TCKs in Disguise

Authors: Jessica Suotmaa


A third culture kid (TCK) has become an increasingly common term now that inter-racial/cultural unions have become the mainstream, rather than the anomaly.
About the Author: Jessica Suotmaa, from Finland, her husband is from Chengdu, so she has spent some time living with her in-laws here.
A third culture kid (TCK) has become an increasingly common term now that inter-racial/cultural unions have become the mainstream, rather than the anomaly. Originally, the TCK refers to the "third culture kid" created by mixing the different cultures of their parents. It also refers to the "third culture" expat children created from combining their parents' culture and the culture of their living environment. Today, as cultures have become more and more diverse, and globalization is making global citizens of us all, TCKs have grown up to become third culture individuals (TCI) who are no longer as unique or misunderstood in today's modern culture of globe trotters and internet hipsters.
But it's not only foreign expats and mixed race children who can call themselves TCKs. In China, the term can lend itself to describe those grown up in two or more local cultures, as China is not only vast in size, but also diverse with multiple ethnic minorities - meaning it's not uncommon for one's parents to be from different cultures (albeit, all Chinese) or grow up in a culture different from their parents'.
When I think of my own TCK background, being born in California to a Finnish dad and a mom from Taiwan, China, I remember my parents struggling in foreign environments: my dad in California where it was always too hot with no proper seasons and my mom in Finland where it was far too cold, quiet, and boring compared to the bustling city life she was used to in Taipei. My own experience wasn't as black and white, as I was comfortable in the State where I was born in, but still felt somewhat at home in Finland where I felt rooted and was fluent in the language. However, the one thing that most TCKs can agree on is the feeling of alienation - no matter where you go, you just don't quite fit in. I don't look Finnish enough to be a Finn and don't act Chinese enough to be a Chinese. In the States, I didn't spend enough years there to be accepted as "ABC", and abroad, people conveniently box me in whichever culture they know the least.
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