Single Blog

Becoming Your Diagnosis – The Negative Aspects Of The Term, Third Culture Kid


Here at Wherapy, not only do we strive to help people who feel out of place in society, but we also work hard to provide content that may challenge people’s perceptions of themselves.

Therefore in today’s article we’ve decided to look at the negative implications of an otherwise much appreciated term, namely that of the Third Culture Kid.

For those of you who don’t know, Third Culture Kids (or TCKs for short) are children who have, for the majority of their lifetime, been raised in a country different to their parent’s birth country. 

In other words they are the children of expats.


Amazon Echo
Book An Online Therapy Session
For Third Culture Kids & Expats!
Consultation (15 min) = 25 USD
Session (50 min) = 70 USD

Book Appointment

Safe and Secure. SSL Encrypted.


Once they are over the age of eighteen they are known as Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs).

The term has gained popularity over the last few decades for offering an identity and a sense of community to people who have otherwise felt lost and alone due to the effects of a global upbringing.

Nowadays there are many chat groups and online forums dedicated to the term Third Culture Kids. They usually serve as a place to share one’s feelings of being misunderstood and to discuss the hardship of assimilating into a monocultural lifestyle. This has allowed many people, who have for a long time been misunderstood, to feel seen. But the forums and the term in general also has the ability to limit the people using them.

Many Third Culture Kids see the term as their only way of defining themselves.

The lack of a national identity has been such an issue during their formative years, that the Third Culture Kid feels anxious about losing this defining term and feels threatened when other possible identifiers present themselves.



This has limited TCKs in many ways.

A lot of Third Culture Kids log into online forums when traveling abroad and solicit other TCKs (who are complete strangers) to meet up at restaurants or bars. On face value this might seem as a very bold and social thing to do. But imagine if someone from a certain country, who had travelled half-way across the globe for a holiday, were to ask strangers from their home country to meet up, solely based on the fact that they were from the same country? A lot of people would see that person as being very closed off.

Third Culture Kids can be perceived by many non-ticks as being closed off. 

It can also be claimed that the term has led to TCKs being too comfortable and therefore less motivated to make changes for the better. This applies in particular to Third Culture Kids who are dealing with poor mental health as a result of the TCK experience. It may seem strange to see the words “comfortable” and “poor mental health” in the same sentence but this is something that is actually quite common. 




In fact, a lot of non-tcks who are depressed end up submitting to their diagnosis and claim that they are unable to do this-and-that due to their depression. 

In the same way, a lot of Third Culture Kids often mourn the fact that they are misunderstood without offering non-tcks the chance to understand them or without bothering to understand the monocultural experience. Very seldom do Third Culture Kids strive to find similarities with non-tcks.

This attitude can lead to Third Culture Kids moving from one country to the next even during adulthood (itchy feet).

In this case, the move reaffirms their self-image as someone who is different and maintains their identity as a TCK.

But it also weakens their social circle and their sense of security, it limits their ability to pursue their dreams and makes it more difficult to achieve a sense of belonging.

These are just some of the negative implications of being a Third Culture Kid.

But remember, don’t get too lost in the negativity, there are many good things about being a TCK.

However, knowing and understanding the negative affects of the TCK experience is an essential part of improving your mental health!



Next Article: The Unraveling of a Crisis – Grieving a Move as a Third Culture Kid

For this article, I thought it would be interesting to apply the four stages of grief to the Third Culture Kid experience, namely mourning the loss of relationships due to a move abroad… READ MORE


About The Author

Was this article helpful?
Invalid email address

Comments (0)

© Copyright 2024 - Wherapy