10 In Expat Life

9 Reasons to Make Friends with TCK

Happy Friday and happy chocolate weekend! Today I’m sharing a post that I wrote last year for an online magazine. They said it would get published, but it seemed to have fallen by the way side so I thought I would publish it! I’m quite proud of it!

The term Third Culture Kid (TCK) was first explored by Dr Ruth Hill Useem, an American academic, in her research on children who spent part of their formative years in a culture outside of their parents’ culture. The ‘third’ comes to identify that the ‘kid’ is not completely part of their parents’ culture or their current home’s culture.

It might sound weird but when I heard this description, I aligned myself with that identity a little. My parents are after all from different cultures, my father being from Chile and my mother from the French speaking maritime region of Canada. I was born and grew up in Montreal (which is still indeed in Canada!) where my parents met and still live. The reality of it is that I grew up far away from most of my family in a place that was ‘foreign’ to both my parents, and I think that made my experience somewhat different from other people. It was neither Chilean nor Canadian, but somewhere in between.

With a term like TCK, it’s easy to see how it could be relative. From military brats who live in completely different country but may attend American school, to ambassador’s children, to academics, to humanitarians, to expats or travelers. There are so many ways to see it, isn’t there?

When I started paying closer attention, I realised just how many people spend their formative years in a different culture. I also came to realise that the TCKs I know make awesome friends – not better, I want to highlight, but just awesome friends – not only because they can understand and share my own experiences, but they also make great friends and great people in general, as science has shown that their experience has made them more open, flexible and adaptable.

So to celebrate that and all the TCKs I know, I compiled 9 of the reasons I think TCKs make great friends:

They are low maintenance

Thing is – we all have our fair share of friends and family and third culture kids probably know all too well the reality of having people they are close to all over the world. Thing is there isn’t always time to chat to everyone, but as they say, great friends don’t need to keep in touch to reunite and feel like no time has passed.

But they are great at keeping in touch

This half contradicts my point above, but truly even if they aren’t constantly in contact, they will still be good at keeping in touch. There is no reality bigger than knowing a letter or postcard will touch someone’s heart, that Skyping or Facetiming in real time can almost make you feel like you’re in the same room and that care packages with items from ‘home’ go a long way.

They are empathetic creatures by default 

If you’ve had to move and live in a completely different culture, with people of different cultures or religion, it will definitely make you a more empathetic adult. They say (this is scientific I swear) that TCKs are more adaptable and flexible because they spent these formative years of their life being asked to be flexible and adaptable to the different conditions/obstacles/people around them. Empathetic people make better friends, period.

Cheap holidays, anyone? 

If your TCK friend still lives abroad or has lived abroad before, that means you get a potential free host or free guide to that city. In the same vein, obviously if you’re below the age of 18 and have friends whose parents come from different country, you may be able to play it right and tag along on a summer holiday to a country you’ve not visited yet.

Not afraid of difference 

Growing up ‘different’ often will make you unabashedly proud to be different. You get to hang out with people who are probably confidently different from the norm – and there is something contagious and inspiring about that.

You can share a bond 

If you are also a TCK, you will probably be able to bond over a similar experience with other TCKs. Like I mentioned earlier, it is a truth that people of similar background are often attracted toward each other. Whether you’re from a similar culture or not, it’s great to be able to share stories.

Good food 

As a child, perhaps you’re friends with a kid who is originally from a different country and their parents will cook interesting food – that you may like or not, making you discover all the different taste that the world has to offer. As an adult, it’s a bit the same, except your friend might want to make you discover meals, desserts and tastes from a different country, that you were not exposed to before. The reaction that most Brits have when I mention poutine is either to ask if it’s basically ‘chips and cheese’ or rather disgust at the imagine of it – though I have yet to meet one person who didn’t like it!

Entertaining stories

The good, the bad and the ugly. Having spent part of their life in a very different culture will probably bring up hilarious stories of mistranslation, the difficult reality of reverse culture shock, or even the comparisons between countries and experiences. The reality is walking on a plug in the UK is like walking on a Lego in North America, saying ‘abogado’ in Spanish may not mean avocado and expressing love for people is different in many countries.

More TCKs

Thing is, TCKs attract TCKs, and if you’re friend with one, you may meet more and the advantages multiply!

Are you a TCK? Are you friends with any TCKs?

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