Recently, a friend I met on Twitter asked for recommendations for “Third Culture Kid” (TCK) literature; I suggested “Las Cucarachas” by Yongsoo Park. My friend later came back and said that she had read the first chapter, and didn’t think the book was “really” about third cultures kids. I was confused. I asked her, “it’s about a Korean-American set of brothers growing up in a multi-ethnic community in New York… how could they be any more cross-cultural?” I then actually looked it up, and found that basically the only people who qualify as Third Culture Kids, are the children of expats. Because they are not usually expected to stay in the country of their formative years, they are given a special term.
There seem s to be a lot of hub-bub about TCKs as of late; how they’re the “global employees of the future”, as their cross-cultural skills are (allegedly) honed at an early age. The thinking s seems to be that they should be model employees for international businesses. However, the percentage of TCKs who acclimate fully to their new culture may be as low as 10%. TCKs are more likely to return to the culture of their parents than the children of most immigrants, and possibly as a result are less likely to ever truly feel “at home” in any culture. Now, it’s true that as perennial outsiders, TCKs may have unique 3rd-person insight into the machinations of a particular culture, but what about the children of immigrants? What are they lacking, to not be included in the recent media fanfare for TCKs? And what is the advantage, if any, or TCKs over 2nd generation immigrants?