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Third Culture Kids: The Cultural Chameleons Who Can Change Your Workplace

Are you looking for employees who are adaptable, culturally aware, and have a global perspective? If so, you should consider hiring third culture kids.

What is a Third Culture Kid (TCK)?

A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is someone who has spent a significant portion of their childhood and/or formative years in a culture different from their parents’ or passport culture, resulting in a unique and hybrid cultural identity. The term Cross Culture Kid (CCK) is a newer distinction that is used as a more inclusive, umbrella term for the experience of any children who accompany their parents across cultures. This can refer to a multitude of children and experiences. For example, children of immigrants, children of minorities, mixed heritage children and those who have moved within their countries.

“The benefits of this upbringing need to be underscored: In an era when global vision is an imperative, when skills in intercultural communication, linguistic ability, mediation, diplomacy and the management of diversity are critical, cultural nomads are better equipped in these areas by the age of eighteen than are many adults….”

Norma M. McCaig, Founder of Global Nomads International

My own personal TCK experience began as an 8-year-old when my family moved from our native South Africa to Greece. From age 8 to 16 our family had two separate stints in Greece and the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) before moving to Miami, FL where I finished school and attended university. I now permanently live in the US but am never far from my unique and unusual upbringing across countries and cultures. It allowed me to experience the world in a tangible way that is impossible to do by reading books or watching movies. In my own terms, I like to think it has given me a three-dimensional view of the world.

In this article I will highlight the benefits TCKs/CCKs can bring to organizations including Association Management Strategies Inc. (AMS).

Characteristics Common to TCKs/CCKs

Cultural Awareness: One of the key benefits of hiring a TCK/CCK is that they have lived among multiple cultures and are able to understand and navigate cultural differences effectively. This makes them ideal for international or multi-cultural roles, where they can help to bridge cultural gaps and foster positive relationships between individuals and teams. Moreover, TCK’s/CCK’s awareness that there can be more than one way to look at the same thing fosters creative problem solving. Skills like these are picked up early in life simply by interacting with others at school and other social settings.

Adaptability: TCKs/CCKs have developed a flexible mindset and the ability to adapt to new environments, which can be a major asset given the changing nature of most all lines of work. They are used to dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and are often able to quickly adjust to new situations, which can be especially useful for organizations that operate in multiple countries or are expanding into new markets.

Global Perspective: TCKs bring a unique global perspective to the workplace, which can broaden the organization’s outlook and drive innovation. They have a deep understanding of different cultures and ways of doing things and can help organizations to think outside the box and develop new approaches to business challenges. This can also be valuable for organizations looking to expand into new markets, as TCKs can provide valuable insights into local customs and business practices.

Communication Skills: TCKs/CCKs are often proficient in multiple languages and have excellent cross-cultural communication skills, making them valuable in global business settings. They are used to communicating with individuals from different cultures and can articulate complex ideas and concepts in a clear and concise manner. Moreover, they can understand the nuances of language and are able to use appropriate terminology and expressions to build rapport and foster positive relationships.

Resilience: TCKs/CCKs have a heightened ability to manage change, uncertainty, and ambiguity. They are used to dealing with challenges and are able to stay calm and focused in the face of adversity. This can be especially useful for organizations that operate in challenging or volatile environments, where resilience and the ability to stay focused and motivated are essential for success.

Benefits of Hiring TCKs/CCks

TCKs are often practiced at building relationships with people from different cultures. This makes them valuable assets in creating a workplace where everyone feels welcome and valued. At AMS our culture of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion provides a space for these TCKs and CCKs to thrive and bring their many skills to bare to positively impact their colleagues and clients. They can also help to promote cross-cultural understanding. TCKs have a deep understanding of different cultures, and they are able to see things from multiple perspectives. This makes them valuable assets in helping to promote cross-cultural understanding within a company. These skills and perspectives can help organizations like AMS to achieve success.

Ones lived experience as a TCK/CCK provides context to book learning and interactions with people and places not possible in a class setting. For organizations who work with international clients or members on a frequent basis or simply attend meetings or conferences overseas can look to TCKs/CCKs for insight. For example, a TCK/CCK who has lived in Europe could help an organization to understand the European market and how to do business there, and a TCK/CCK who has worked in the non-profit sector abroad could help an organization to connect with stakeholders from different cultures.

Ultimately, organizations like AMS that hire TCKs/CCKs, tap into a pool of talented and diverse individuals, who bring a unique blend of skills, experiences and perspectives to the workplace. Whether your organization is oriented domestically or internationally, or both, you will certainly benefit from including TCKs/CCKs in your talent pool.

by Matt Pina