From one “ex-TCK” to all TCKs

The powerful message shared below was posted by Debbie Jongkind Dehart on the Facebook group: Third Culture Kids Everywhere.

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“I’ve debated a long time before writing and posting this…but here goes.
I believe I am considerably older than many of you who post here, and I have greatly enjoyed reading about your experiences and the questions you’ve asked and comments you’ve made. My TCK years are long behind me and I’ve been settled in one place for a long time. As such, I have some hindsight to offer. So I’d like to encourage you who are still in your TCK years, or perhaps only recently beyond them, in a couple of ways – and please take this in the spirit in which I offer it…to help, not to hinder; to encourage, not to criticize.

I encourage you to assume that non-TCK’s who ask questions might actually be interested in hearing about your experience. Give their ignorance a bit of grace and use the opportunity to gently teach them and widen their world…and cultivate relationships with people like them. They could turn out to be among your best friends.

Also, in a similar vein, be patient with having to tell the same story over and over. It’s new to the person with whom you are sharing it! It’s a GOOD thing that people are interested. I’ve posted here before that when I came to the US in the late 70’s, I didn’t often meet anyone who cared that there was a world beyond the state in which we lived. I think it’s marvelous that the world has shrunk so that now, many folks love to hear about other countries…and as a TCK, you might be one of the few ways that someone can learn about those places from a real person rather than a book.

And I encourage you to look at all the positive aspects of having grown up the way you did. It can be hard, and no doubt there are people for whom it had some huge difficulties that I can’t begin to understand, but try to look beyond the things that were a challenge and see how, perhaps, they made you a stronger, more resilient person, or equipped you in ways that living in one country all your life wouldn’t, or allowed you to understand and help others who are going through something similar. I firmly believe that we should try to use what we’ve learned through our life experiences to help and reach out to others, whenever we can. I will readily admit I didn’t enjoy moving so much when I was young because I found it so hard to make new friends all the time – but looking back, I’m profoundly thankful that I had those experiences. They don’t make me any better than anyone else; just different….but they did play a large role in shaping me into the person I have become.”


Home: A Place in the Hearts of My Loved Ones

By Rafia A.


“So, where are you from?”

That is the question we TCKs continuously face problems answering. That is also the question I was recently asked by a freshman while showing him around our university. For the first time in my life upon being asked this question, I paused for three eternal seconds and proceeded to lie and say, “Oh, I’m just from here.”

I’m a TCK of Indian origin who has spent majority of her life living outside of India. I lived here for a short period during fifth and sixth grade, and later returned back two years ago to start college. Today, at 20 years of age, I am an Indian who does not feel a sense of belonging to her country and struggles to call it her home.

To me the concept of having to identify with a place and to call it my home was never an issue that boggled me. It was simple – the place where I was currently residing was home. Therefore, home was always a physical entity in which I was omnipresent. Well, all until now.

Recently, I found out that in a few months my parents and my little sister will be moving to a new city. Unlike past times, this time I will not be embarking with them on their expedition to unravel our family’s new destination. Instead I’ll be staying in Delhi, accompanied by extended family members and friends yet feeling all alone, while my parents will be alone in a foreign land, but accompanied by each other. Is it weird for me to think I won’t hesitate to call that new city my home as opposed to Delhi? That I’ll always connect with the foreign more than I ever will with the familiar?

But what does this all mean? Having spent some time pondering on why I struggled to answer the freshman’s question on where I was from made me realised a few things. This struggle was because of my newfound complexity of “home” which contradicts majority of my previous beliefs. What I can decipher and establish from my influx of emotions and thoughts is that home is not a physical entity nor is it static. Home is an abstract place in the hearts of my loved ones – wherever they go, my sanctuary will follow.

So to the freshman who asked me where I’m from, and others who will follow – I am a third culture kid of Indian origin who has grown up in five other countries, aside from India. I do not have one home instead I have many homes that reside in every corner of the world, depending my loved ones presently are.



A sense of belonging

By Jasmine

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A sense of belonging is definitely something I struggle with on a daily basis. Where do I fit in? What is my place in the world, in my country, in my city and in my community? One of the reasons I struggle with this is that I recently moved to my passport country. I would have conversations with people, even friends, overseas and they would just say, “Well, you’re not from here so you don’t understand.” I would believe that statement too. I wasn’t a citizen so I didn’t know everything.

Now that I’ve been in my passport country for over nine months and have been attending my local private school, I have found that I don’t fit in there either. I’m experiencing what many of my fellow TCKs felt or are currently feeling: this sense of being in the middle and not fitting anywhere. We are not cookie cutter people. We are complex and varied. I don’t feel like I can give my current school all of me. Over the years, different parts of me have been left in the crevices of continents. I am physically whole but mentally and emotionally I am a puzzle with pieces all over the globe. I do not regret this, this giving of myself to the countries of whom I have been a resident. I believe this has enriched my time there and the memories I carry with me. The locals here do not understand this and I am constantly battling with the closed minded attitudes of my generation.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen sixteen and seventeen year olds astounded when told that Australia experiences Christmas in the summer season or that South Africa experiences winter in July. I am questioned as to why, if I was from Africa, that I was white. You may chuckle at the reference but once who have heard it mockingly one to many times, all you want to do is leave the building and never come back.

If school is supposed to be the building where education and learning is facilitated, why is it the place where I feel the most frustrated? Why do people not want to know about the world around them? Why do they continuously make remarks that insinuate that I had lions roaming in my backyard after I have shown them pictures of my old backyard garden? It frustrates me beyond belief and acts as a grey cloud, hovering over the great opportunities I have experienced and will experience in the future.

Then, I see them. The lonely, the lost, the forgotten and I befriend them because they remind me of myself. I see the hope in them. I believe that one day they will be able to help the close-minded. Watching them smile or laugh at the commonalities and the crazy stories we both share makes it all worth it. I have become the solution to my own problem. One less person has to endure what I endured.

Temporary friends (& places): the hardest thing about being a TCK.

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I was on Facebook yesterday and saw an old friend of mine mentioned in a post by a common friend. I clicked on her profile and noticed she had…deleted me.

The next hour was spent trying to go through Facebook profiles of old friends and the outcome was similar, a few had simply deleted me.

We’re now (sadly) in an age where deleting someone on Facebook could be considered an “impactful” move. Especially when these guys are on the other side of the world, it’s not like we’ll have a high chance of seeing each other again.

Also, if I may add, these were not just “friends”. We had been best friends at some point.

I wondered what I did wrong but it didn’t take me long to figure it out. It seems that I have developed this pattern of making friends, getting really close to them and then, gradually stray away from them.

Some people can’t tolerate

not being talked to for weeks or months.

Some people don’t get why you suddenly shut off for a month.

Some needs a constant contact, some kind of reassurance. They need to know they matter. It gets excessive, or that’s at least how I perceive it. The current few people that are really close to me have understood that I can go radio silent for months, yet it doesn’t mean I don’t care about them.

I need that time

and that feeling of freedom.

I hate feeling like I’m tied to a friend,

that I have to entertain them and be in contact with them constantly. Even if we’re not in the same country. Then again, that might just be personal.

In high school, I had two best friends. We’ve gone through so much, the three of us. Today, one is in Canada, the other in Australia and I’m, well, back to where we all met… Singapore! (They both are fellow TCKs).

We often had jokes about how we can go on, not exchange a word for over a year, yet when we reconnect, it’s the same.

One thing I’ve failed to understand is that this perception of “friendship” isn’t friendship to a lot of people.

It’s hard for someone to get it. It doesn’t just stand to being a TCK or not, it can also just be a question of character. However, I’m pretty sure my TCK experience has contributed to building that perception of friendship for myself and the urge to be able to breakaway whenever I need to.

It also ties in with the constant urge to move, start over. New life, new job, new house, new friends, new me. I’m scared of getting used to a place and calling it home. The thought of spending my entire life in a single places scares me, so much.

It’s seems to all tie to commitment. This issue with committing to people and places. It could be a result of having lost people and a sense of belonging when moving to a new country or even city but regardless, I think it only made me stronger.

Some better founded thoughts can be read here:

There was actually some research done about commitment, life choices and all that jazz…. Enjoy 😉

Don’t forget to leave your thoughts below, would love to hear from you!