Third Culture Kids.

“I am a confusion of culture…I think this is good because I can understand the traveller, sojourner, foreigner. I am an island and a United Nations.”

“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all other cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in the relation to others of similar background…The multicultural childhood lends itself to the joy of discovery and heartbreaking loss, its effect on maturing and personal identity, and the difficulty in making the transition home. There are developmental problems associated as well as restlessness and delayed adolescence.”

I come from a Chinese grandfather who walked to Hong Kong from Mei Xian (which took him a very long time) and then got on a boat and tried to find the best place to set up shop finally settling in Indonesia and then escaping to New Guinea with nine children (one of them my dad) and a wife. This is how I inherited my transient nature, from my adventurous Ahkung.

But I also come from a father who is Chinese, born in Indonesia when it was occupied by the Dutch when his family became refugees into Papua New Guinea after Indonesian independence due to the anti-Chinese sentiment that existed there. He was sent to boarding school in Australia and then returned to New Guinea to work. I come from a mother who is Maltese and Australian with roots in French and English heritage. I was born in Australia but also grew up in Papua New Guinea. I am familiar with the Australian culture but have no affinity with it. Since leaving Papua new Guinea I have found it really hard to find a place that I could call home. I am flighty, indecisive and terrible with commitment. I am a child of the world but have no one place that I wish to spend the rest of my life.

The closest place I have come to finding home outside of P.N.G was in Hawaii. Mainly because at heart I am an island girl and Hawaii is like New Guinea but much more developed with Polynesian roots rather than Melanesian. I have spent living time in Mexico and Copenhagen and loved them both. I am constantly traveling. I find I have a soft spot for the marginalised and all ethnic peoples. I am always on the move. Always on an adventure. I relate best to those who travel a lot or have lived in countries different from their birth culture but mostly to those who are open minded. I do not understand the concept of Nationalism because I belong not to one country but to many.

I am a tangible example of globalisation. I am also a Third Culture Kid. I am a nomad and I am still finding my way back home.



  1. Thank you for this…

    I find one of the hardest answers to answer is “Where are you from?” I’m almost at puzzle and the only place I can call home is Guam, since it was THE only place that I lived the longest. I moved every year or two years, so your piece on Third Culture Kid is definately something I can relate to. Thank you

    Comment by Em — December 17, 2009 @ 5:32 pm
  2. This is exactly how I feel, thank you. I migrated to country Australia when I was 15, after growing up in a small Muslim town (though being Malaysian-chinese) I am in that in between place of accepting that here is now ‘my home’ but home is many places. It’s definitely a journey but knowing a stranger out there in this world feels the same way helps.

    Have you seen the work of Kip Fulbeck, part asian 100% hapa? That body of work gives me chills every time.

    your photography work is beautiful x

    Comment by Esther — April 16, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

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