Gen Y and younger generations are characterized by a growth of Third Culture Kids (TCK), people who have grown up in two or more countries. Personally having grown up in two different countries myself (Japan and the Netherlands), I can’t necessarily classify myself as a “true” TCK but I think there are lots of things I can relate to. Being a TCK may sound tiresome and difficult, but in fact it presents you with an infinite amount of benefits that you might not even be aware of, or that you might be taking for granted. Here are 10 amazing things that characterize people who’ve grown up on two (or more) continents and how some of these things can be an advantage (and some other random skills that you may have unknowingly picked up):
1. You know a lot about at least two different cultures.
Let’s start with the first obvious advantage that comes to mind. Growing up on two different continents means you immerse yourself into two very different cultures that you experience on a day-to-day basis. Intercultural awareness is a big, big plus in today’s world, as universities and businesses are all about internationalization and globalization. TCKs are in the perfect position, since having experienced life in two or more countries opens your eyes to cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity, and general open-mindedness. TCKs are also much more adaptable to new environments. What does all this mean? Multicultural candidates are in high, high demand. Being culturally aware is something that is such a great advantage that should really be emphasized in any application, whether it’s for your studies or for a job placement.
2. Your friends are from at least five different nationalities.
“Group photos with my friends look like ads for The United Colors of Benetton”. I’ve heard phrases like this so often I’ve lost track. If you’ve moved around a fair amount, there’s a big chance you have lots of friends of different nationalities. This also adds to your awareness of other cultures unconsciously, since you can learn a lot about other countries just by, for example, having dinner at a friend’s place and trying their national cuisine. Another major plus point is that you’re used to being in a multicultural environment, which is a characteristic of a lot of internationally-oriented universities and large international corporations.
3. You’re probably bilingual (if not trilingual)
Being bilingual is an invaluable asset in itself (let alone being trilingual – that’s really something). In today’s market, being able to speak two or more languages at least to a professionally working level is a great selling point for any candidate. But having grown up amongst two or more cultures has another advantage that you might not have realized. Just by constantly listening to a foreign language you might be picking up more than you realize, which means that learning that language might be surprisingly easier than you think.
4. You have friends everywhere (since they’re from all over the world).
This makes for really great holiday destinations, since you can travel to some really cool countries to visit friends for the holidays. And since you’re taking the time to visit someplace new anyway, why not throw in some cultural excursions? Have your friend show you some national landmarks? Or vice-versa, act as a tour guide for your friends in your own home country(/countries)? Traveling is one of the best ways to open your eyes to new cultures, and having a friend there to show you around (and avoid those rip-off tourist traps) makes everything even better. Check this out to find some seriously great travel hacks!
5. You’re comfortable meeting new people (since you do it all the time).
Moving around constantly is difficult. Others are a bit luckier (like me) and only flitter between two countries, though on a constant basis. One of the perks of growing up on two different continents is that you’re always meeting new people through those you know. Whether they are new friends of relatives or friends, or new classmates or colleagues, meeting people isn’t something you’re afraid of anymore. This not only prepares you for new stages of your life entering a new school or company but it really orients you for jobs that emphasize the importance of social skills. Being comfortable around new people is a priceless skills that not everyone has, and you may have never noticed it as one you’ve picked up along the way.
6. You have an immediate common ground with other TCKs.
As I mentioned in the beginning, the number of those who classify themselves as a TCK or more generally as an “international” individual is becoming bigger and bigger. International students (of course) tend to spread across the globe for their higher education and for their careers, so you can usually find the “international” crew in almost every university or company. Meeting another international student or colleague for the first time already feels like meeting an old friend. The shared backgrounds and experiences make for a speedy click right off the bat, which is really great when you’ve moved someplace new.
7. You (generally) on top of currency exchange rates, at least between 2 currencies.
This is a rather random skill you pick up, but a useful one nonetheless. As you’re constantly moving between two countries (or more), it’s an ongoing task to recalculate prices in your head into a more familiar currency. You might not be a math genius or a human calculator, but you’re at least able to do some simple exchanges mentally. Does this benefit you in the working world? Not necessarily, but what you might not have realized is that by keeping up with the exchange rates, you’re actually keeping up with some economic developments. That doesn’t mean you’re destined to be an econ major, but at least you’re somewhat knowledgeable on selected developments of the world economy.
8. You’re a pro at calculating time difference
Another somewhat random and maybe seemingly “useless” skill that TCKs pick up along the way. Whether it’s Skyping with your parents or calling friends on different parts of the globe, you’re able to generally calculate the time difference for most world regions. You might even have a desktop covered in clocks for different parts of the world that you regularly call. This also isn’t exactly a direct skill that’s advantageous in the academic world or job market, but it may come in handy if you ever get a job that requires a lot of international conference calls or that requires you to go on a lot of business trips.
9. You’re not afraid to try new things.
Like not being afraid to meet new people, due to your experiences of exploring a variety of different cultures you’re not afraid to try new things, whether it’s new cuisines (even some very strange ones) or new cultural activities. An openness to new experiences shows others that you’re extremely open-minded, which is something that many prize as a great quality.
10. Home is always somewhere else (yes, this is amazing).
For many people, going home is no big deal. It’s just a car ride away, or a short (domestic) plane ride away. It’s not necessarily an exciting event. For TCKs, going home in itself is a big holiday. I always looked forward to going home for the holidays, because it was really almost like taking a long vacation. For some TCKs, “home” is always changing as their parents continue to move around, but that adds to the excitement. Maybe the new “home” is in a new, exciting country that you’ve never visited before, making “home” a cool new travel destination without the expensive holiday costs like accommodation. So for more reasons than the obvious, just going “home” can be a great, stress-relieving holiday-like event… which is quite amazing if you think about it.
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