Third Culture Kid Problems

Third Culture Kid Problems, identity crisis

Growing up, I was always an expat kid. My family and I lived in a compound in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. We attended the Saudi Arabian International School, known now as the American International School of Jeddah. And we visited Lebanon and Canada very often. When anyone asked me where I was from, I would say Canadian Lebanese. But I didn’t really know what that meant. Also, I had spent 95% of my life in Saudi Arabia but didn’t share that as my identity. Thus, I am a third culture kid.

Wikipedia defines a third culture kid as the following:

a term used to refer to children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years.

Third Culture Kid Identity Crisis

In Saudi Arabia, it was wonderful getting to know people from all over the world. My father taught us how to appreciate different cultures and not to jump to judgement (thanks dad for helping us develop some cultural intelligence). We lived a good life with a lot of travel. My family was close because we were a minority. It was a good childhood.

I looked to Lebanon for my identity. Though I am very fond of my ethnic background, it became apparent to me that the Lebanon my parents raised me to identify with no longer existed. Lebanon had moved on. Grown. Changed.

Later, when I moved to Canada for university, I learned more about the Canadian culture. More importantly, I learned about other Lebanese Canadians. I realized that these cultures were more unfamiliar to me than the Saudi culture. Since then, I have also lived in France and Kuwait, and each of these countries has also become part of my identity. So, when people ask me where I am from, they get to the heart of my identity crisis.

My Identity Crisis

Because I grew up in a culture I do not call my own, I am at a limbo trying to identify with one culture. I tried. I wanted to be able to say one country when people asked where I was from. But, whatever I said, it wasn’t the truth. So, I finally came to the conclusion that I identify with all the countries I’ve lived in and will live in. I’m afraid I will have to bore you with a long answer if you ever ask me where I am from.

How much do you really identify with the culture you say you’re from?

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5 Comments

  1. I know what you mean. A friend of mine (and fellow third culture kid) called us a hybrid because we are a weird mash up of all cultures.

    I think it helps makes us open and accepting.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. I enjoy your posts they are well written and straight to the point with a pinch of humor, that make me smile. Your cartoon drawing made me laugh, keep it up

    Thanks for posting

  3. Nice answer dear! I totally identify with you. I perosnally think that’s what makes us beautiful. We don’t fit in a box and we prove to the world we don’t have to in order to flourish. God bless. Give my regards to Baba T and bosa for Baby G

  4. My story exactly! Lol, i can write an essay but i’ll try to keep it short.. I usually enjoy telling new folks about how I’m originally pakistani, who grew up in different cities in the Middle East and Canada, and that usually gives us a lot to talk about.

    I end up appreciating others when they tell me they’ve lived in one courntry and city their whole lives and had friendships that lasted lifelong (I tell them how they are blessed and they agree), whereas A) i meet others who have had a similar past as us, or B) they understand how hard it must have been for me, and/or how exciting. So I tell them about the exciting parts. And yes, half of them do fal asleep or zone out, and that’s how i’ve got my knack of switching topics to the more interesting one of “where have you traveled to”, and making it about them as well.

    Identity crisis: I never linked this to me being a TCK, but it does add up. Perhaps what helped me in this regard was that we always went back to our home country once a year and spent summers there (thanks Dad). My identity crisis happened when i stayed out of Pakistan (in Toronto) for studies for 4 years straight. And didn’t heal until I went back to Pakistan exactly four times to make up for those years. Stay tuned for the post on what my research told me about the Four factors involved in a person’s identity, and a bit on sense of belonging.

    Bottom line being that the feeling comes back everytime I even go for a small vacation, and I wonder, if even traveling for “vacation” sometimes reminds you of the feeling of being lost and out of place like everytime you’ve moved?

    1. Great response, Zaib. I can relate so well. I am sure there are negative implications being a TCK, but I would love to get my hands on research about adaptability in the workplace of TCK when they grow up. I am certain that the consequences can be quite positive and will give a competitive advantage.
      I will be following your posts as well and am excited to learn more!!

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