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Third Culture Kids – Are Parents the Gatekeepers of your Passport Culture?


The topic of Third Culture Kids came up in a discussion I had with a mentor of mine the other day.

She herself is not a Third Culture Kid so naturally she is quite interested in how the experience has impacted me.

In our session we talked about how Third Culture Kids do not have a lot of say in how they are exposed to their passport culture once they have moved abroad.

To this, she came with an interesting piece of insight that I thought I would share with you.


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After I had talked at length about how my Swedish parents had raised me in Hong Kong, she commented on my parent’s role as the gatekeeper of my passport culture.

Once we had moved to our host culture (Hong Kong), the onus had been on them to teach me about my passport culture (Sweden).

This can be quite interesting for expat parents to understand.

Unlike migrant families who are expected to settle in their host culture permanently, expats move with the intention of one day returning to their passport culture.



Therefore, migrant families are more likely to realise the importance of teaching their children about their passport culture and be proactive in the process, whereas expat parents will see their move to the host culture as a unique experience and would want to make the most of the opportunity by teaching their children about the local culture.

The expat parent would also be inclined to think that their children will learn about their passport culture upon their return and therefore not see it as that important to teach them about it.

They are also likely to look down upon their passport culture as their career success has enabled them to “get away” from it and therefore not see the importance of teaching their children about it.




This is of course only one of several possible scenarios. It may be that some expat parents see the importance of teaching their children about their passport culture.

Some may of course bring back food and watch tv shows etc from their passport culture because they themselves are homesick.

Regular contact with family at home (i.e. grandparents) would be good for Third Culture Kids as well, since a prolonged stay in the host culture will undoubtedly affect the parents ability to speak the language of their passport culture, further adding to the perceived distance between the passport culture and host culture.

These are just some examples. There are plenty more.

I feel like today’s reflection on the parent’s role as the gatekeepers of one’s passport culture is just a start.

It is a fascinating idea and one that has not yet been explored by Third Culture Kid literature. 



Next Article: Third Culture Kids – Nationality as Reference Point!

Who am I? – is a question that most, if not all, Third Culture Kids find hard to answer. Feeling unsure about one’s identity is perhaps the defining issue in the Third Culture Kid experience. Granted, it is not one exclusive to TCKs as many people struggle with issues concerning their… READ MORE


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