I was reading several blogs about expats, Third Culture Kids, Adult Third Culture Kids, Global Nomads and was wondering about the definitions of all these terms. An expat is “a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person’s upbringing”. The “country and culture… of the person’s upbringing” isn’t necessarily the country or culture the parents come from. But in a strict sense, an expatriate is someone who “lives out of the fatherland” (ex-patria). It can be any person living in a different country from where he or she is a citizen from. I’m a german citizen who was born in Switzerland and grew up in Italy. – According to this definition, I am either an expat since birth or since the age of 18, when I left Italy to go to study in Switzerland. Assuming the latter case, what was I before?
Maybe a Third Culture Kid (TCK)? TCK is a term coined in the early 1950s by the american sociologist and anthropologist Ruth Hill Useem “to refer to the children who accompany their parents into another society”. Based on this definition, are TCK children usually born in their parents homecountry? – The american sociologist David C. Pollock suggested another description for third culture kids: “A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture.” It doesn’t say when such a kid did spend or started to spend life “outside the parents’ culture”, so it could be from birth? Was I a TCK before becoming an expat?
What about Global Nomads? In 1984, Norma McCaig coined the term Global Nomad as a synonym to TCK: “A global nomad is anyone of any nationality who has lived outside their parent’s country of origin (or their “passport country”) before adulthood because of a parent’s occupation”. She opted for this slightly different definition of TCK’s because she didn’t like being called a kid when she was grown up and she wanted to make clear for future research purposes that this experience happened because of a parent’s career choice. Those parents weren’t refugees or immigrants. McCaig did not want the nuances particular to each type of experience to be lost.
For this reason, Ruth Van Reken is now suggesting a more comprehensive term, Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK), for all types of cross-cultural childhoods. “A Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK) is a person who has lived in—or meaningfully interacted with—two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during developmental years.“ – But these terms classify children again, not adults.
I would like to point out that one of the common characteristics of a TCK is “expected repatriation”. And if you are a CCK or TCK who never expected to repatriate?
Let’s see the next category: the Adult Third Culture Kid. – The Adult Third Culture Kid is the grown up (or adult) version of a child who has had the privilege of living for significant periods of time in non-native cultures. What exactly does “native cultures” mean? Is this the “homecountry” of the parents, well known to First Culture Persons? Or does it mean the country where you were actually born – and this could be an other one than your parents’ homecountry?
Instead of “non-native cultures” we can also find “in countries outside their birth or passport country/ies due to parental work-related migration” in this definition of ATCK. Are the “countries outside their birth” and “passport country/ies” supposed to be the same? And “for significant periods” always implies a longer stay, but not a lifelong stay, right? – How does this term differ from expat though?
You can also find the term Third Culture Adult. In her dissertation “Third-culture Students: an exploratory study of transition in the first year of College” (Appalachian State University, 2001), Dorothy S. Weigel refers to Third Culture Adults as “someone who grew up with the third-culture experience and is beyond the traditional college age” (Cottrell & Useem, 1993). In this way the term covers the post-college period in someones’ life.
I’m still missing a term that would sum up an expat, ex-TCK (or ATCK) – maybe global nomad? – who spent the whole life in other countries than the one of his or her passport.
I’m not a child anymore, so I might be an Third Culture Adult? I’m a German citizen, but never lived in Germany. I never only “accompained” my parents into another society, I was born into one. And I didn’t only spend “a significant part of my developmental years outside” of my parents’ culture, but all of my life up to now. And I’m in my forties…
I guess I passed from a TCK to an ATCK and I am now an expat–global nomad… or just an expat-since-birth (someone who lives out of her passport country since birth).
Personally, I use the term of “Expat” in its original meaning from EX-PATRIAM (“out of” + “fatherland”) which, for people from romanic countries is much more logical. The term of “expatriate” comes from lat. EXPATRIATUS, which is the past participate of EXPATRIARE and means “bannished”. When telling an Italian or French etc. person that he or she is an “expatriate”, they would probably make the connection with people who have been banned from their home countries and refuse to be labelled this way because of this original meaning. This is surely true for the italian or french term : expatriato (ital) or expatrié (fr.).
I’d really like to know more about the whole discussion about the terminology “Expat” or “Expatriate” here in Europe.
Diane Lemieux recently wrote an interesting article about the definition of expats, expatriates and the blindness of expat privilege. – In my personal opinion, the perception of the term “expat” or “expatriate” depends on the context and the people who use it. I think that many people wouldn’t consider themselves as expats when they associate a certain standard and profile of expats. The term in itself is being used and understood in many different ways around the world and it would be a great help to know also the opinion of people from the most diverse backgrounds and “expat lives”.