TCK SUMMIT - Values and Identity with Steph Yiu

Steph has lived in Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Edinburgh, Portland, Chicago and Boston. Formerly the web editor for the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye, she is a journalism grad from Northwestern University and has interned at The Oregonian and The Boston Globe. You can find her on Twitter @crushgear

You can view the full video (10 minutes) here!


Right after college graduation in 2008, I was living in Boston and I was lost – I did not know where I was going to live, where I was going to work, but I had some fantastic roommates and we went out a lot and met a ton of people. I noticed that I would meet someone at a party and they would ask me where I was from. As a TCK, this is a very difficult question. I did a little dance of white lies – my answer would change depending on whom I was talking to. What happened was, at one point, I had my dance figured out and somebody at the party was introduced to me by my friend who told them I was from Singapore. However this guy was also from Singapore and he sort of looked at me and said ‘born and bred Singapore?’, and then it was like my lie had unraveled and I had to explain myself… it was a really complicated mess and it really bothered me that I had such a hard time telling people where I was from.

I decided to approach this the way a journalist would by asking a lot of questions…  as it turned out, a lot of my friends did the same thing depending on who they were talking to and their story shifts, kind of like the shifting attitudes of TCK kids. So I took my findings and I published an article called ‘the white lies that TCKs tell’ and that became the first article for my magazine, where we talk about identity a lot for TCKs. This is a really difficult thing to do for a TCK kid – we don’t have rooted identities.

I actually gave a talk to a bunch of TCKs and I gave three reasons why developing an identity is really important. The first reason is that things will get really hard when you are doing through a tough transition, you are really going to have to dig deep into who you are use this to move forward. Having an identity will really help you get through hard decisions. Reason two is that, many times in your career, you are going to have to take risks and you are going to have to know there is a safety net. Having clear values to catch you when you fall is really important. Finally, at certain points in your life, you will have to make some huge decisions. But the best decisions you make are the decisions you make for yourself and not for anyone else, so you need to have a really strong set of values of who you are.

In terms of TCK kids figuring out identity, that’s the really hard part because you don’t have an identity you can slot yourself into. There are multiple cities, multiple cultures and places and groups that we fall into. If you don’t fall into one particular identity group, you may feel lost. But even though somebody hasn’t defined that for you, you can figure it out on your own- you have to figure out on your own. It is going to be a lifelong journey and it’s going to be an interesting one.

In our magazine, we have TCKs all ages sharing their journeys and the concept of identity is something everyone is constantly still figuring out. It is an amazing journey and so I would close this talk by saying that figuring out identity for a TCK is confusing at times but it is going to be extremely important and a very fun journey. Figuring out your identity will help guide you through some really tough times.