Third Culture Kids

Can you imagine identifying equally with the culture of two or more countries? 🇹🇷🇩🇪🇺🇿

Can you imagine interchanging languages in your own thoughts? 🗣

Can you imagine that where you feel most at home is not limited to just one place?🌍

Our world is continually changing, where borders have less and less influence on relationships and dreams. The modern world promotes circumstances in which new generations of people do not feel like they belong to any one country. 〽️

They often are able to speak more than one language, from Russian to Greek to German. They can cook multiple international dishes, from sushi to kebabs and can dance flamenco as well as hip-hop.

According to American sociologist, Ruth Hill Useem, a ✖️ third culture kid ✖️ is someone who has a tendency to mix and merge their birth culture with their adopted culture, creating one of their own: a third culture. 🔅

Utrecht is a hotspot for international university students where you can easily run into a Third Culture Kid drinking a beer at a bar🍻 or soaking up the sun in a park.🌲



“In Europe, people mess up what is my first and what is my last name because they are not used to these long names. So, I just introduce myself as Ahmed Alí”.

Ahmed is studying International Business in Germany but is currently living in Utrecht as part of an exchange program. He thinks that his multicultural childhood influenced his choice.

His classmates were from all parts of the world: America, Egypt, England… “Intercultural experiences change you as a person. Creating relationships with diverse people shapes you differently than if you only live in one small community with the same local people all your life”.

However, wandering is not always easy.  Before Ahmed moved to Saudi Arabia, he had heard some negative things about the country. His only impression of Saudi Arabia was that it was a strict country where women cannot drive and that its people are closed-minded.

But after some time, some real-life experiences and after making relationships with people there he began to enjoy it. After adapting to the new place, he felt capable and ready to travel more. “First time is hard. Later, you are emotionally and mentally ready to get along in almost any culture”.

Most of the time he speaks in English and therefore also thinks in English. However, when talking with his parents or when going to Arabic restaurants or stores his Arabic side awakens and he changes languages subconsciously.

“That`s the language at home”.

Ahmed feels very fortunate for having the opportunity of living in other countries. He sees himself back in Egypt one day, working in Business and surrounded by family. While he understands the value of living abroad and growing up in diverse cultures he still wants that his future children feel at home in Egypt.



“Rasika is from my Uzbek grandmother, Lucretia is from my Dutch grandmother. Eldering is my Dutch father’s last name and… Isabella, actually I don`t know why, because it is Italian. I think my parents just like it,” she explains, laughing. “It is complicated, right?”.

Indeed it is. Every one of her family members are living in a different country. This Christmas in order to meet for just three days, Isabella’s family has had to buy 28 flights altogether.

Her family’s roots are truly a puzzle.

If she has to introduce herself Isabella just sums up her story by saying that she is half Russian and half Dutch, but that`s not wholly true. Isabella’s grandmother is from Kazakhstan. Her grandfather and mum were born in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is a former Soviet republic, therefore most of its people speak Russian, as does her grandfather. “If I wasn’t able to speak Russian I couldn’t communicate with him. I could try with my hands and feet, but that’s it.”

To make her story more complicated, Isabella’s Uzbekistani mother met her Dutch father at a wedding in Moscow.

When she was born, her father moved their family to Costa Rica. But Isabella’s mother hated living in that country so she and her family moved back to Holland after just one year. After another year or so, they all moved to Belgium, where Isabella grew up, save 2 years in Uzbekistan.

Isabella can remember her grandmother’s house in Uzbekistan quite vividly; people eating melons, grapes, and watermelon in the garden. Everyone knew whose granddaughter she was, giving her a sense of belonging.

With Uzbekistan’s political situation, Isabella always keeps an eye on what is going on in the country. Luckily, her family has good resources but still, she worries about her grandparents living in a dictatorship.

Isabella isn’t able to say that she has “a” home because she feels that she has four.

“I mostly have the character of a Dutch person, so Holland is the first [place I identify with]. But I also lived a big part of my life in Belgium where I know all the people, all the streets, almost every city… so, Belgium is the second. My mum is living in Liechtenstein where my official room is. There, I would say, is the third. Finally, I have great memories in Uzbekistan, thus, it is my home as well.

She disagrees with people who say that only Dutch people should live in Holland. For Isabella, knowing English, Russian and Dutch and identifying with multiple cultures has developed her into who she is today.

“Everybody is different. You just have to be who you are and people will accept you. The ones who don’t, poor them.


“I am from Germany, but I am Greek,” is how Anestis Amanatidis often introduces himself.

The name Anestis means reincarnation in the Greek language. Like many Greek people, Anestis is interested in etymology. He enjoys knowing the meaning and history behind the three languages he is fluent in; English, Greek and German.

Anestis was born in a town in the south of Germany. However, both his parents are from Greece. His mother moved to Germany when she was a child and was raised there.

Anestis’s father used to work as a sailor in Greece. When he eventually anchored his boat down in Rotterdam he decided to resign. The next day he went to visit his sister in Germany who happened to be living next door to their mother.

In the village where Anestis’s father came from, there were strong Greek, Turkish and Croatian communities and Anestis’s father was a young and handsome Greek man. In spite of the gap age between his mother who was 15 at the time, and his father, 28, they got married.

“I am not still sure if my mum wanted this or not. It was quite early, especially nowadays, but in the Greek culture it was considered ok”.

Anestis studied in both a Greek and a German school, a situation that he acknowledges is uncommon. Most of his family’s Greek neighbors keep their culture and their language prevalent in their daily life. “[They] do not adopt a German culture for themselves. [German] integration is not there or not fully at least”.

In fact, his father never wanted to learn German because his plan had always been to return to Greece. They even began building a house in Greece which, to this day, is still not fully completed.

“I think that it is a good representation of the dreams my father [had] because he always wanted to go back, but he didn’t in the end”.

Anestis always speaks German with his mother. He is grateful that his mother moved to Germany at 13 years old gave her the ability to guide him into German culture.

For Anestis, he feels that his roots are in Greece but his identity is shaped by multiple places. “If I am eating, drinking, dancing… I am Greek. But if I am in a workgroup, for example, I feel German”.

He also considers how he has developed over the last four years living in Netherlands, where he is currently living. Utrecht is also a home for him.  

“In this globalized world, it doesn’t matter where you work or live. You always can have your anchor somewhere. A place where, when you came back, you smile and think, ok, I am at home. Belonging is a big thing,” Anestis Amanatidis says.



“I was born and raised in Germany, but my family is Kurdish”.

It is not easy to explain what or where the Kurdish region is because people live in diaspora: Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.

Leyla`s family is from a Kurdish region in Turkey. “Kurdish people in Turkey don’t feel Turkish because they aren’t. We form a different ethnic group.” Both her parents emigrated from Turkey to Germany at a young age, before they met.

Leyla says it is difficult for the Kurdish people who live in Turkey due to governmental ethnic oppression. For example, Kurdish people in Turkey were prohibited from speaking their Kurdish language, from practicing their religion or living their culture.

Indeed, they are also the religious minority. While the popular religion in Turkey is Islam, Êzidî is the traditional religion of the Kurds.

Kurdish people are often described as ‘mountain people’ as the region in which they come from is mountainous.

In the 1960’s, Germany opened its labor market to fill the demand of cheap labor in a booming post-war economy. Her family was part of this infamous influx. Many Kurdish people from Turkey took this opportunity to move to Germany and were called Guest Workers.

“The initial idea was to come back home after a period of time. But when they found that life was much easier in Europe, they realized that the best choice was to leave Kurdistan behind, unfortunately.

For Leyla, growing up in Germany has had many benefits. “Speaking from an educational perspective, I don’t think I would be able to continue schooling after primary school if I had lived there [in Kurdistan]. Only wealthy people sent their children to school, and this would have not been possible to my family.”

At home, her family keeps their Kurdish identity alive. There is also a strong Kurdish community in Germany with whom they can celebrate all their traditions.

However, while attending school in Germany, Leyla only had German friends. She was the only one among her peers with an immigration background.

“It is very difficult for me to say where my home is or which culture I identify the most with. Geographically, of course, my home lies in Germany. I have mixed feelings when defining my real home, the home where my heart is. I do not feel attracted to Kurdistan, it would not make any existential sense for me. I think, my cultural belonging is a mix of Kurdish and German ideologies. Still, I feel home when I have people around me I feel safe with.

Leyla concludes that for her, home is where her family and friends are. “Even now, I have been studying in Holland for three years and I feel at home. I just need them, [my friends and family] around me.”

We make Leyla wonder which she would eventually like to live in.

“My cultural background made me very sensitive to other cultures and religious, too. I like to understand other people and their traditions. Because of this, I can imagine to live everywhere. But, actually, feeling home does not depend on its location.


Marisa López and Nicole Proano

@sisulopez       @NAProano




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