15 Things That Make You A Third Culture Kid

by Sheri

This post may contain referral links, which means I may receive a small credit, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. All opinions remain my own.

Identify With Being A Third Culture Kid

Third culture kid (TCK) is a term used to refer to children raised in a culture other than their parents’ or the the country where they are legally considered native for a significant part of their early development years.

Dr. Ruth Hill Useem first coined the term “Third Culture Kids”.


I have moved a lot! I know 100% that I am a Third Culture Kid. Moving away from my home country at a very young age helped me develop my love for travelling and seeing the world.

I love to explore new countries and cities while learning about cultures and traditions.

If you are open to it, travel will open your mind to new experiences and people while broadening your mind. It will make you a more well-rounded human being. Which is really the goal, isn’t it?

People who have attended international schools, who are children of diplomats, military kids and children of missionaries are just a few examples of TCK’s.

Attending international schools and living in 8 countries, I have concluded that there are ways to easily tell if you are a Third Culture Kid, or help you identify who is. 

 third culture kid 4

15 Ways To Know If You Are A Third Culture Kid

1. You know that “home” isn’t a place, it’s the people in it.

2. You have to pause and think before answering the question “Where are you from?”

3. Your repeatedly say “then we moved to…” and repeat this about four or five times when people ask where you grew up.

4. You can curse convincingly in at least three different languages. Scheisse!

5. Your accent changes depending on who you’re talking to.

third culture kid 1


6. You are excellent at calculating the difference in time zones. Yup, it’s 23:47 in Shanghai right now.

7. You do not know what is meant on a form where it states “permanent address” – Is there such a thing?

8. You speak three or more languages. – Doesn’t everyone?

9. You slip foreign words into your English sentences without even realizing it. You only become aware when the person you are talking to squints their eyes and says “huh?”.


third culture kid 2

10. You were on your third passport by the time you turned 12.

11. You have friends from more than 20 different countries. United Nations much?

12. You’ve tasted the best and most authentic of every possible cuisine. So when people who have never been Italy rave about eating “real Italian Pizza and Past”, you wonder about their state of mind.

13. You are trying to decide on a time to chat with your bestie on the weekend who lives across the Ocean. Questions you ask: WhatsApp, iMessage, Skype, FaceTime, Viber or Google Chat?


One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. - Henry MillerClick To Tweet


14. You adopt certain parts of each culture. – The good, the bad and the ugly. That is what makes you you!

15. You know Visa is a document that is stamped in your passport. What’s all this about a plastic payment card?


third culture kid 3

BONUS: You suffer a major/minor culture shock when returning to your “home” country.

Does this sound a little too familiar to you or anyone you know? Are you a third culture kid?

If not, do you ever wonder what it would have been like to grow up outside your home country? If you could choose another country to have grown up in where would it be?

Share your thoughts and feedback with me in the comments section below.

Excited to hear your stories!



Purposeful Habits xoxo Sheri



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michenn (@michennblog) April 20, 2017 - 23:08

I’ve never heard of that term. You learn something new every day! Thanks for sharing, I’m not exactly sure what I am haha

Alicia Nicole March 5, 2017 - 01:35

I didn’t move from country to country, but I was a moving kid here in the states! Some of these I do identify with though because I was an army brat. We’ve been in a lot of states and my dad’s been everywhere. We also have a very diverse family (Panamanian, Costa Rican, West Indian, African American, Mexican on my husband’s side etc) so there are many cultural elements! Thank you so much for sharing πŸ™‚

Alicia Nicole xo

nadaliebardo March 4, 2017 - 16:31

WOW this is so interesting. I’d never heard this term prior to reading your post. Must have been both rewarding and expanding but also unnerving and confusing to have experienced this as a child. I’ve lived in the same country my entire life and I’m grateful for that. Although, as a first generation I carry a lot of my parents cultural identity as well, which is also the result of multiple backgrounds mixed together.

Thanks for the self-reflection,


Patricia @ Grab a Plate December 13, 2016 - 01:57

Love this post! There is so much to learn from travel and meeting people from different cultures/countries!

Shane November 27, 2016 - 18:01

I think a lot of this is applicable to life as an expat (to a lesser extent) How neat it is to be part of multiple cultures!

Mary Ann Clemente November 20, 2016 - 12:37

I think your points really resonate on being a third culture kid. I’m not one but I got 8 points. I grew up learning the English and Chinese language too aside from the native Filipino language. English was required in school and Chinese, because my dad is one. How I wish my parents sent me to an international school. It would have been cool. But, yes, I’m still grateful to them for letting me travel from a young age.

chris November 15, 2016 - 09:16

Those points are very accurate and seems like you have lots of experience with traveling and different cultures.

Arye November 8, 2016 - 17:22

Never heard of the term, but got 13 out of 15. Now I know what I am! πŸ˜‰

marshasassycritic November 6, 2016 - 17:49

Very interesting! I know a couple of people who’d be considered Third Culture Kids. I’m not one but I’d love to travel more. My passport is overdue for some stamps!

Tryphena Wade November 6, 2016 - 11:37

Wow! Some of these things are true of me just because of how much I travel for work. I love it!! Explaining where I’m from does confuse people at times.

adawnpaxton November 4, 2016 - 14:49

This is so interesting! I am a Spanish teacher and have spent time abroad and it is crazy how much culture shock I had upon returning to the US after only a few months! I also sometimes slip Spanish words into my English sentences!

Daria November 4, 2016 - 08:34

Wow, I’ve never heard of the term but I would love to experience the feeling. I plan to start traveling more in 2017, so maybe I’ll be able to relate to some of these. I am tired of being in my “home” town and want to experience more of other cultures. Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer November 4, 2016 - 02:50

Really great post! I am not from another country, but I did grow up as an Army brat. I also married my Army husband, so I found myself relating to quite a few of these points on the list.

Latoya Scott (@lifeandabudget) November 3, 2016 - 20:01

I wish I could switch up my accent a couple of times. I’m country (southern country) as all get out. lol

Don November 3, 2016 - 18:07

This was very interesting, until now I never heard of Third Culture Kid.

Anitra Durand Allen November 3, 2016 - 15:56

I must be 1/3 third culture because I answered yes to 6 of these and I’ve only lived in the states. I’ve lived in 6 different cities/areas of the country, though. I can relate.

Valerie Ratliff November 3, 2016 - 12:26

You are well rounded and well cultured. I love your unique perspective and it is so very true.

Danika November 2, 2016 - 22:12

I’m not a TCK, but it sounds like TCKs have a pretty wonderful life. Gotta get my travel game up. πŸ™‚

MimiCuteLips (@mimicutelips) November 2, 2016 - 21:31

This was hilarious, I’m not a third culture kid but we moved around a lot. I lived in New York for 7 years before moving to the DC area. I never knew where to say I was from. After being the in the DC area I just tell people I grew up here and call it a day.

Carlana Charles November 2, 2016 - 20:58

I never heard of the term ‘third culture kid’ until this post. Thank you for educating me. Some of the points raised made me chuckle a bit. An informative and fun read πŸ™‚

Tanya Barnett (@RealWifeCoach) November 2, 2016 - 20:52

I never heard of this term before. How interesting and awesome to have this type of insight.

Amrita Basu November 2, 2016 - 15:27

I had no idea about third culture kids.
THis is obviously a very well thought out post

Amrita Basu November 2, 2016 - 15:28

My cousin sister’s family travel a lot and her kids have all these issues

Ashleigh Owens November 2, 2016 - 14:51

Very interesting! I’m not a TCK but I love traveling and learning about the world around me and I lowkey envy those who’ve grown up learning about the world already. It makes me feel like I have to play catch up lol. Great post!

Ana Ojha November 2, 2016 - 14:26

I’m a third culture kid and could relate with everything that you’ve mentioned in your post! Due to TCK, I believe that I got the addiction of traveling since my childhood!

Wandering JM November 2, 2016 - 09:24

I am not a third culture child after i answered all those questions to my self. but this is very interesting to know for self assessment and for other people as well.

Divya @ Eat. Teach. Blog. November 2, 2016 - 09:20

Hahaha this is definitely all too familiar. Though I didn’t move around as much as you did, I do feel a lot of the sentiments you’ve listed above!

Amber Myers November 2, 2016 - 09:02

This is cool! I sort of was one since my mother was in the military. We lived overseas a lot. We were in Italy, Germany, and Belgium. It was an interesting experience!

Sophie Nadeau November 2, 2016 - 08:32

I thought this was a pretty interesting read. I think that the biggest advantage of being exposed to so many cultures at an early age is that you’re able to fluently speak multiple languages from a young age! Not only that, but it’s a great way to learn tolerance πŸ™‚

Blair Villanueva November 2, 2016 - 04:31

I’ve encountered friends who grew up as third culture kids, and what I’ve noticed is they are more patient than others. And they are more excited for adventures, either travel or sports πŸ˜€

Anosa November 2, 2016 - 04:23

I am such a third culture kid as 90% of these resonated with me as they are only too familiar lol

Maja November 2, 2016 - 04:13

I am not a third culture kid, but I traveled and lived in different countries so much in my early 20-is that I can easily relate. I’ll never forget the feeling when I came back “home” after my first half year away. It might not be a long period of time, but still.. I was at home, but I was not at home in the same time.

Janine Good November 2, 2016 - 01:27

This is so true. I am not a third culture kid, but I can see where this would be a valid argument for those who are. I wish I could speak more than English and French like some of these kids who can speak a dozen languages fluently…

loisaltermark November 1, 2016 - 23:15

Wow, what a fascinating post. I never heard the term “third culture kid” before but this provides so much understanding of kids who have moved often while growing up. So glad you shared this!

GoodTomiCha November 1, 2016 - 22:45

I haven’t lived in a different country, but my family is from Nigeria! With that and all of us dispersed all over the world it’s fun to experience different cultures all the time!

xx, Tomi

simplysouthernreviewsblog November 1, 2016 - 21:37

This is such a sweet article and very eye opening. I think your number one reason is a wonderful reason and is so truthful. Great article, thank you for sharing:)

CourtneyLynne November 1, 2016 - 20:08

Omg I never lived in a different country, but lived in a few different places when growing up so I too struggle when people ask where I’m from! It’s a combo of 3 different places lol

Imaobong November 1, 2016 - 19:48

Lol aww
Eight countries
This sounds like a lot of fun, totally envy you!
I have never left my country yet but I sure hope to someday

Sarah (@lavenderlifeco) November 1, 2016 - 19:11

Never heard of the concept of a “third culture kid” before. Number 4 & 5 sound really recognisable though! I totally change my accent depending on who I’m talking to, and it happens very unconsciously, it’s so weird!

gobeyondbounds November 1, 2016 - 15:20

We had not heard about the term Third culture kid but did know lot many kids of friends who are actually growing up in different culture. Agree its awesome that kids learn about adjusting and respecting to different cultures at such a small age. And also learn so many basic things about travel and the country they belong to and they live in. Thanks for this post. Very informative.

laveenasengar November 1, 2016 - 13:49

This was such an interesting post to read. I can totally relate, I have moved a lot since childhood because of the defence background but now it feels like good memories πŸ™‚

Jasmin N November 1, 2016 - 13:18

I can relate so many parts of this, even though I’m not a third culture kid in the proper meaning of the statement. My family is originally from US, but I haven’t lived there. We’ve got some traditions though, like thanksgiving that we celebrate.

Soumya Nambiar November 1, 2016 - 12:57

I am a third culture kid and I can relate to so many things listed here. I am an Indian who spent 17 years growing up in Tanzania and then had to move back to India. I have moved around so much since then. I always pause when they ask me where I am from. My accent keeps changing. I have friends from all over the world. So many things that I can relate to. Also I keep inserting swahili sub consciously . πŸ™‚

Sheri @ A Busy Bees Life November 1, 2016 - 14:16

What an awesome story and experience Soumya! Did you love it in Tanzania? Dies that feel more like home to you than India? I think it is great that you speak Swahili as well. Thanks for sharing a part of your story with me. I love hearing feedback like this. xoxo S.

ilive4travel November 1, 2016 - 12:54

I would have loved to be a third culture kid, but unfortunately I never went abroad till I was 14 with school and flew for the first time when I was 21!! Now I hate to be in my “home” country, it does not feel like home to me, and popping down the shops makes me nearly book a flight out of there!! Would have been great to experience growing up in different countries and cultures πŸ™‚

lydia@lifeuntraveledl November 1, 2016 - 12:45

I’m not a third culture kid but I have traveled extensively as an adult and strangely I share some commonalities.

Ree love30 November 1, 2016 - 12:24

Yes home can be anywhere! As Iong as you love it. I’ve not travelled a great deal actually but that’s changing now! Ree love30

Hous November 1, 2016 - 11:30

This is a great read. Growing up I moved once. My children and I have moved at least times, but all in the same state.

Veronica November 1, 2016 - 10:57

Sheri, why are they called a third culture? Isn’t it supposed to be a second culture?
I am Ukrainian and I grew up in Ukraine, but I went to an International school, so most of the things you have written above really relate to me. Except for the moving part of course!

Sheri @ A Busy Bees Life November 1, 2016 - 14:11

Hi Veronica, this is also something I have wondered about. I am not sure why the term was coined that way but I am guessing it is because first culture would be home, second would be where you live (if not home), and third culture kids would be those classified as in the post. I will need to find out a more specific answer to your question. I would love to know also.

Arye November 8, 2016 - 17:28

Yes, apparently first culture is the origin country/where the parents are form, second culture is the local residency culture and third culture is the blend of the two (or more).

Karoliina Kazi November 1, 2016 - 10:57

Really, really nice post. I have always found it interesting how children grow up in multiple locations, cultures and countries and how rich their lives must be. Im not a third culture kid, but moved abroad quite young and have moved around few in different countries since. I can identify with few of your points.

stace16 November 1, 2016 - 10:32

Wow this is interesting. Def not a thrid culture kid here. Born and raised in Barbados and am learning spanish. But love to travel and explore. My children may be third culture kids tho!

Sheri @ A Busy Bees Life November 1, 2016 - 14:20

Hi Stace! Barbados! WOW, I have always wanted to visit there and I see so many wonderful pictures from those who have been and it would be a dream to spend at least a week there.

saraessop November 1, 2016 - 10:16

I’ve never heard of the term ” Third Culture Kid” before although I do know some people that fit the description. But now I know how to identify them, thanks to your article.

Milana's Travels November 1, 2016 - 09:34

I’m not a third culture kid, but can definitely relate! I relocated from Poland to the US as a child and now when visiting Poland, it all seems so foreign to me. Great post!

Sheri @ A Busy Bees Life November 1, 2016 - 14:22

Hi Milana, I understand completely how you feel Do you speak Polish too?

Milana's Travels November 1, 2016 - 14:30

I do! So does Milana (my 5 year old!)

watchmeblather November 1, 2016 - 07:32

This is such an interesting post to read, I moved at least once a year every year when I was younger only stopping when I became a teen and I thought that was strange, because people would get annoyed when they asked where I’m from and I couldn’t give a straight answer lol

Svenja November 1, 2016 - 07:23

I come from switzerland, and i think this is a good and nice place to life.
I also love it to travel around the world. I can also speak 3 languages and yes! It’s a really nice post!

Alexa Schlotty November 1, 2016 - 07:12

Interesting post! I am not a third culture kid, but this post opened my eyes to a whole new perspective. I’ve traveled quite a bit, so I found some of your points to be quite relatable.

Sarah November 1, 2016 - 06:40

This is such an interesting posts. I am not a third culture kid, but I could relate to a couple of points, especially after coming home from a long trip abroad.

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