I say this because it took 37 years for me to understand where I truly belong.

Belonging is a fundamental basic human need; we all want to feel accepted and supported by our peers, a tribe, a community. Everybody needs roots somewhere (or so many often say) and yet, for over 200 million people on the planet, they can’t tell you with confidence where they’re from, and most importantly, they can’t easily answer who they are. This is my family. This is my tribe. This is the Third Culture Kid.

What is a Third Culture Kid?

By definition, a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is someone who has spent a majority of their developmental years living outside of their parents’ passport country (or countries).  Historically they were children of international business people, foreign service workers, missionaries, teachers etc. What makes a TCK unique is that they are living  highly mobile and multi-cultural lives while their personal identity has yet to be fully developed. Identity is a key theme in the TCK experience. Who we are, where we’re from, our value system, our place in society, our relationships to others and our environment- all this is still forming at the time the TCK is constantly moving schools and leaving friends across countries and continents.

Third Culture Kid Problems

Some admit that this life of immense excitement and joy is also a consistent ‘meal of loss.’ But for all the rootlessness, uncertainties and challenges that come from growing up highly mobile and multi-cultural, I’ve realised that these are the very strengths that make us so valuable in the workforce.  Our enriched upbringing is what has naturally prepared us to make a positive impact in our global economy. We’ve been doing it for decades, but we just didn’t realise it.

The Positive Benefits of TCKs

My focus and research interest is not just in helping others become more aware of the instrumental opportunities TCKs have been given, but to encourage them to leverage these superpowers within their teams and in positions of leadership. I believe that TCKs are clear, confident and empathic leaders who can change the world. I’m here to support that tribe and to bringing awareness to employers across organizations to tap into the incredible potential of TCKs in the workplace.

As one of the foremost TCK authorities, Ruth van Reken, says, “We have marketable gifts.” For TCKs, globalization is in their DNA. Global experience builds cultural awareness, a broader world-view, inspires flexibility and open-mindedness, and develops highly impactful global leaders.  There’s never been a better time for TCKs to flex their muscles than right NOW. As organizations prioritise diversity and inclusion and face significant changes across multiple industries, there’s no better communicator, bridge and “do-er” than the TCK who has had to assimilate, acclimate and navigate multiple cultures while expecting the unexpected over and over again. 

TCKs: Growing Up Among Worlds

Third Culture Kids have often struggled with the polarity of excitement (experiencing new countries and cultures in their developmental years) and anxiety (having to begin again, make new friends and face the unknown). Many feel they belong nowhere and everywhere at the same time because they take parts of each unique culture they’ve lived in while never being able to fully take ownership of either.  They are transient, not by choice, but by circumstance; often because of their parents’ international careers.  

Some TCKs (like myself) always feel like an outsider and have to consistently adapt to new environments in order to “fit in.”  Therein lies the goldmine. But to transform our challenges into value, we have to acknowledge that they exist.  The power of your vulnerability can only be harnessed if you are willing to recognise that it’s always been there.  

So if you are a TCK, I’m here to tell you that it’s our “otherness”, our collectively being “different” that makes us the same. That’s how we belong; in this powerhouse global community. So welcome home… and I can’t wait to help you thrive.

I also wrote another blog post about “TCKs as Global Leaders” where my mission is to help other TCKs become more aware of the instrumental opportunities they’ve been given and to encourage them to leverage these superpowers within their teams and in positions of leadership. Watch my YouTube video to discover Third Culture Kids’ impact in the workplace, the possibilities, and the awesome qualities they bring.

Expect to laugh and cry on this emotional and deeply personal adventure. Nikki bridges the decades long research of this unique upbringing with stories of her own rootlessness, cultural complexities, an unresolved grief that led her to finally find a sense of belonging and tap into the innate power of the TCK experience. 

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