I am a third-culture wife. I’m not a third-culture kid. I’ve never lived overseas, never been immersed into a new, semi-permanent cultural setting, never learned a second language out of necessity. I can’t tell you what it means to say good-bye to home and friends for the twelfth time. The longest I’ve spent overseas is seven weeks in East Africa—long enough to get a taste of the world, but not long enough to get homesick. I have never experienced these things, but I know their effects onone’s heart and soul. I know the heart-wrenching farewell to a loved one. I know the delight of finding that rare person who has visited your hometown or who can speak your second (or third) language. I know the silent shudder triggered by fireworks, reminders of the sound of bombs and gunshots. I know these things not because I am a third-culture kid, but because I am a third-culture wife. This is my story, and the story of my adventures at home and abroad.
Those of you who are TCKs or are close to one know that there is so much more to a TCK than is initially obvious to the rest of us. Some of you may be wondering, what is a TCK? A Third-Culture Kid is anyone who has spent at least two years (roughly) before the age of 18 in a country other than the parents’ home country. This excludes immigrants who stay in the host country/ receive citizenship in the new country, although these individuals can certainly relate to much of what a TCK experiences. A TCK is generally expected to return to his or her parents’ home country. Third-Culture Kids include missionary kids, NGO kids, military kids, and any other expat kid. The Third Culture is the culture that all these people share. It is a unique culture. While most cultures include people of similar background, ethnic background, history, and language, the Third-Culture includes people from a variety of backgrounds: a Korean missionary kid in Kenya, and American military kid in Japan, a British NGO kid in Ecuador. In fact, this diversity is what defines the Third Culture. The Third Culture is characterized by mobility, adaptively, and change. The TCK shapes the third-culture individuals and deeply influences the way that they see themselves, others, and the world. Third-Culture Kids are, in my experience, some of the most compassionate, fascinating, and complex people in the world. I am glad to have several as friends and I blessed beyond measure to be married to one.