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The Unique Life Story of a TCK – Part 2 of 2

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In Part 1 of this series, we met TCK James Douglas, who spent part of his formative years in the United Arab Emirates. Part 2 covers the idea of being thrown into a life with more responsibility is what makes a TCK different from the rest when they reach adulthood. 

The term Third Culture Kid (TCK) is becoming more of a common title given to children around the world, with the generations that this term is most associated with entering the adulthood stage of life. 

This is no different for James Douglas, a friend from Massey University in New Zealand.  

He is at the stage where he has left home and moved on to the next stage in life. This is the case for many people with a TCK or cross-cultural background: The difference in upbringing with being set “free” to make an impact on the world and different views from a traditional upbringing. 

“Honestly the transition from teenage life at home and my adult life was not that difficult for me,” Douglas says in an interview. “I’ve been traveling and functioning independently in my teens for a while now and this is not that much different.” 

A trend across a community

This is common trend amongst cross-cultural people. Some of the most influential and successful people come from a similar background. People like Zendaya, Chris Hemsworth and Barack Obama all coming from a TCK or cross-cultural background.

Honestly the transition from teenage life at home and my adult life was not that difficult for me.

The hardships faced during a continuously mobile life is what contributes to the early mental development of someone from this world.

“A TCK may not be able to immerse themselves as completely into their new surroundings as expected,” according to an article in Internations.org. “Instead, they may always remain an outsider in different host cultures.”

This has an impact on them mentally from a very young age with independence being forced on them. Despite a lack of independence at home, the likelihood of making decisions at a young age are high.  

Moving to places where the culture differs significantly is another aspect a young TCK experiences. Talking to people that communicate differently teaches them to adapt and interact with more people at a younger age.

I’ve been traveling and functioning independently in my teens for a while now.

“My parents and my environment definitely pushed me in a way to grow up and interact with the places I was living more,” Douglas says. “If I didn’t, then it would have been a lonely and depressing time for me.” 

View of a Mosque in the UAE where TCK, James Douglas moved first as child from the UK.
Mosque in the UAE where TCK James Douglas first moved in his childhood (Photo by Artur Aldyrkhanov via Unsplash)

Being a TCK can be hard as a child, easy as an adult

These experiences at a young age can seem quite stressful for child or teenager. But it’s because of these hardships that a TCK moves into adulthood with less of an issue.

My parents and my environment definitely pushed me in a way to grow up and interact with the places I was living more.

Douglas certainly has found this out, as that transition has been easier for him than a traditionally raised child. This is due to the “shock level” of moving into adulthood being lower and the familiarity of expectations in adulthood being high.

Something that seems to be a continuous trend among cross-cultural people is the removal of the transition as a teenager in replacement for the micro-hardships and challenges faced from an early age. This allows for mental development to begin sooner and the ability for the person to grow beyond their peers.

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