Master of Arts Thesis
Jagiellonian University in Kraków
‘Europe’s cultural chameleons’
The state in-between: Home and belonging of Third Culture Individuals with a European background – an interdisciplinary study
Rachele De Felice Student number first university: 4535073 Student number second university: 1180173 Contact details: +436503309012;
dr. Karolina Czerska-Shaw dr. J.M.L. (Jeanette) den Toonder
Place, date Mexico City, November 2022
I, Rachele De Felice, hereby declare that this thesis, entitled “’Europe’s cultural chameleons’ The state in-between: Home and belonging of Third Culture Individuals with a European background – an interdisciplinary study”, submitted as partial requirement for the MA Programme Euroculture, is my own original work and expressed in my own words. Any use made within this text of works of other authors in any form (e.g., ideas, figures, texts, tables, etc.) are properly acknowledged in the text as well as in the bibliography.
I declare that the written (printed and bound) and the electronic copy of the submitted MA thesis are identical.
I hereby also acknowledge that I was informed about the regulations pertaining to the assessment of the MA thesis Euroculture and about the general completion rules for the Master of Arts Programme Euroculture.
I declare that I have obtained the required permission from the relevant ethics committees of the two universities supervising my thesis concerning my research proposal in order to proceed with proposed research involving participants.
I declare that I have obtained informed consent from these participants and that the consent forms are stored lawfully and in accordance with the rules of the two universities supervising my thesis.
I would like to express my sincere and deepest gratitude to my supervisors, dr. Karolina- Czerska-Shaw and dr. Jeanette den Toonder for their continuous guidance in the past year.
Without their outstanding support, patience, inspiration, and expertise, this thesis would not have been accomplished. I appreciate their effort and time in providing insightful feedback on my project, for making time and dedicating themselves to my thesis and for believing in the realisation of it and in my capabilities, even at times when I was full of doubt.
A very special thanks goes out also to all my fellow ETCIs who agreed to take part in this project and shared their biographical life story narrations and thoughts on home and belonging with me, your input was of utmost importance and without it this thesis would never have come into fruition.
Furthermore, I also wish to show my appreciation to all my close circle Euroculture classmates, who essentially became like my family during this rollercoaster journey in the past 2,5 years of this international master’s degree. You have stuck by me through thick and through thin and we could form a bond that will last for years to come beyond our academic careers. Thank you for continuously motivating me and for never letting me give up, you know who you are.
Without you I could have never finalized this project or this master’s degree and I will forever be grateful that our paths crossed and that we could share the last 2 years together while also living through and surviving a global pandemic.
Most importantly, I would like to dedicate this project to my chosen family, my best friends who are scattered in all different places around the world, which I am lucky enough to consider a home thanks to them. To the ones that kept encouraging me, sending love and light from afar and that never left my side despite many kilometres and national borders separating us.
Finally, and most importantly, I would also like to dedicate this thesis to my family, the people who laid the foundation for pursuing this degree, career and the highly mobile lifestyle that I am now continuing to choose to live every day, and who essentially made this thesis topic one that is also close to my heart. To my dad, Mario, who is the strongest person I know and who inspires me every day with his lust for life and what seems to be a never-ending will to fight.
Papa, you gave me the gene of never wanting to put down roots anywhere, you gave me my explorer mentality, and I will forever be grateful to be your daughter. To my mum, Mirjana, thank you for always being my rock at every step of the way and for never giving up on me, even if I had almost given up on myself on more than one occasion, thank you for always reminding me of my great potential. I consider myself so lucky to be your daughter. To my little brother, Matteo, who is my forever partner in crime, bestest friend in the world and my greatest source of motivation and encouragement. Thank you for being the calm to my storm and for continuously telling me how proud you are of me and how capable I am of fulfilling all my dreams. I really could not be more appreciative to be your small big sister.
European Third Culture Individuals (ETCIs) are people who spent a sizable portion of their formative years outside the parent’s culture and passport country. The third culture is considered an abstract category, an interstitial and complex culture created from the shared experiences of people that come from different cultural backgrounds but share similarities in living a mobile international lifestyle.This thesis, therefore, explores the following question(s):
“How is home and belonging constructed by TCI influenced by and coming from a European cultural background? How do they establish feelings of home and belonging to their geographical locations and to their legal countries? What and who encompasses the third culture? Are there similar anchoring points in place between the different TCI’s stories?”
By using an interdisciplinary approach combining research, data, and methodologies from sociological, literature and cultural studies, 8 autobiographical narrative interviews were conducted and thematically analysed and then complemented with the analysis of six textual accounts by prominent ETCIs, extracted from two different books. This study investigates the different anchoring strategies that assist ETCIs in constructing a sense of home and belonging.
Consequently, this thesis contributes to an increased understanding of lived experiences of growing up in-between cultures and explores the different anchoring strategies of TCIs from a European context. Throughout the course of this research, the findings of the thematic analysis contribute to existing research in migration studies, about the importance of relationships, memories, rituals, and behavioural strategies, material objects, creating a sense of agency and establishing a sense of continuity of being essential anchoring strategies in constructing a sense of home and belonging in ETCIness.
Keywords: European Third Culture Kids, Home, Belonging, Third Culture, anchoring
Word count: 29.568 words
Table of Contents
Abbreviations of Concepts ... 1
0. Introduction ... 3
1. Contextualization of Third Culture Individuals from a European perspective and the study significance ... 6
2. The Theoretical Framework ... 10
2.1. Third Culture Kids ... 10
2.2. Theorising Belonging ... 15
2.3. Framing TCI’s Belongingness and the Importance of (Social) Anchoring... 18
2.4. TCI Identity Construction, Rooted Cosmopolitanism and a Sense of Continuity ... 22
2.5. Third Culture Kids, their Sense of Home and Experience of Places ... 26
3. Methodology and Research Design ... 32
3.1. Narrative Research and Thematic Content Analysis of the material ... 34
3.2. TCI literature examples – case selection of memoirs and personal essays ... 36
3.3. Interviews – Research Design and Sampling of personal narratives ... 39
3.4. Analytical Process and Operationalization of Theories ... 43
4. Data Analysis and Findings ... 47
4.1. Analysis of Interviews ... 47
4.1.1. “Travelling memory” and its incorporation in the “now” through routine and habitual practices 47 4.1.2. ETCI Identity Construction ... 51
4.1.3. Sense of agency ... 54
4.1.4. Having close relationships that serve as social anchors ... 56
4.2. Analysis of Memoirs ... 58
4.2.1. Material objects as symbolic resources for belonging ... 58
4.2.2. ETCI Identity Construction ... 60
4.2.3. Relationships as social anchors ... 66
4.2.4. Establishing a sense of continuity ... 67
5. Conclusion ... 70
5.1. Discussion of findings ... 70
5.2. Limitations and Future research ... 74
6. Bibliography ... 76
Appendices ... 88
Appendices I: Interview Guide ... 88
Appendices II: Consent Form... 92
1 TCK – A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who spent a sizable portion of his or her formative years outside of the culture of their parents. Despite not fully belonging to any culture, the TCK develops relationships with all of them. Even though the TCK incorporates aspects of each culture into their everyday experiences, they nevertheless feel a connection to those who share resembling mobile backgrounds.1
ATCK – In order to avoid confusion, the term Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCK) was coined and used to describe those adults that were raised as TCKs.2
TCI – A Third Culture Individual (TCI) is a person who spent a sizable portion of his or her formative years outside of the culture of their parents. Despite not fully belonging to any culture, the TCK develops relationships with all of them. Even though the TCI incorporates aspects of each culture into their everyday experiences, they nevertheless feel a connection to those who share resembling mobile backgrounds. TCI is used as a synonym for TCK throughout the following thesis.
ETCI – A European Third Culture Individual (ETCI) is a person who spent a sizable portion of his or her formative years outside of the culture of their parents. At least one of the cultures of the parents, or one of the geographical locations during the formative years needs to be placed here on the continent of Europe, in order to receive the addition of “European”. As no such term was found in previous studies yet and for the purpose of the Euroculture thesis, this term was coined to highlight the significance of the selected stories and stories by respondents for the following thesis.
CCK – A Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK) is someone who spends a significant amount of time during his or her childhood in interaction with two or more cultural environments, up to the
1 Gene H Bell-Villada, Nina Sichel, and Faith Eidse, eds., ‘Definitions’, in Writing out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub, 2011), x, https://web-p-ebscohost-com.proxy-ub.rug.nl/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=350357e2-3f86-4501-b5fd- dc21e6587090%40redis&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl.
2 David C. Pollock, Ruth E. Van. Reken, and Michael V. Pollock, ‘Chapter 16: Adult TCKs: There’s Always Time’, in Third Culture Kids Growing Up Among Worlds, 3rd ed. (Boston/London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing (Tolino Edition), 2017), 319.
2 age of 18. This definition, therefore, includes all people that grew up among many cultural worlds with a highly mobile lifestyle. This definition is an extension of the original term of TCK and puts emphasis on the experiences of the child, rather than the parent’s choices of a professional career and was coined to include the changing realities of identity in culture of several different highly migrant groups in an everchanging globalised world, therefore also attending to experiences from highly-mobile children from more marginalised backgrounds, such as children of refugees, children of immigrants, bicultural kids, biracial kids, children of minorities and many more.3
3 Ruth E. Van Reken, ‘Cross-Cultural Kids: The New Prototype’, in Writing out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub, 2011), 33–43, https://web-p-ebscohost-com.proxy-ub.rug.nl/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=350357e2-3f86-4501-b5fd- dc21e6587090%40redis&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl.
“I am not, that is, a jet - setter pursuing vacations from Marbella to Phuket; I am simply a fairly typical product of a movable sensibility, living and working in a world that is itself increasingly small and increasingly mongrel. I am a multinational soul on a multicultural globe where more and more countries are as polyglot and restless as airports.”4
“Where are you from?” – Four little words, the obvious and natural question to ask when entering a new social space and for someone coming from a monocultural background an obvious one to answer. Yet, for a Third Culture Individual (TCI) these four little words can cause a major identity crisis. Due to their highly mobile upbringings, TCI are regarded as model global citizens who are seen as adaptive, polyglot, cosmopolite, culturally aware, educated and therefore remarkably employable.5 Nonetheless, feelings of restlessness and uprootedness, belonging “everywhere and nowhere” at the same time are daily companions in the way they negotiate their identity and belonging.6 Following this rationale, the focus of this study is a timely topic, given that movements of people across borders in Europe result in people having multiple homes and feeling that they belong in more than one place, while at the same time not fully belonging to any of them. The hypothesis, based on the literature review is, that these individuals, therefore, experience a lot of internal confusion with politics, values, nation states and belonging, which, due to their upbringing, results also in a feeling of not fully belonging to any of the nationalities or cultures that make a part of their beings and surroundings.7
4 Pico Iyer, ‘Living in the Transit Lounge’, in Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global, ed. Faith Eidse and Nina Sichel (London: John Murray Press (Kindle Edition), 2004), 191.
5 Cf. Monika F. de Waal et al., ‘Third Culture Kids, Their Diversity Beliefs and Their Intercultural Competences’, International Journal of Intercultural Relations 79 (1 November 2020): 177–90,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2020.09.002, and Anna Dillon and Tabassim Ali, ‘Global Nomads, Cultural Chameleons, Strange Ones or Immigrants? An Exploration of Third Culture Kid Terminology with Reference to the United Arab Emirates’, Journal of Research in International Education 18, no. 1 (1 April 2019): 77–89, https://doi.org/10.1177/1475240919835013.
6 Kate Mayberry, ‘Third Culture Kids: Citizens of Everywhere and Nowhere’, 18 November 2016, https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20161117-third-culture-kids-citizens-of-everywhere-and-nowhere.
7 Cf. Oliver Picton and Sarah Urquhart, ‘Third Culture Kids and Experiences of Places’, in Research Handbook on Childhoodnature: Assemblages of Childhood and Nature Research, ed. Amy Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, Karen Malone, and Elisabeth Barratt Hacking (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2020), 1570–1600, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-67286-1_85.
“Home” is a difficult word and construct for them and hardly tied to one geographical location.
Cross-border migration and emotional attachments to more than one nation and culture lead to a great extent to cosmopolitan ways of living.
The struggle to answer this initial question of “where are you from” is what inspired the following thesis project. Here the lived experiences of European Third Culture Individuals (ETCI) are analysed, including parts of their mobile life stories and life trajectories, and how this life on the move contributes in defining a sense of home and belonging. A thematic analysis of selected memoirs from two books is conducted, namely Writing out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids 8 and Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global, 9 which both cover amongst other things essays and memoirs of TCIs.
The analysis of the memoirs is then complemented with data from 8 interviews with ETCI.
Taking both data sets into account, this thesis provides an answer to the following research question(s) “How is home and belonging constructed by TCI influenced by and coming from a European cultural background? How do they establish feelings of home and belonging to their geographical locations and to their legal countries? What and who encompasses the third culture? Are there similar anchoring points in place between the different TCI’s stories?”
The significance of this research stems from the fact that while TCI originally come from a European context, with their existence being rooted in European history and more specifically linked to colonial times, the concept has since been exported and even gained more momentum in the North American context. TCI are an increasingly emerging migrant category, which can be attributed to globalisation and increasing international migration flows in a contemporary context. Nonetheless, TCI are more present and widely discussed in the academia of the new world and seem only to have gained more interest in recent times in a European academic context.10 As an effect of continuous EU integration and Europeanisation
8 Faith Eidse and Nina Sichel, eds., Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global (London: John Murray Press (Kindle Edition), 2004).
9 Gene H. Bell-Villada, Nina Sichel, and Faith Eidse, eds., Writing out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub, 2011), https://web-p- ebscohost-com.proxy-ub.rug.nl/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=350357e2-3f86-4501-b5fd-
10 Cf. Gene H. Bell-Villada, Nina Sichel, and Faith Eidse, eds., ‘Introduction’, in Writing out of Limbo:
International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub, 2011), https://web-p-ebscohost-com.proxy-ub.rug.nl/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=350357e2-3f86-4501- b5fd-dc21e6587090%40redis&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl, and
5 of the continent, internal borders have been gradually eliminated, which allows EU citizens and their families to freely move and live inside the borders of EU Member States. With these soft borders in place, the emergence of ETCI becomes an inevitable, more apparent, widespread phenomenon, and, thus, makes this specific migrant group significant to study. So, there is much room to introduce and understand this social phenomenon also in a European context and how it relates to our understanding of transnationalism and mobility.
The following thesis covers, firstly, a contextualization of TCI from a European perspective and its study significance. As a next step, home and belonging for TCI are theoretically framed for the study. Then, the methodology is explained and the analytical process of the data, followed by a presentation of the findings and a final discussion and conclusion.
Monika F. de Waal et al., ‘Third Culture Kids, Their Diversity Beliefs and Their Intercultural Competences’, International Journal of Intercultural Relations 79 (1 November 2020): 177–90,
perspective and the study significance
Before outlining the theoretical concepts of this thesis, it is crucial to give a brief, but more defined contextualization of TCI and how the concept came to be. Even though the existence of TCI undoubtedly is a global phenomenon, there are important factors to be mentionend, which show the inextricable links this specific group of migrants have with Europe. The relevance of discussing the life stories and trajectories in homemaking of ETCI for this thesis project, therefore, stems from the following two perspectives:
Firstly, there is a historical side to the matter. Even though the concept of TCI, or originally nominated Third Culture Kids (TCK), dates back only to the late 1950s and has very slowly gained cultural diffusion, especially in a European context, the way of life of a
“transnational habitus”11 has been around for much longer than that. In fact, TCI, in a broader sense and not having been denominated as such, is a concept that goes back to the Age of Imperialism and is a result of colonialism. The British and French empires started encouraging substantial numbers of European elites to populate and venture to their overseas colonies in form of business trips, educational trips, missionary trips, diplomatic trips and for the Grand Tour after the Age of Exploration. As a result, many of these former Europeans would have children, who grew up as the TCIs of colonial times. Therefore, the creation of TCIs, as well as a setting and the conditions that would enable the creation of TCI literature and its establishment in academia originated in European imperialism and colonialism and can historically be traced back to that period.12
Moreover, there is also a gap, thus, a need for further representation in European academia. The emergence of TCI as a migrant category is essentially a European invention, which as mentioned can be traced back to colonial times and has then been exported to the U.S during that period. The discussion about TCIs, however, originates in an American context, and can only be observed after 1945, when the U.S. slowly gained world power status with its post-War expansion. During this period, the U.S. global presence gained more momentum and
11 Cf. Sören Carlson and Christian Schneickert, ‘Habitus in the Context of Transnationalization: From
“Transnational Habitus” to a Configuration of Dispositions and Fields’, The Sociological Review, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1177/00380261211021778.
12 Bell-Villada, Sichel, and Eidse, ‘Introduction’, 4-5.
7 numerous young Americans were being raised abroad, as part of business, military, or missionary relocations. Paradoxically, and according to the publications, there seems to be significantly more representation and interest for the TCI concept in North American academia, than in Europe.13 The first paper about TCI dates back to the 1950s, whereas first publications in Europe can only be found in the 1990s.14 So, despite this concept being rooted in European migration movements and European imperialism, it has taken more time to gain recognition in Europe, which results in an evident lack of representation of the TCI concept in the European academic context.
The historical outlook and gap in research of TCIs in a European context, tie into the second perspective that needs to be outlined to further underline the significance of this project:
With the rise of globalization and the increase of mobility worldwide, the number of TCIs is now evidently and exponentially growing. This brings a contemporary European matter and one that is of pivotal interest to the future of European integration, as increased globalisation and global migration movements foster intra-EU labour mobility as well.15 This, as a natural consequence, results in the rise of ETCIs who grow up in cultures that are not their passport or parents’ passport cultures. These individuals, who grow up outside their passport countries experience and are influenced by multiple ways of life, traditions, heritage, and customs and, thus, learn to live in different cultural contexts already at a young age. Therefore, home and
13 Cf. John Useem, Ruth Hill Useem, and John D. Donoghue, ‘Men in the Middle of the Third Culture: The Roles of American and Non-Western People in Cross-Cultural Administration’, Human Organization 22, no. 3 (1963): 169–79, and
Richard Dixon Downie, ‘Re-Entry Experiences and Identity Formation of Third Culture Experienced Dependent American Youth: An Exploratory Study’, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (Ph.D., Ann Arbor, Michigan State University, 1976), ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I (302795515),
https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/re-entry-experiences-identity-formation- third/docview/302795515/se-2?accountid=11664, and
Ayla Sevil Delin, ‘Identity Characteristics of Seventh Through Twelfth Grade Third Culture Dependents at Cairo American College, Egypt’, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (Ph.D., Ann Arbor, Michigan State University, 1986), ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I (303502261), https://www.proquest.com/dissertations- theses/identity-characteristics-seventh-through-twelfth/docview/303502261/se-2?accountid=11664.
14 Cf. Helen Fail, Jeff Thompson, and George Walker, ‘Belonging, Identity and Third Culture Kids: Life Histories of Former International School Students’, Journal of Research in International Education 3, no. 3 (1 December 2004): 319–38, https://doi.org/10.1177/1475240904047358.
15 European Commission, ‘Mobility within EU Increased in 2019, Labour Mobility Report Shows’, 1 August 2021, https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=849&furtherNews=yes&newsId=9877.
8 belonging are known to be complex constructs for TCIs and hardly tied to one geographical location. This cross-border migration during developmental years and early adulthood and the emotional attachments to more than one nation and culture lead on the one hand to feelings of uprootedness while on the other hand opening doors to cosmopolitan ways of living. It has, however, also previously been proved in academia that such a highly mobile upbringing may complicate all kinds of relationships. For example, how these individuals perceive themselves, their country of origin, their surroundings in general and their family relations.16
Studying ETCI’s sense of belonging, how they navigate their daily lives in order to achieve a sense of belonging or a lack thereof, while looking beyond a spatial lens of nation states will give a better understanding on how to create and upkeep these relationships within the international mobility context. By researching the positive and negative factors attributed to their home-making experiences of a life on the move, and the home-making practices they use to feel like they belong in their current country of residence, this thesis will ultimately provide more understanding of the impacts of international mobility on the individual. Hence, the aim of this research project is twofold. Firstly, the aim is to study the different ways in which feelings of belonging are evoked in the independent country of residencies of the ETCIs included in the study and how they narrate their sense of belongingness. Secondly, the thesis also aims to contribute to the research on TCIs in European academia and to create more visibility and representativeness for these highly mobile experiences in an increasingly globalised world. By applying an interdisciplinary and transnational perspective through the analysis of textual accounts of ETCIs and in-person oral accounts, this thesis brings a novel approach to this field. It is interdisciplinary and novel in the sense that there has not been research conducted thus far which incorporates both field work through conducting interviews with ETCIs and literature analysis of ETCIs’ memoirs. This approach is interesting, in so far as a rich pool of themes from the narratives can be extracted by combining these two methodological techniques.
To further contextualise the immigrant category chosen for this thesis, it is noteworthy to not disregard the exclusive and privileged character of TCIs in general. The TCI concept has limitations and has been continuously criticised for being privileged and elitist, excluding
16 David C. Pollock, Ruth E. Van. Reken, and Michael V. Pollock, ‘Chapter 10: Rootlessness and Restlessness’, in Third Culture Kids Growing Up Among Worlds, 3rd ed. (Boston/London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing (Tolino Edition), 2017), 183–94,
9 experiences of other migrant children, promoting a culture that is “race-blind”17. This also shows in the whole pool of TCI literature, autobiographies, and memoirs in terms of who has the opportunity to tell their story about a mobile upbringing, where authors are not exclusively, but mostly white with no other ethnic background(s).18 This is reflected in the selected samples in the following study as well, where the majority of selected pieces of the memoirs and essays are from authors who are white or white passing. While it is true that the TCI concept is inseparable from broader immigration patterns, racist immigration systems and neo- colonialism,19 the scope of this thesis is not to emphasise that it is the only and most prominent way of upbringing that causes uprooting. Rather, this thesis means to create visibility and show the richness of ETCI’s transnational experiences acquired during developmental years and to also offer a critical reflection. With that said, the objective is to ultimately provide a better understanding of the impact of international migration and highly mobile upbringings in an ever-interdependent world.
17 Paniz Khosroshahy, ‘Immigrant vs. Expatriate: On Being a Third Culture Kid’, gal-dem, 23 May 2016, https://gal-dem.com/third-culture-kid/.
18 Cf. EuroTCK, ‘TCK Resources – July 2016,’ and
Antje M. Rauwerda, ‘Third Culture Kids Who Write: A Growing List of Third Culture Authors’, Third Culture Literature (blog), June 2017, http://thirdcultureliterature.blogspot.com/2014/07/an-ever-growing-list-of-third- culture.html.
19 Khosroshahy, ‘Immigrant vs. Expatriate: On Being a Third Culture Kid’.
10 2.1. Third Culture Kids
Reviewing the literature on TCK theory it becomes evident that it is quite an ambiguous concept, resulting also in a vague migrant category, hence, not so clearly definable. To complicate the state of the art, researchers have failed to use a standardised definition of the concept in their research.20 For the purpose of this thesis and to make the concept clearer the terms TCI and ETCI are used instead of TCK. This is, firstly, to stress, despite the sample chosen for this study falling under the category of TCK, the independent experience each one of them as an individual had during their upbringing. Secondly, I decided to introduce a new term for the purpose of this thesis, namely ETCI, to underline the distinct experiences that these individuals had while they were growing up and creating ties to European countries, and consequently also to the European continent. This also serves the purpose of creating more visibility in the European academic context. Thirdly, the term Third Culture “Individual”
instead of Third Culture “Kids” seemed more fitting to avoid confusion about the choice of the sample. As “Kids” is involved in the naming of the concept, it may lead to the conclusion that only current under 18-year-olds are meant here, whereas this is slightly misleading, as will become clearer below in chapter 3, where the description of the sample is undertaken.
Furthermore, as will be further explained, the selected sample are not “Kids”, as such, but Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCK), who fit into this specific category due to their lived experiences.
To further theorise this chapter, the term TCK was coined by Ruth Useem in the 1950s21, and describes individuals that are “spending, or have spent, at least part of their childhood in at least one country and culture other than their own.”22 For people who fall in this category, this means significant importance is given to the early development of a person, and growing up with more than one cultural influence during that time, which presupposes that
20 Esther C. Tan, Kenneth T. Wang, and Ann Baker Cottrell, ‘A Systematic Review of Third Culture Kids Empirical Research’, International Journal of Intercultural Relations 82 (1 May 2021): 81–98,
21 David C. Pollock, Ruth E. Van. Reken, and Michael V. Pollock, ‘Chapter 2: Who Are “Third Culture Kids”?’, in Third Culture Kids Growing Up Among Worlds, 3rd ed. (Boston/London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing (Tolino Edition), 2017), 36.
22 David C. Pollock, Ruth E. Van. Reken, and Michael V. Pollock, ‘Chapter 1: Where Is Home?’, in Third Culture Kids Growing Up Among Worlds, 3rd ed. (Boston/London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing (Tolino Edition), 2017), 4.
11 they identify themselves and create a sense of belonging influenced by a highly mobile upbringing during this stage. Consequently, this migrant group specifically refers to individuals who have been educated and raised outside of the country where they possess formal citizenship from and had to relocate due to their parents’ career-related choices.23 To understand the concept better it is important to mention the three cultures that influence and make up a part of a TCI’s being. The first culture or “legal culture”24 includes the country where the individual has a legal standing, usually in form of citizenship, permanent residency, or a passport. This also means that TCIs can have more than one legal culture or country, for instance by dual citizenship or a combination of permanent residency in one country and having citizenship in another. The term second culture refers to the “geographic culture”25 or host culture, meaning the country or countries and culture(s) the individual has moved to or in which they have lived during their developmental years. This can include the first or so-called legal culture but is not to be regarded as a necessary indicator to fall under the umbrella of TCI. The third culture, not to be confused with the concept of third world, is the so-called “relational culture”26, which is to be attributed to a way of life, rather than a geographical location and combines the shared experiences and people that relate to the other due to mobility stories and trajectories. The third culture, as such, is an abstract category, an interstitial and complex culture created from the shared experiences of people that come from different cultural backgrounds but share similarities in living a mobile international lifestyle.27 Therefore, this culture describes the lived experiences of a life
“that is neither like the lives of those living back in the home culture nor like the lives of those in the local culture community, but is a lifestyle with many common experiences shared by others living in a similar way.”28
On the one hand, it is these common experiences that transcend spatial places and nationalities, providing a space where TCIs can explore their different attachments to their root
23 Bell-Villada, Sichel, and Eidse, ‘Introduction’, 3.
24 Tanya Crossman, ‘Chapter One: The Basics’, in Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century, 1st ed. (United Kingdom: Summertime Publishing, 2016), 1.
25 Crossman, ‘Chapter One: The Basics,’ 2.
26 Crossman, ‘Chapter One: The Basics,’ 2.
27 Tan, Wang, and Cottrell, ‘A Systematic Review of Third Culture Kids Empirical Research,’ 82.
28 Pollock, Reken, and Pollock, ‘Chapter 2: Who Are “Third Culture Kids”?,’ 37.
12 cultures and places of residence in a way where they do not have to choose or fully commit to one specific location, nation, or culture in defining a sense of self. Generally, the three cultures are not to be regarded as a spatial location or specific groups of people, but rather as categories of influences.29 On the other hand, this transcending of spatial places and nationalities also results in an uprooted element. As described by Pollock et. al., TCIs are said to also be raised in a state in-between, where they are neither fully part of their caregivers’ culture nor fully part of the culture(s) in which they were raised. While it is true that it is up to TCIs themselves to choose the different parts of each culture they want to attribute to their identity, this mosaic of a mixed cultural identity is also known as causing confusion for the TCIs and, therefore, evokes feelings of being different to the monocultural people around them. Consequently, TCIs are said to often develop characteristics that will distinguish them in different ways from those who are born and have lived their entire childhood only in one place. To add here to the distinction argument, the visibility of TCIs as a migrant category has grown as well in recent years on the global stage, with well-known personalities such as President Barack Obama or Kobe Bryant claiming the term for themselves.30 While it is true that the term has more publicity in an American context, prominent ETCIs, that are well-known in the public sphere, are not far from few either. For example, and if we go by the definition outlined above, notable personalities, such as current European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, or novelist and photographer Taiye Salesi fulfil the typical criteria of a TCI as well. And even though TCIs can come from all sorts of different backgrounds and their life stories could not be more diverse, in a sense there are aspects which seem to connect them to one another. TCIs life stories, as such, are described “the stories of lives filled with rich diversity and amazing experiences but often conflicted by the underlying question of where they really fit in.”31 This means TCIs can be seen as a class of people that are developing ties to all the cultures that make up a part of their upbringing and their experiences, while at the same time not fully belonging or having ownership in any of them, at least when approached through the lens of methodological nationalism.32 As Pollock et. al. argue, TCIs assimilate elements from each of the cultures that make up a part of their developmental years, including the parent’s culture,
29 Crossman, ‘Chapter One: The Basics,’ 1-4.
30 Mayberry, ‘Third Culture Kids: Citizens of Everywhere and Nowhere’.
31 Pollock, Reken, and Pollock, ‘Chapter 1: Where Is Home?,’ 35.
32 Cf. Andreas Wimmer and Nina Glick Schiller, ‘Methodological Nationalism, the Social Sciences, and the Study of Migration: An Essay in Historical Epistemology’, The International Migration Review 37, no. 3 (2003): 576–610.
13 but their sense of belonging rather than to the nation state or to one specific culture itself is relational to people of similar backgrounds. Going back to the definition of Pollock, people who had this experience in their first eighteen years of life, therefore classify as TCIs.33 This means, as briefly mentioned above, the definition TCK is describing this specific mobility experience and cultural influence by legal and geographical culture(s) during the developmental stages of infancy, childhood, and adolescence.
To frame this study further, it is also important to mention the limitations of the TCI concept. As has been criticised in academia, especially in more recent times, the term excludes the experiences of other migrant children, whether through forced or voluntarily migration, who grew up among different cultures, thus, is considered elitist and privileged.34 In principle, when breaking down the term of TCI it becomes apparent that it can be considered a socially constructed category, including mainly children of so-called expats. This means the term is a contradiction, classist, and exclusionist per se. However, at the same time it is also making the third culture here quite relevant and how this third culture is constructed by this group that will differ from the cultures of regular migrant children. In order to solve this dilemma and to counteract the exclusionary dimension, the term Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK) was introduced in 2002,35 which describes people who are “living in – or meaningfully interacting with – two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during the developmental years of childhood.”36 This term successfully shifts the lens from the expats parents’ choices to the child’s experiences and provides, therefore, more room to include all those children and families who grew up amongst two or more cultures. Accordingly, the term CCK in essence, also includes amongst others migrant children, children of foreign workers and children of
33 Pollock, Reken, and Pollock, ‘Chapter 1: Where Is Home?, ’25.
34 Cf. Ruth E. Van Reken, ‘Cross-Cultural Kids: The New Prototype’, in Writing out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub, 2011), 25–44, https://web-p-ebscohost-com.proxy-ub.rug.nl/ehost/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=350357e2-3f86-4501-b5fd- dc21e6587090%40redis&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl, and
Saija Benjamin and Fred Dervin, ‘Introduction’, in Migration, Diversity, and Education: Beyond Third Culture Kids, ed. Saija Benjamin and Fred Dervin (London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2015), 1–10,
Tan, Wang, and Cottrell, ‘A Systematic Review of Third Culture Kids Empirical Research.’
35 David C. Pollock, Michael V. Pollock, and Ruth E. Van. Reken, ‘Appendix A: History and Evolution of Third Culture and Third Culture Kids Concepts: Then and Now’, in Third Culture Kids Growing Up Among Worlds, 3rd ed. (Nicholas Brealey Publishing (Tolino Edition), 2017), 426.
36 Van Reken, ‘Cross-Cultural Kids: The New Prototype,’ 33.
14 diasporic communities. The CCK term, therefore, provides a more inclusive framework and goes beyond this elitism aspect of the original definition, making it an important one to be mentioned here. Nonetheless, for the purpose of this thesis the Third Culture is a key element.
With this in mind and to further narrow down the sample, the focus of this thesis, therefore, is on the more privileged part of the TCI category, namely ETCI.
Overall, the current state of the art of the research regarding TCIs reached a consensus that shows that TCIs had higher positive diversity beliefs and highly developed intercultural competences compared to individuals who had no cross-cultural life experiences in their childhoods or early adulthood. That statement has been proven true in a variety of contexts in academia.37 While the mainstream TCI literature describes both positive and negative aspects of the third culture experience, there are still few empirical studies of TCI, and there remains a need for a more systematic representation in research of the impacts on these individuals‘ lives, especially those that have influences from European cultures.38
As there is no one size fits all approach, it remains quite difficult from both an academic point of view and a TCI point of view to put these mobility experiences into words and compare them. Nonetheless, this thesis will shed some light on TCIs that have legal or geographical influences by a European country and paint a narrative of these individuals’ spaces of belonging in their legal and geographical location(s).
37 Cf. Andrea M. Moore and Gina G. Barker, ‘Confused or Multicultural: Third Culture Individuals’ Cultural Identity’, International Journal of Intercultural Relations 36, no. 4 (2012): 553–62,
de Waal et al., ‘Third Culture Kids, Their Diversity Beliefs and Their Intercultural Competences, and Elizabeth A. Melles and Jonathan Schwartz, ‘Does the Third Culture Kid Experience Predict Levels of Prejudice?’, International Journal of Intercultural Relations 37, no. 2 (1 March 2013): 260–67,
Lindsey M. Weiler et al., ‘Exploring Diversity Attitudes of Youth Placed in Residential Treatment Facilities’, Residential Treatment for Children & Youth 30, no. 1 (1 January 2013): 23–39,
38 Moore and Barker, ‘Confused or Multicultural: Third Culture Individuals’ Cultural Identity,’ 4.
15 2.2. Theorising Belonging
The literature on belonging has extensive breadth in terms of the approaches and perspectives that are taken by different scholars and researchers.39 Nonetheless, as a term used so frequently inside and outside academia and as being characteristic for its “emotional attachment”40 and fluidity, it becomes quite a difficult concept to grasp. Belonging, as such, “can be an act of self- identification or identification by others, in a stable, contested or transient way.”41 Furthermore, belonging can also go beyond institutional aspects like being a member of a specific group or community and their associated rights or duties, based and rooted, for instance, in citizenship or permanent residency. It can also illustrate a more sociopsychological notion, based on a person’s emotional need to feel safe, sound and comfortable as opposed to feeling isolated or marginalised.42 Mok and Saltmarsh, who conducted research on the identity construction of transnational Chinese Australian children, claim that belonging “is a dynamic process of becoming which is constituted within the grid of power relations in social contexts and particular historical moments.”43 Therefore, in this study it is argued that belonging is an innate condition of human beings. This innate condition is supported by creating a sense of home.
Home, in this context, is understood where belonging and connectedness is built and, as is argued for transnational migrants, is a temporal and spatial, as well as multiple and complex matter, which equates to the TCI experience as well. Home, here, is not meant as just a physical place to live but is also and most importantly a place where social relationships are formed and nurtured, thus, where identities are created too. This goes in line with the definition by Yuval- Davis as well, as she links both belonging and home together by saying that “belonging is about
39 Cf. Craig Calhoun, ‘”Belonging” in the Cosmopolitan Imaginary’, Ethnicities 3, no. 4 (2003): 531–53, Nira Yuval-Davis, ‘Belonging and the Politics of Belonging’, Patterns of Prejudice 40, no. 3 (2006): 197–214, Man Yee Angel Mok and David Saltmarsh, ‘The Transnational Child’, Global Studies of Childhood 4, no. 1 (2014): 11–20, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2304/gsch.2014.4.1.11, Marco Antonsich, ‘Searching for Belonging - An Analytical Framework’, Geography Compass 4, no. 6 (2010): 644–59,
Agnieszka Bielewska and Krzystof Jaskulowski, ‘Place Belonging in a Mobile World: A Case Study of Migrant Professionals’, Sociologický Časopis / Czech Sociological Review 53, no. 3 (2017): 343–67.
40 Mok and Saltmarsh, ‘The Transnational Child,’ 14.
41 Yuval-Davis, ‘Belonging and the Politics of Belonging,’ 199.
42 Ulrike Vieten, ‘“Out in the Blue of Europe”: Modernist Cosmopolitan Identity and the Deterritorialization of Belonging’, Patterns of Prejudice 40 (1 July 2006), https://doi.org/10.1080/00313220600769562, 266.
43 Mok and Saltmarsh, ‘The Transnational Child,’ 14.
16 emotional attachment, about feeling ‘at home’.”44 Belonging, therefore, and according to both Yuval-Davis and Mok and Saltmarsh’s understanding is closely related to the idea of membership or absence from membership in groups or social institutions.
Based on another research conducted by Vieten where Hilde Spiel’s life story was analysed; the outcome of this study shows the importance of the connection with people and places and how this connection was used in order to create a deterritorialized sense of belonging and homeland as well. Hilde Spiel was an important Austrian intellectual and journalist of Jewish heritage and considered an emblematic actor of transnational European heritage. As argued in this paper, she managed to create a hybrid sense of belonging where elements from both national cultures that she lived in, in this case Austria and England, were intertwined in her own definition of self and resulted in a sense of belonging that was not strictly bound to a national context.45 This result also goes in line with the postcolonial theory of Bhabha on unhomeliness and hybridity, which is further explained below in chapter 2.4, as well as aligns with previous studies conducted on TCIs. TCIs are said to not have a mono-cultural sense of identity and are constantly renegotiating cultural boundaries with themselves and between different cultural contexts and collectives due to their mobile upbringing, which presupposes a deterritorialized sense of belonging for this specific migrant group.
Many societies around the world, and within Europe specifically, have seen over the past few decades the growth of sustained cross-border relationships, exchange patterns, and affiliations among a variety of actors and institutions, as well as the emergence of transnational social formations. This social change is known as transnationalism, and it has occurred in many social contexts, offering crucial insights into anchoring practices of TCIs as well.46 Transnationalism still has certain conceptions about individuals coming from one country, migrating to another, and keeping in touch via transnational connections, which runs the risk of excluding the TCIs considerably less linear movements. Nonetheless, the idea of transnationalism sheds light on how TCIs maintain connections and a sense of belonging when traveling across borders. So, if applied to the TCI experience, it is feasible to appreciate how deep and complex transnational belonging may be for expatriate children who are negotiating
44 Yuval-Davis, ‘Belonging and the Politics of Belonging,’ 197.
45 Vieten, ‘“Out in the Blue of Europe”: Modernist Cosmopolitan Identity and the Deterritorialization of Belonging,’ 263-277.
46 Carlson and Schneickert, ‘Habitus in the Context of Transnationalization: From “Transnational Habitus” to a Configuration of Dispositions and Fields,’ 1125.
17 identities that are not just related to nation states but can also be related to peer groups or organisations. This can result in transnational communities, which are defined as settings in which people who move internationally are connected by dense and strong social and symbolic ties over time and across space to patterns of networks in two different countries. With the help of ever-improving technological sophistication, transnational communities, which are frequently united by their shared status as strangers, share social and symbolic ties of patriotism or religious bonds, as well as ethnic ties, and create networks that withstand the test of time and space.47 These transnational practices are seen in social relations developed between people, positioned in a specific time and space. People who are denied opportunities for cultural assimilation or acknowledgment in their host countries may benefit from transnational activities. These practices can be part of a “transnational habitus”48, which means, to engage in activities and/or receive socialization in settings spanning multiple nation-state societies. These individuals will then develop a transnational habit, which means they acquire, combine, and incorporate novel forms of attitudes, dispositions, values, orientations, learning experiences and behaviours.49 Therefore, maintaining a sense of transnational belonging by practicing a transnational habitus becomes a common thread in both general migration literature and the analysed ETCI literature of this thesis.
All in all, belonging can differ depending on the circumstances of the individual, but can be seen as closely linked with constructing a sense of home and self. This also means, however, that there is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to the different notions of belonging. The above-mentioned theories quite evidently show that human beings can belong in many ways and can feel attached to many different things. Thus, belonging can be regarded as a dynamic process which is not fixed and is renegotiated based on (power) relations, time, different notions of home and other contexts.
To simplify the term and notion of belonging, according to Yuval-Davis there are three levels to be considered. Firstly, she mentions social locations, secondly the individuals’
emotional attachments and identifications to different groupings and collectivities. The third level deals with the ethical and political standards by which individuals evaluate their own and
47 Rachel May Cason, ‘Third Culture Kids: Migration Narratives on Belonging, Identity and Place’ (Ph.D., Keele, Keele University, 2015), 24-27.
48 Carlson and Schneickert, ‘Habitus in the Context of Transnationalization: From “Transnational Habitus” to a Configuration of Dispositions and Fields,’ 1129.
49 Carlson and Schneickert, ‘Habitus in the Context of Transnationalization: From “Transnational Habitus” to a Configuration of Dispositions and Fields,’ 1129.
18 other people's belongings. For this thesis specifically of interest are the first two levels mentioned by Yuval-Davis, which are explained in more detail below, as they provide crucial insights for this study. To not go beyond the scope of the research, the third level is not further elaborated, however it is still briefly mentioned above to give a more complete overview of Yuval-Davis’ analytical framework on belonging and to not disregard that the different levels are interconnected but cannot be reduced to one another.
Firstly, the social locations include categories such as gender, race, social class, ability, age, religion, sexual orientation, geographic location, nationality, belonging to a particular age- group, kinship group or a certain profession and can be a combination of those as well. This also makes it a very individualistic category with several levels as there is no rigidness or exactness in the way people identify with multiple categories. Secondly, emotional attachments are down to the individuals’ experiences, a person’s view of the world and can, thus, impact the reality in which a person lives as it affects power dynamics and social roles. These identifications can, however, differ and are also dependent on historical contexts, making them quite fluid and challenging. This means that identifications and emotional attachments do not have to be about belonging to a particular collective or group, but can be attributed to individual characteristics, body images, sexual prowess or vocational aspirations, a reflecting desire for attachments and affectivity. In this sense, constructions of belonging have a performative dimension as well, in the form of repeated practices in accordance with a specific cultural and social space, linked to collective and individual behaviour. Therefore, this performative dimension in form of social practices becomes crucial in reproducing and constructing identity narratives and attachments.50 These two levels are especially of relevance as they can be a point of reference for the realities of TCIs who through their highly mobile lives develop emotional attachments and identifications to different places, groups or cultures and develop individual practices in accordance to their own social space incorporating different cultural contexts, already from an early age on, resulting in a transnational sense of belonging.
To sum up, the above-mentioned theories and studies, therefore, give a relevant theoretical framework for TCIs’ belonging and serve as a point of reference to interpret the empirical data of the stories told by the sample in a more relatable way.
2.3. Framing TCI’s Belongingness and the Importance of (Social) Anchoring
50 Yuval-Davis, ‘Belonging and the Politics of Belonging,’ 199-203.
19 As mentioned in the previous chapter, belonging is tied to creating a sense of home. This means home, as such, is not just a physical place, but rather to be considered here as a space, where identity can be built, and social relations are constructed and fostered. The connection between home and belongingness are prominent themes for TCIs and have already been studied from an academic point of view, making them crucial and interconnected concepts for this specific migrant group, and consequently, also relevant for this research project.51
Hoersting and Jenkins, for instance, studied the cultural belonging of TCK, claiming their identities to be loosely defined in their mobile upbringing and that those individuals that had higher levels of “cultural homelessness”52 could counteract this feeling by strong group identification, as well as belonging, affirmation, and commitment to a cross-cultural identity.
Those that committed to this cross-cultural identity were struggling less with cultural homelessness, than those individuals who did not.53 These findings go in line with a study by Moore and Barker, who argue that TCIs lack a clear sense of belonging, however, they still manage to fit in with many groups, essentially becoming “cultural chameleons”54, blending into another population and at the same time tying their sense of belonging to other people with high mobile childhoods and experiences, as well as multicultural settings.55
51 Cf. Raquel C. Hoersting and Sharon Rae Jenkins, ‘No Place to Call Home: Cultural Homelessness, Self- Esteem and Cross-Cultural Identities’, International Journal of Intercultural Relations 35, no. 1 (1 January 2011): 17–30, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2010.11.005,
Moore and Barker, ‘Confused or Multicultural: Third Culture Individuals’ Cultural Identity,’
John Nette and Mary Hayden, ‘Globally Mobile Children: The Sense of Belonging’, Educational Studies 33, no.
4 (1 December 2007): 435–44, https://doi.org/10.1080/03055690701423614, and Cason, ‘Third Culture Kids: Migration Narratives on Belonging, Identity and Place’.
52 Cultural homelessness refers to people who are exposed to multiple cultural frameworks when they grow up, who do not belong to typical social categories and well-defined cultural groups and may find it difficult to find frameworks where they feel understood. Cf. Hoersting and Jenkins, ‘No Place to Call Home: Cultural
Homelessness, Self-Esteem and Cross-Cultural Identities,’ 18.
53 Hoersting and Jenkins, ‘No Place to Call Home: Cultural Homelessness, Self-Esteem and Cross-Cultural Identities,’ 28.
54 Norma M. McCaig, ‘Raised in the Margin of the Mosaic’, in Writing out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids, ed. Gene H Bell-Villada, Nina Sichel, and Faith Eidse (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub, 2011), 45–56, https://web-p-ebscohost-com.proxy-
55 Cf. Moore and Barker, ‘Confused or Multicultural: Third Culture Individuals’ Cultural Identity,’ 28.
20 Building on the fact that belonging for TCIs is achieved predominantly in relation to others with a similar mobility story, the concept of social anchoring, in the way how feelings of attachment to spatial places are developed, is important to mention for the purpose of the thesis here as well. The general concept of anchoring by Grzymala-Kazlowska is used to examine the intricate, multifaceted, and flexible meanings and interpretations of home and belonging by TCIs. As the notion of home is constantly renegotiated and changing, drawing on specific anchoring points can serve as a crucial strategy to counteract feelings of unhomeliness and uprootedness in different cultural contexts. For this, Grzymala-Kazlowska’s theory about social anchoring is an important concept to mention here. In an article, a new working definition for this concept is proposed, defining anchoring as the
“process of finding significant reference: grounded points which allow migrants to restore their socio- psychological stability in new life settings. The anchors people use allow them to locate their place in their world, give form to their own sense of being and provide them with a base for psychological and social functioning.”56
Anchoring therefore outlines both the adaptation and integration in the geographical location of TCIs. According to Grzymala-Kazlowska, there are different anchors that can be distinguished. The following table illustrates the different types of anchors and their indicators mentioned in the article:
Subjective and internal anchors
Objective and external anchors
Mixed anchors = cultural anchors
Social and professional anchors
National identification Formal citizenship Language Position in social structure and group belonging Personality traits and
Legal and institutional
documents, legal status,
Cultural transfers Professional (occupation)
56 Aleksandra Grzymala-Kazlowska, ‘Social Anchoring: Immigrant Identity, Security and Integration Reconnected?’, Sociology 50, no. 6 (2016): 1123–39, https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038515594091, 1131.