The Third Culture Kid Experience is about those inadvertent pioneers in cultural unsettledness who have grown up in more than one and sometimes in quite a few cultures. They are the children of ministers, soldiers and international assignees and entrepreneurs. Unlike the adult who sojourns abroad or immigrates to a new land, their experiences of growing up an a culture or cultures different from their origins have affected them in the formative stages of their life where their sense of self is developed, the parameters of identity are set, and their relational patterns are established.
As a result, third culture kids may acquire certain cultural coping skills far different from the skills those who lack such experience. They may become good interpreters of several cultures, skilled in several languages and rich in perspectives about the world they live in. There is a flip side to this, however. The same experience may contribute to rootlessness, restlessness, an uncertain identity and more than one's share of loss and grief. Incoherent social and educational experiences may create personal and mental gaps. Uncertain loyalties and eccentric relationship patterns may result.
Pollock and Van Reken have essentially broken new ground in this book. Not only is there scant literature on this phenomenon, but what exists is fragmentary. Here the authors have coherently brought the dimensions of The Third Culture Kid Experience together in one place. The book is first and foremost a gift to such individuals who have often puzzled themselves with their own seemingly unique experiences and the disjointedness they have experienced. Here they read about who they are and meet fellows like themselves.
Secondly, this book is an important tool for those who must work with such individuals: educators, advisors, therapists, interculturalists, human resource managers, specialists concerned with expatriation and repatriation. It is useful for those who care for them as well as for family and friends who care about them.
Finally, like so many books that break new ground, The Third Culture Kid Experience provides insights for the rest of us from a new perspective on life. Those who have experienced mobility in very fundamental ways give us clues about the effects of our own mobility, though it may be less extensive. Those who have lived an international and intercultural life provide clues about internal events that we are likely to experience now and in the future in an increasingly multicultural world.
Culture is both within us and around us. When there is a relatively good match between the two, we are likely to find ourselves most comfortable in life. Such comfort, however, becomes more difficult to find and enjoy in today's highly mobile society. Third culture kids provide us with some markings along the trail that help us interpret our direction and offer us some examples of making accommodations and successes out of otherwise bewildering experiences.