prepared for.’
—David Pollack, Trans World Radio
8. TCKs exhibit characteristics of a transcultural / transnational identity that is needed for the world to transcend untranationalism and ethnocentrism.
9. TCKs create community from diversity.
He concludes that these students have the skills needs to create community from diversity. Gerner et al. (1992) also noted positive characteristics of TCKs in two large international schools.
10. Culturally accepting
In their study, TCKs reported having a high level of interest in travel and learning languages, and they rated themselves as being culturally accepting and having developed a high level of acceptance of diversity.
11. More flexible, self-confident and curious
In addition, Iwama (1990) found that in comparison of Japanese TCKs with students who have lived only in Japan, the TCKs were more self-confident, had more flexible minds, were more active and curious, and had a higher bilingual ability. He noted that these students can “swim in two cultural oceans.”
12.Expressing themselves in more than one culture.
Because of their varied experiences, the students can see life in terms greater than one cultural boundary and can explain and express themselves in more than one culture.
Article courtesy of TCKID with some editing by me.
Photo courtesy of WoodleyWonderWorks