Where Is Home When You Live Abroad? How to Figure It All Out
Where is home when you live abroad?
This is a question which gets a lot of our brains working overtime and it’s different for every one of us. But if you’ve just moved abroad and you’re trying to get to grips with it all, then this article is definitely for you.
It’s natural to feel different about your old country, once you’ve moved to another. Immersing yourself in a new culture really broadens your mind and allows you to be a lot more mindful about your own culture and traditions.
You’ll find that once you’ve taken the leap, the questions start rolling in. The three most popular questions we get asked when we live abroad:
‘Where are you from?’
‘Why did you move there?’
‘Will you ever move back home?’
When it comes to us, it’s ‘where is home when you live abroad?’
Sound familiar!? You’re not alone.
Ask Yourself, What Does Home Mean for You?
When you think of the word ‘home’, what connotations does that have? Is it a place? A person? Or a feeling?
Home to me is very much a feeling, as I’ve learnt over the years. After living in the Netherlands for a few years, I realised that whenever I went anywhere, I always craved going back to my place in the Netherlands. Even when I went back to the UK, I still felt this pull for the familiarity of my comfy bed and cosy flat back in the Netherlands.
My partner and I regularly have the discussion of ‘how would you feel if you had to leave the Netherlands tomorrow and move back to the UK?’ and honestly, the idea of it made us both feel upset. There are times I get fed up and want to leave it all, but as a whole, I consider my flat in the Netherlands my actual home. I left my parental home almost a decade ago and as much as this would pain my mother, it’s not really my home. I don’t get that feeling. Home lives within my parents, but not within my hometown.
Putting down your roots in your new country is a process with many ups and downs. There comes a time where everything becomes the norm and you adapt to life relatively easily. Your shopping list from your previous home gets smaller and smaller, your ‘pull’ to go back lessens.
Struggling to communicate with people back in your country when you’ve been away for a while? We all get it and you lose relatability as they won’t understand your new home, culture or routine. This is normal.
The, ‘Where Are You From’ Question?
This one gets me every time. Whenever someone asks me where I’m from I always say ‘I’m from the UK BUT I live in the Netherlands’.
Right now I don’t feel capable of just saying I’m British – I just have to sneak the Netherlands in there. It’s important to you when you move abroad because it really is a part of you. That’s not to say that being British is a big part of me, because it really is. If I decided to stay in the Netherlands and revoke my nationality, I would still always be British inside. Which leads me to the next point:
Who Are You Inside?
The concept of home is so complex because so many different factors come into play. The Netherlands feels like home. Whenever I’m away, I want to go back. But who are you inside? Do you feel Dutch, English, Spanish etc?
The UK is my safe cultural space. I feel like I could be myself in the UK. The British have weird and awkward tendencies that my Dutch friends will never fully understand. I know if I was in the UK, most of my behaviour would not even be questioned, let alone even remotely acknowledged.
As you can see, it can get pretty confusing.
When I’m away from both the Netherlands and the UK, I automatically want to go back to the Netherlands, but when it comes to who I am as a person, the UK will always be home.
That’s not the same for everyone. All of my family is British and spent most of my life there, I didn’t move to the Netherlands until I was 20. Other people (maybe yourself), could have lived in multiple countries or moved when you were young.
Then it can get really complicated, as may feel that multiple places are equally your home.
Visiting Home While Living Abroad
How you feel when you visit home while you’re still living abroad is a massive indicator of what you constitute as your ‘home.’ How does it feel? Chances are, things feel a little different than they did before you left. If that’s the case, then you’re definitely in phase one of ‘what the hell is home?’
You may find that every time you go home and the longer than time passes, the more and more disconnected you feel. However, for some people, they may find that this time of reflection has shown them that they really just want to return back home and that living home is not for them. That’s okay too and knowing whether it’s time to come home is really important (I cover this extensively in another article – check it out!).
Moving Back Home After Living Abroad: Why Do Expats Return Home?
People return home for sooo many different reasons. Money, homesickness, relationship breakdown, the list can go on and on.
I’ve written an extensive article about why expats return home, as it’s such a large topic, so check that out too.
How Do I Feel at Home in Another Country?
Here are a few key tips on how to feel at home in another country
- Make your living space cosy and familiar
- Throw yourself into learning the language and culture as soon as you arrive
- Get to know your neighbours
- Join expat groups and get to know some other people in your area/city
- Join a local club/find a hobby
- Explore the local area and country as soon as you can, to build familiarity
What I’m trying to say is, the question of ‘where is home when you live abroad? is almost impossible to answer in simple terms and is different for everyone. It’s extremely complex and if you’ve not lived abroad before, then you wouldn’t be able to understand why we struggle to work it out.
Saying ‘home is where the heart is’ very true – so don’t be alarmed if you’ve found this move abroad a confusing one.