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.
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.
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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