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By alison - February 4, 2011 (Updated: December 1, 2014)

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Atlantic Canada.

 

Canada Flag

Canada will always be home.

Lately I’ve noticed some of my fellow expat bloggers writing about confusion over their sense of Home. Home becomes a difficult thing to define when you live abroad, especially if you’ve had more than one expat assignment. Expats often feel caught between two (or more worlds) but never completely a part of either of them.

Way back in 2005, I wrote a post about my own struggles to define home.  Sinec then, I’ve come to realise being caught between cultures is not all bad. In fact, it can be really nice to experience a feeling of home-coming in so many different places.

I’ve been thinking about the word ‘home’ this week because I am going ‘home’ — home to Canada for a holiday.

As an expat, the concept of home can be a confusing one. On any given day, home can mean one of half a dozen different places to me.

Generally, when I refer to home to someone here in Belgium, I am referring to somewhere in Canada. In fact, in the broadest sense, home is Canada.

I am still a Canadian citizen, and though I think there are many things that set expats apart from non-expats of the same nationality, I think I will always be Canadian at heart.

So home is Canada. But more specifically, home is Nova Scotia, the province that I lived in all of my adult life. Or, even more specifically, home is Halifax, the city in NS that I lived in.

Nova Scotia

I’ll always feel at home in Nova Scotia

In reality, if you consider home a house, I don’t have a home in Halifax any more. My friends and my in-laws are all there, as are many memories and a sense of familiarity. That’s why Halifax will always be a home to me.

Then there is New Brunswick; my home province. Saint John, NB is the city I was born and raised in; the city where my parents’ home is. It will always be my hometown.

My family and many of the people I grew up with are there, as well as schools and former workplaces. When I refer to going home to visit family, that home is Saint John.

But when I am actually home in Canada, I’ll be referring to a different home.

In the broadest sense, home is Europe, a place most of my friends and family have never been. To them it is ‘the continent’ — a place totally different from the one they call home.

In Canada, when I refer to home, it will mean Belgium, that small country with the chocolate and beer. I will show photos and tell stories about my new home.

My actual house is in Everberg, so that’s home. However the town is so tiny that many people in Belgium have never heard of it. For reference to my Canadian friends, Brussels, the only Belgian city they’ve ever heard of, will be my home.

At home in Brussels

At home in Brussels

I was surprised to learn, about a month ago, that I have yet another home — one that I hadn’t even considered.

We visited Amsterdam for the first time since moving to Belgium and I felt as if I had gone home. I was still getting acquainted with Belgium at the time; still in the process of finding new places to shop and to eat and still trying to sort out the customs and rituals — and I was still frustrated with the red tape.

Suddenly I was back in a city where I knew how to get around and do things. I had favorite places to shop, favorite restaurants to visit. I knew what was expected of me. It was home.

So, I am a woman of many homes. Each one is special to me. Each one will always have a place in my heart called home.

Do you have more than one home? What does it take for you to feel home in a certain place? Leave your comments below.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. 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+
Alison
Cheese + Goats = My personal heaven. We discover an oasis in the cheese desert. https://t.co/Os8U86UEiX - 5 days ago

13 comments

  1. Pingback: Expat Life in Belgium: An Interview with Alison | CheeseWeb: Travel, Photography and Expat Life in Belgium Blog

  2. Comment by Megan

    Megan February 4, 2011 at 14:29

    I’m totally feeling this way, especially since I now own property in my home country. I’m still working through whatever that might mean.

    When will you be in Nova Scotia? I’ll be in Maine throughout July, and we would love to have you visit.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison February 4, 2011 at 15:24

      It definitely has it’s ups and downs but I think overall it’s a good thing.

      We haven’t made our plans for when we’re heading home this year yet but if it’s in July I’ll definitely let you know. You’re just a hop, skip and jump from my parents place in Saint John 🙂

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention Meaning of Home to Expat Life. | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb -- Topsy.com

  4. Comment by Louise

    Louise February 4, 2011 at 15:46

    I’m also “a woman of many homes”. What a nice expression. I believe home will always be Denmark in the broad sense. And as long as my parents are living in the town where I grew up, in the house of my childhood, that will also be home. But otherwise, home is where my closest family (husband and children) is. Whether it’s the place we live now or the hotel room or flat we live in when we are on holiday.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison February 4, 2011 at 16:13

      You’re right. It is very much to do with where your family is. Wherever Andrew and the cats are is home for me.

  5. Comment by Renee

    Renee February 4, 2011 at 20:38

    Home is where I go snuggle with the cat at the end of the day…or where my family lives…or where I’ve lived before. Lots of places, really!

    I also tend to refer to wherever we’re staying on vacation–whether it’s a hotel room or tent–as “home.” It gets confusing sometimes.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison February 7, 2011 at 10:29

      Haha, it’s true that Andrew and I often say ‘home is where the cats are,’ also. I think it really is all about comfort and family.

  6. Comment by expatraveler

    expatraveler February 4, 2011 at 21:10

    I definitely have had many confusing places to call “home”. The main places I’ve called home within the last 10 years have been Montreux, Basel/St.Louis, North Vancouver and Victoria, aside from growing up in California. I know my heart makes Montreux my home away from home, the place I fall in love with and the place I could live for life. My home where I would call I live is Victoria and it’s beautiful here and although settled, I know we still have a long way to go. I’ll feel more settled once we finally have an “ideal” home to live in. It just doesn’t feel like “home” as where I grew up, but slowly feeling better and better. It is where many of my friends are and that feels wonderful at least.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison February 7, 2011 at 10:32

      Certainly a circle of friends makes a big difference to the homey feeling 🙂 I’ve found that here in Bxl. It kind of snuck up on me here… other places were definitely more immediate.

  7. Comment by Jeff

    Jeff February 21, 2011 at 02:57

    Alison,

    Guilty of late catch-up on posts, I just saw this – a “must comment” one for sure. 🙂

    It’s relieving to read others, yours and commenters, talk of multiple homes. Here, we (I) still struggle with identifying Nova Scotia as my home. But today was a breakthrough of massive scale – we went down for breakfast at Peggy’s Cove.
    Wow. Breathtaking. And not just because of the windy surf, but the whole scene was gorgeous. But I don’t have to tell a native Maritimer that much. I’m just sharing. 🙂

    We look forward to seeing you both again.

    -Jeff

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison February 21, 2011 at 09:38

      Peggy’s Cove is definitely a special place. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and it helped you feel a little more at home in NS 🙂

      To be fair, it took me a long time to really feel at home in Belgium. Looking back now I would say the biggest turning point was when we moved into Brussels. So that’s 3 whole years that I didn’t feel fully at home here. Now there are some days when I can’t imagine not being here.

      I guess sometimes the feeling of home hits you instantly and other times it creeps up on you. Either way I hope you are settling in in NS. It’s a pretty great place to call home 🙂

  8. Pingback: 7 Reasons Expat Life Sucks | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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