Third Culture Professionals (TCPs): Part of the expat world

Some Background Information

My own experience as an expat and that of observing my children and others in the same environment led me to take note of certain common traits. I began researching expat experiences and found interesting articles and research concerning Third Culture Kids. However, I found less information specialized in adult's exposure and analysis of the benefits of an overseas experience, especially when looking at the "accompanying partner".

To begin with, what is a Third Culture Kid (TCK)?

The term "Third Culture Kid" was first coined by researchers John and Ruth Useem  in the 1950’s.

“A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture”. 1

 From an early age a TCK has been exposed to and has acquired a diverse range of multi-cultural skills. Positive advantages include that of communication either in several languages or via communication platforms (they are savvy when it comes to the latest online communication tools), as well as adaptability and problem solving. It is interesting to note that some TCK’s later became prominent leaders in industry and politics.

 Of course, saying all that, life as a TCK can also have its drawbacks, a sense of not knowing which culture they belong to.

 Due to this, many of them seek their “identity” and finding a place and a sense of belonging in an environment and culture which is not theirs, or that of their parents. This quest and determination to integrate, can forge personalities that are resourceful and creative.

 Who are the Third Culture Professionals (TCP’s)?

 TCP’s are part of the expat world. He/she can be a person on an assignment abroad or an accompanying partner. I define “TCP” as a group of career orientated professionals who have experience of working and or/living abroad in a culture that is different to their homeland culture. Subsequently, TCP’s have developed intercultural and new skills that are an asset for a globally diverse world and workplace.

John and Ruth Useem

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