It does not take long to learn certain questions are good to avoid when conversing with a Third Culture Kid (TCK). “Where’s home?” “Did you ride a [water buffalo, elephant, komodo dragon] to school?” “Do you remember me? I used to change your diapers!” “Aren’t you glad to be home?” These questions can make conversation with any TCK difficult and sometimes uncomfortable.
So, what’s a person to ask? Here are some ideas straight from TCKs themselves:
- What was it like to grow up as a missionary kid?
- What was it like growing up in [country X]?
- Tell me about people in the country where you lived.
- What do you find quirky about America?
- In what places around the world do you feel like a local?
- What kind of food did you enjoy where you lived?
- How would you compare your country with the United States?
- What were some of the most beautiful places you’ve visited? Why do they stand out?
- What places do you enjoy visiting?
- If you could go back to one place, where would it be and why?
- What is your response to [a certain issue or event in country X]?
- What experiences have shaped your opinion?
- What part of your host country’s culture is woven into your being?
- What do you miss about living in your country?
- What were some of your deepest losses when you left your country?
- How did your life differ from that of your parents’ and their ministry?
- How can I pray for you or one of your friends?
- What does friendship look like in your country?
- What injustices do you want to fix in the world that most people don’t think about?
- What are you most thankful for?
Asking good questions is only part of the process. People actually show they care when they take the time and energy to listen to TCKs well. One TCK, who calls Hungary home, emphasizes what many of the others also mention: “People who actually listen and care about what it was like are refreshing!”
A word of caution for any TCKs reading this—it’s not all about you. A TCK who grew up in Cote d’Ivoire reminds us, “Monoculturals have stories, too.” As much as you want good questions, so do they. Most of the time, this is a reciprocal process; it’s rarely an interview. Use the same kinds of questions to find out what it’s like to grow up in America, because it’s not all fast food, shopping, and Disneyland.
(Photo credit: ReSurge International)