Students reflect on pros and cons of TCK lifestyle

From the impoverished city of Manila to the fast-paced utopia of Hong Kong to the clean streets of Singapore, Third Culture Kids [TCK] have seen it all. They pick up and move, and just as they are settling down, they are told they have to leave.

By definition, a third culture kid [TCK] is a person who has spent most of their developmental years living overseas. It is also defined as a person who has lived the majority of their life away from what they perceive as their parents’ culture.

SAS students share similar experiences when asked what it means to be a Third Culture Kid. “When you are asked ‘where are you from’. It takes you more than two minutes to answer,” said junior Sam Judy, who has lived in the US, Hong Kong and Singapore.

“Being a third culture kid means something unique to everyone, but I think of it as someone who has grown up in a different culture and who has adopted parts of that culture into that identity,” said junior Alexis Mountcastle. “Having grown up around the world, I don’t think of myself as American – I think of myself as half American, half other.”

Though both Judy and Mountcastle have very different answers and very different viewpoints on this subject, they agree that TCKs have experienced such a multitude of customs and traditions that they have now adopted different cultures as part their identity. They have become a real life example of a cultural melting pot.

Like everything in life, being a TCK has both its advantages and disadvantages.

Freshman Ryan Payne,  who spent eight years in Beijing and then moved to Singapore, said,  “You have a different outlook on life, you’ve grown up around a language different than your own, people of a different skin color and nationality. So it really gives you an ability of acceptance, tolerance for other cultures, and the appreciation of cultural diversity as a whole.”

Sophomore Armando DiCicco, who has lived in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore, added, “You get to take the best parts of certain cultures and experience different lifestyles.”

Many third culture kids are also finding that their experiences with different people from different cultures are helping them expand their horizons.

“You can tell people, and they automatically want to be your friend. They can ask you about different places, even if you don’t really know much about them,” senior Veena Batachi said.Batachi has lived in in Taiwan, the United States, Bangkok and now Singapore.

Mountcastle also appreciated the positive impacts of a TCK lifestyle. “I’m more adventurous, more daring, more open, and more accepting. I think I also have an ability to connect better with strangers than with people I see regularly.” Mountcastle has developed these traits from her time in Florida, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and now Singapore.

Though these are just some of the many advantages of being a Third Culture Kid, there are also some unspoken disadvantages to what one may call a “glamorous lifestyle.”

“Having to meet new people and going to new schools every time you move is very challenging, but I guess eventually you get used to it” said junior Maria Garcia, who has lived in the United States, Puerto Rico, Colombia, China and Singapore.

Senior Jessica Allen, who has lived in Indonesia, Nigeria, Canada and Singapore, added, “When you have to go, you have to give up everything again and start over, but that is sometimes difficult for some people.” 

It is fair to say that TCKs have an advantage over the rest of the world. However, it is also fair to say that it is hard for them to establish many strong friendships, due to having to move around many times.

Think you’re a TCK? Check out this Buzzfeed–31 Signs You’re a Third Culture Kid–and find out.

Author: Stephanie Palanca

Stephanie Palanca is a senior and a second year reporter for The Eye. She has lived in Singapore since fourth grade, though she is originally from Manila, Philippines. When she is not doing anything related to school, she likes to try eggs benedicts from different brunch places around Singapore, photograph the world around her, binge watch Grey’s Anatomy, and play tennis. She can be contacted at palanca30087@sas.edu.sg.

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