Confessions of an expat: Home is…

Masca, Tenerife (Spain)

Where is home?

Have you ever hesitated in answering this question? I certainly have. Home might be where my belongings are, but this place differs from where my family and many friends are, too. Is it really home, if your family is over 5000 km away? Can I call it home, if I don’t always feel that I belong in my adopted country?

While living abroad is at times an exciting and enriching experience, it’s also challenging. There are times I feel dislocated. Misplaced. I’m neither here nor there. I’m in some kind of expat limbo. I’ve watched friends getting married, having children and buying flats (things that technically help to define home), while I’m slowly approaching 31 without anything tangible to settle with.

This makes me wonder – what makes home, home?

Lavaux, Switzerland

As a third-culture kid, I’m used to living in this grey zone in-between cultures, never entirely feeling part of any of them. And expatriate living only accentuates this further. I’ve learned to adapt quickly to other cultures but nowhere feels completely like home. I am different people, split between different places, and the longer my expat journey goes on, the less I recognise myself in one particular place. 

I have met fellow expats that have felt the call to settle down in their adopting countries. I haven’t yet felt that call. I love studying new languages, the thrill of getting around a new city, a new culture, making friends around the globe and collecting all these life changing stories. The thought of choosing one place among all unsettles me.

London, UK

My roots are divided. Home, to me, is both here and there. Some days I feel Spanish, some days I feel German. Some days I miss Switzerland terribly, some I fall in love with London all over again. And then there are days like today – days during which I long for a place I haven’t yet been. If home is where your heart is, then my home is in every place I leave a piece of my heart in. 

And truthfully, my heart belongs to the World. 

What defines home to you?


 

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48 thoughts on “Confessions of an expat: Home is…

  1. Great blog post. It’s hard to have *home*. I’ve been in asia for 2 years and will move to dubai for 3 years. What I call home is usually in bed watching the HABS (montreal canadiens my hockey team) on TV and cheer. It’s when I find good poutine. That’s how as an expat I find my way to have a *home*; by enjoying things from home in my new country.

    Cheers!

  2. I can completely relate to this blog post 🙂 Have been living in a home away from home for more than a decade now. Food is a big way for me to stay connected to my “home”.

  3. I can really relate to this. Having been an expat baby (grew up in Saudi Arabia) and soon going to be an expat myself (relocating to Bali), I always consider home to be where family is. Family being comprised of the different individuals I’ve chosen to surround myself with, if that makes sense. 🙂 At times it can be hard, not knowing where you really “belong”, but soon enough everything just fits like the pieces to a puzzle. Great post!

  4. I’m so happy to have found your blog. Fellow TCK here, child of expats. Ghanaian by heritage, Australian by birth, grew up in Nigeria, educated in England… it goes on and on. I never know how to answer the “but where are you from?” question. We’re exactly the same age and I feel like you just wrote the words that live in my heart. I feel so blessed for the life that I’ve led, and I try to remind myself of that. Especially whenever I compare myself to “settled” others who have led stable and peaceful lives within a few kilometers of their birthplace. Others who have married, had children, bought houses. Thank you! xo

  5. Hello,
    Reading your article really mad me think about where I call home. I came to the conclusion that ‘home’ is the place where I have the most memories and connections – whether it be with friends or family.

  6. I have trouble answering this question all the time. So I like to simplify it by saying “home is where the food is at” haha but jokes aside, I agree with you that home is where the heart is. I don’t want to limit “home” to just a single place. I love the fact that I can call multiple places “home” and feel familiar and comfortable when I’m there.

  7. Ahhhhh this resonates so well with me. I was born in England, raised in Australia, adventured in India and am now living in HCMC, Vietnam. Here in my new city I have made more local friends than expats, and my friends often ask me ‘don’t you miss home?’ but honestly I am like you – my reply is always ‘wow, do I have a home…?’ I guess I am learning that home is wherever you can feel comfortable, and that this ‘comfortable’ is related to your environment, yes, but comes largely from inside. Home is where your heart is, and my heart is next to my left lung…

  8. I just wrote a blog post a few weeks ago on the exact same topic. It is funny how similar our thoughts are. We know we are in good company at least! 🙂

  9. Excellent post. I really like this post. Two days before i joined wordpress to explore my travelling experience. Many things you shared with the world are very true and somewhat relates to my life. You are first person i am following here. Looking forward to see more post like this. I am going to read each post posted by you. I feel home is where you feel peace in your heart :).

  10. Hello Kate! I think that you can become home for somebody and also yourself. Home has your friends and family feel calm and relaxed so that people will come to see you like your followers.

  11. Your blog is the first one that I have followed (I only joined yesterday) and this is a really interesting post. I have felt this way for most of my life and it’s great to read about other people who also feel this way.

    When people ask me where I’m from, I always find it difficult to answer and I pause before I do so. I’m a citizen of the world – do I have to name a particular country or city? Perhaps it’s because I’ve never really felt at home anywhere. Or is it because I can make anywhere feel like home to me? Home can be taken away from you so I feel like you should never be too attached to a single place. Wherever you can be yourself is home for me. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded by people who appreciate you for being you, then the more like home it feels.

  12. Home is somewhere you feel safe and secure. It doesn’t have to be one place.

    I had this argument with a guy on Koh Tao, where he was insisting that once you were from the UK, it was always your home and you would always be a Brit.

    I’ve never felt that. He had some problems with it. And we agreed to disagree.

    Home tends to be based on the harsh realities of life, historically. It’s been the place where you are most likely to survive and prosper.
    For many expats, that place does not happen to be their ‘home’ nation. And if you’re talking about the ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling it gives you, that could be anywhere.

    ps. Don’t know what a third culture kid is.

  13. Really nice blog! I like the diversity of countries where you have been. Calling a place home is a weird process indeed. I ususally feel at home somewhere rather quickly, the place where I sleep is called my home, even if it’s a dirty, stinking hostel room that I share with 20 others. I am happy living from a bag and people often wonder if it’s not nasty to not have a proper home, but I think my home is everywhere aroud the world. Very inspiring! I might use this topic (and my own views and words obviously) in my blog soon and will keep reading yours!

  14. Really nice article! I’ve been travelling a lot and I also stayed several months in some places. Sometimes I feel German( which is my nationality) but the other day I feel like I’m french. And there are some days I feel like I don’t belong to any country and that I don’t really have a place to call “home”.
    In fact I think that we live on this earth and so that should be our nationality and our home 🙂
    Stay the way you are and keep travelling and discovering the world ♥

  15. I feel that my home is where my roots are and where my familiy lives. Where I meet members of my family who tell me stories about their lives, about the past like how the familiy lived before. And I feel good when I meet members of my familiy, discover if we have something in common. I actually experience this in Nicaragua where I meet the family of my father, my oncles and cousins. And I wonder – even if we haven’t seen each other for years – how much we have in common and how much love is between us. Therefore I think my home is where my familiy lives and also where my roots are. But of course I also like to travel, see the world and meet people from all over the world.

  16. For a very long time I roamed around in search of a place to call home. Now, I feel at home with the family I’ve made, no matter where we are. Thanks for this post. I think all of us travelers can relate.

  17. I understand exactly how you feel about feeling as if your heart tells you where your home is. I want to consistently travel and broaden my experiences for the rest of my life. I want to move and get to experience new things. Life can get boring staying in one place!

  18. Hi Kate, that is exactly how I feel myself and all those who travel, live and work in different countries. It is still more difficult when you speak fluently two or three languages and share your life among different cultures. As for me, I no longer feel Spanish and I know I will never be a French by heart. Whenever I need an answer to the question I say to myself that home is the place where my cat is (since I will carry him with me wherever I settle in) 😉 You gout it right, considering the world as your home is the best answer posssible.

    1. I completely agree with you about how more difficult it becomes when languages falls into the mix. I’m glad you’ve got your cat to remind you of home, though! Ah, you see? I, for instance, miss my cat – which is always anxiously waiting for me when I return to Spain!

  19. I love this. I’m Australian but have lived in England and plan to move back there. I feel like my heart is tied between these two countries and they’re each pulling the string and I’m just suspended in the middle? Weird, and wonderful, I suppose. I consider myself lucky to have more than once place to call home.

    1. Thanks, Lizzy – that’s a beautiful way of putting it: that your heart is tied between both countries and they’re each pulling the string. And oh, yes, I have that weird and wonderful feeling, too!

  20. I really liked you post and I also feel in between cultures rather than truly belonging to one or the other. I find myself calling ‘home’ Italy or Ireland, depending on the moment, but the truth is neither feels truly like home anymore or yet, at least not all the time. I am also not sure either will be our forever home… Home for me now is my family (husband and to kids) rather than a place – I’m note sure what I’d call home if I were on my own.

  21. Know exactly how you feel! Being half English, half Australian, currently living in Dubai, it takes me about 20 minutes to answer the simple question, “Where are you from?”

  22. Reblogged this on Nothing Was Said and commented:
    Well I’m not an expat, but I can understand this pretty well. I’ve never lived in one spot longer than four years, and though I long for further adventures and globetrotting, I frequently debate myself on my definition of home. This is a great bit of perspective on that.

    1. I must say I disagree, Patrick. I know lots of people who have lost the concept of settling at one single place after so many attempts, as they keep moving to yet another country after a few years. It becomes addictive. Maybe the search is the tasteful part. Or maybe after some time you lose the need of the feeling of attachment.

    2. Thanks, Patrick – I understand what you mean. Home could be a place you find that you know you don’t want to leave, or the feeling created by constant wandering.

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