What is ‘Home’ to an Expat

By alison - April 27, 2007 (Updated: November 28, 2014)

After a year of being away from Canada I’m finding being ‘home’ strange – good, but strange.

One thing has really become clear to me: Living this expat life has changed me, even more than I expected it to. It has changed how I view the world. It has changed how I view and define myself. It has changed my priorities. And it has changed my definition of home.

Andrew joked the other day that ‘home is where the cat is.’ True… my house in Belgium is ‘home,’ in a sense, although I don’t know that Belgium itself will ever really feel like home. Maybe time will change that. I don’t know.

Halifax definitely is familiar and comfortable, which is nice. But I can’t say I felt an overwhelming sense of being ‘Home’ as we landed. I remember looking down at all the trees… the emptiness, and comparing it to the total civilization of Europe, where the empty spaces are few and far between.

Staying in a hotel here is strange. The last time I stayed in a hotel in Halifax I was moving here for university a long, long, long time ago.

Tonight I go ‘home’ to Saint John, where I grew up. My parents still live in the same house. That house is ‘Home,’ but Saint John hasn’t felt like Home to me in a long time. Usually when people in Belgium ask where I’m from in Canada I say Halifax. I guess it’s because Halifax is where I’ve lived my adult life, bought my first car, owned a house…

I think what I’ve realised more than anything is that for me, ‘Home’ isn’t a place at all. It’s a feeling, and moreover, Home is the people that I love.

When I landed in Halifax my first mission was to see Cheri before she took off on vacation. Even though she hadn’t yet packed and was leaving at the crack of dawn the next day and I had just spent 17 hours travelling we went out for drinks and talk-time. That was Home.

My parents came up to stay with us on the weekend and we all went to the Farmer’s market with Amy and Michelle on Saturday. That was Home.

My folks and Andrew and I had a big greasy breakfast at the Esquire with bottomless cups of coffee Sunday morning before they drove back to Saint John. That was Home.

Amy took the day off on Wednesday and we spent the whole day shopping, talking and laughing. That was Home.

Today I’ll eat lunch with my sister-in-law Katie and tonight we will drive to my parents to be welcomed by my whole family. Saturday night I will spend with Jenn, talking and laughing as we always do. Home, Home and Home.

Next week we will visit Andrew’s parents at their new house. That will be Home.

The friends we have seen this week and those we will see when we are back here in July. They are all Home.

I am so fortunate that my Home is so big, so wonderful and so welcoming. I can come Home to many places – wherever I may end up in the world.

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Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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  1. Comment by Alison

    Alison April 27, 2007 at 19:51

    Thanks for stopping by! Going home is always an adventure… wherever that may be 🙂

  2. Comment by astrorainfall

    astrorainfall April 27, 2007 at 18:43

    hey alison, this is a lovely post about your home in Canada. i had a similar experience as i just returned from my own country and am back in Tokyo, my adopted country for now. It’s a refreshing but endearing experience. i thought i would hate being home because i am trying hard to make Japan my new life. Friends and family are truly where the heart is.

  3. Comment by christina

    christina April 28, 2007 at 22:11

    Oh yes, it’s definitely all about the people. Only they make it home.
    Hope you have a wonderful time!

  4. Comment by Sue

    Sue April 30, 2007 at 16:54

    Hi Al…It is interesting what you write, as I have been thinking a lot about that since I moved “home” to Quebec, after wrenching myself away from my “home” in Halifax…I loved my Halifax life SO much…I know the most awesome people there, I met you there…After we cleaned out our tiny condo and sold it, I was forced (by insurance) to return there for a bit, and I slept on the floor in the empty condo…I wanted to be there, I was saying goodbye, and it gave me
    incomparable twinges…I was surrounded by lovely friends who brought me fruit and wine and whatever I might need in a totally empty condo…And it was then that I realized, for me home is where Charlie is…100%..It can’t be otherwise…Suexx

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