Home feeling or homesickness?
What do we mean, imagine, and feel when we talk or think about "home?" And where does this "home" lie for an expat?
The word "home"
The word "home" refers, in its etymology, to the place where one resides, alone or with his / her family. It is also regarded, in dictionary definitions, as the place where a person was born or lived for a long time, therefore the native country and family house.
The concept, though, is broader than the physical structure in which one is born or settles. In modern language, this meaning includes a sense of comfort, as in the expression "make yourself at home," security, and even happiness.
"Home sweet home," some say, as home is considered a refuge from the outside world, an interior which we decorate with personal pictures, scent with tea or feel comfortably lazy in with someone dear on a Sunday morning, for example.
Thus, home has an emotional side as well: it gathers loved ones in a warm, soothing surrounding. Perhaps it is easier to understand the concept of "home" by noticing how people get used to a "sense of home" more than they get attached to other people, objects and places.
This is an important process for a person’s wellbeing. So, where is this home to be found once you left your homeland?
Where is home?
I recently landed back in the Netherlands after spending the holidays with my family in Romania, in our cosy mountain town with people I had missed.
From the distance, I tend to idealise this surrounding a bit, as I find myself proclaiming, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, that "there is no place like home." I call my parents' house my home, as I spent most of my life there growing up.
So, this home is connected to my personal history. But I also began referring to the Rotterdam dwelling I now share with my boyfriend as "home". I realise I can’t really be in one place without thinking of the other one too.
In addition, the two "homes" are rather different from each other and, despite the fact I can be myself in both, I find those "transfers" between homes slightly difficult, as I always need to re-adapt, regain the ease in speaking the language, catch up, and so on.
What probably got me into this dual-home-situation in the first place is the longing to get away from home, which I admit to having suffered from since the first outburst of puberty.
A lot of growing up, even if not in centimetres, was done at various distances from the original nest, studying, working, or simply travelling and figuring things out.
and way of life either. But I would say both places "feel like home" rather than imagining home somewhere in the middle.
I am sure people in those places make for a big part of the homey feeling. I would also guess that the culture contributes to identifying with a place, even if that does not completely happen, as well as opportunities to learn or do things I am interested in. Siply put, the sense of belonging accounts for feeling at home in a certain space.
"Home" is a complex concept
Home is somehow also connected to one’s identity. Our homes "speak" about our personalities, longings, or values. In the case of my now faraway home, I notice I’m trying to connect to fragments of identity which are related to my original home, through language, primarily, as language is very important to me, and it will probably always be the case that I best express myself in Romanian.
I may have prolonged my stay in Holland indefinitely, but without contact with my first home, its language, people, music, food, I would go through an identity crisis. Having put this in words, it seems home is a complex concept wrapped up in feelings.
I often get nostalgic thinking about my homeland and the nice people who welcome me there every time I visit, but I have a rather clear sense that I am in the right place right here right now. At least for the moment.