Adult Third Culture Kids and Non-Third Culture Kids Relationships: How do they work out?

Contributed by Judy Hansen, MA, LPCC

Do you ever wonder how non-TCKs and TCKs get along much less have lasting relationships?

Do you find yourself jealous or slightly cynical of those who seem to have close friendships and wonder how they got there?

Do you question how TCKs in relationship with non-TCKs have managed to reconcile their different worldviews and ways of thinking?


I’m a Third Culture Kid married to a monocultural man…

I live in both worlds: I’m a TCK married to a monocultural man from Colorado, where we’ve raised four children, all born in this beautiful state. You might benefit from hearing how I have learned to juggle both ways of thinking, perhaps you will glean something from my experiences and observations and how my life has become richer for it.

Searching for the common thread

My basic premise is that if we, as TCKs, approach the world looking at how much we have in common rather than how much we differ, would go a long way in resolving some of our relational difficulties. We would see that everyone longs to be heard, understood, be in relationship, have friendships and feel valued. With that in mind then, as we look for opportunities to establish common ground, we will find the world to be a richer place.

Why do we fail to connect?

Many TCKs express a longing to connect, but feel they fail miserably, claiming fear of rejection and abandonment. In the following paragraphs, let us look at some practical ways to implement the ideas of connection, friendship, and relationship.

Practical ways to implement:

1. Are you judging their “narrow-mindedness“?

When we instantly judge someone because we don’t like their narrow-mindedness or because they do not appreciate how big the world is and think only of their own “petty” interests, we create an instant barrier and cease to be open-minded ourselves.

2. “You can’t understand.”

Conversely, when we firmly and stubbornly believe that no one could possibly understand us, we have already created a situation that precludes anyone entering our world.

I often think TCKs complain of Americans’ superficiality without really getting to know them as individuals. I know I did. I compared my global lifestyle to what I perceived as their dull, shallow way of thinking. On the one hand, it’s hard not to make those comparisons and complain, especially when Americans can present us with many opportunities to object to their way of thinking! At the same time, I have discovered friendships here in America that are deep, meaningful and rich.

3. Laying aside our prejudices

Granted, it took some time to develop those friendships. First, I had to learn to lay aside my own prejudices, my own knee jerk assumptions and arrogant reactions in order to listen to their hopes and dreams. I discovered that many had the same aspirations I did: connection, significance and hope for the future.

4. Everyone has something to contribute.

When we as TCKs set out to approach life with the worldview that everyone has something to contribute to our knowledge and growth, no matter how initially aggravating they may seem to us, we will find our journey on this earth much more pleasant and far less isolating.

[Note: This piece has been re-posted from Power For Living with permission from the author. Comments are open on the original post.]

Author Judy Hansen, MA, LPCC

Judy Hansen was raised in Brazil and Portugal of American missionary parents. She held a dual nationality, American and Brazilian until the age of 18. She is a mental health therapist located in Denver, CO and enjoys helping all those who are struggling with transitions.