By Megan Thorpe
“TCKs are the prototype citizens of the future.” While the exact definition of a TCK is perhaps appropriately as capricious and volatile as the life of a TCK, Third Culture Kids identity has colloquially developed to collectively identify those children that grow up in a range of countries, speaking a range of languages, assimilating into whatever school system is most congruent with their ‘home’ system.
We exist day to day not always noticing the things that make us different, and maybe that’s because slowly the world is becoming more like us; catching up to the way we flit and flutter across social and geographical boundaries. Most of us never really stop to think about our lives, and only reflect upon them when it’s time to move on.
I’m a military brat; I’ve lived in Germany, Ireland, the States, Indonesia, and Belgium, and yet my passport and accent tells me I’m British. Moving to England for the first time for university, I was confronted with the horrible truth that I was raised in a vastly different experience from most of my peers. It began to dawn on me that this shouldn’t be glossed over, and is an element of our changing world that needs to be scrutinized.
And so I began, setting out on a project to trace the existence and merging of cultures in an international military setting; to understand the relationship between military culture – a traditionally nationalist and functionalist concept – and the growth of the TCK identity; to explore the relationships between cultural hybridity and the geographical relations of space, place, and nation. There is an increasing attempt to gather histories and opinions from TCKs themselves; manifested in film projects, blog sites, this digest, and even columns creeping into newspapers, all echoing the feeling of displacement and a degree of separation from ‘normal life’. I want to add to this growing discourse with the voices of children inside the wire.
An amazing contrast is created between the worlds of working military and of the children that emerge from bases, resulting in simultaneous embeddedness, or a hybrid transnational identity. Expressions of hybridity or an assimilation of a multiplicity of cultures obtained from nexuses of transnational populations, such as military bases, can be seen to formulate around rigid divisions. Yet if borders are ideological and geographical markers of separation and inclusion, they are also spaces of emergence: overlapping of identities leads to a rewriting of such; and a phrase with powerful resonance to the Third Culture Kid: “stretched belongings.” This phrase encapsulates the tensions between national citizenship, cultural expression, and personal identity that lace the question feared by TCKs: ‘Where are you from?’
My research seeks to explore the tensions of military grounding and TCK mobility. In order to research this I need to collate information from all types of TCKs, not just those influenced by the military. I would be very grateful if you could take the time to answer this short questionnaire on what it’s like to be a Third Culture Kid, in as much detail as you can. There are 10 short questions, and should only take around 10 minutes. Thank you so much for your contribution! (All responses are anonymous)