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Third Culture Kids

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Third Culture Kids

For most people, the question “where are you from” is fairly straight forward, but for those who have lead – or are still leading – an internationally mobile lifestyle, it is the one question they have learnt probably to dread.  For where does a person “come from”?  Is the question referring to their nationality, the land of their birth, the languages they speak, the country they are living in now or last year, where their grandparents and other family members live, or where they feel most ‘at home’? If this sounds like a familiar situation, then you – or perhaps your children – could be described as Third Culture Kids (TCKs), or as is more and more the case, Cross-Cultural Kids (CCKs). 

Traditionally, a TCK is defined as: “… a person who has spent a significant part of his/her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationship to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership of any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into their life experience, their sense of belonging is in relationship to others of a similar background.”  In the same book that coined this definition (Third Culture Kids – Growing Up Amongst Worlds), co-author Ruth van Reken defined a Cross-Cultural Kid as : “…a person who is living or has lived in – or meaningfully interacted with – two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during childhood.”

We understand that every child, and family, is unique – whatever their background – and we make it our mission to ensure that each and every one of them is not just looked after, but truly cared for and understood whilst in our care. 

Within the environment of The Hague – and surrounding areas – the concept of a CCK is very prevalent.  The existence of numerous international and European organisations and institutions, rather than only international corporations results in large numbers of children (often with parents of different nationalities) residing in a third culture – The Netherlands – for significant periods of time.

At Zein we recognise and work with the particular challenges and opportunities that leading such lifestyles can bring.  Multilingual households, parents on extended leaves of absence abroad, a lack of extended family members living nearby, the emotional strain of saying goodbye to homes and friends and setting up again are all issues which our international families face every day.