What is Home?
As I was sitting on the plane- going back to Switzerland, I couldn’t stop crying. I wasn’t ready to leave Canada. Why? Canada was the place, where I got to spend 10 beautiful years of my life. At that point, I asked myself “what is home”?
I would consider myself very fortunate and privileged to have the opportunity to live and experience different countries and cultures around the world. However, moving from one place to another is never easy. There’s always a chance of culture shock. Culture shock is defined as “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes“. In fact, every time I changed my place of residency, I always experienced a culture shock. It was tough to adapt to a new living of standard, culture and language. And sometimes the question “where is home” and “what is home” becomes even more vague than before.
Norway, Germany, Canada
I was born in Norway, where I lived for three years. Majority of my relatives still live in Norway. I’m very attached to Norway for many reasons. When we moved away from Norway, I often came back for visits- mainly to see my aunt. She was the one who I shared the best childhood memories with. And maybe that’s a reason why I still kept my Norwegian citizenship to this date.
When I turned three years old, my family decided it was best to reside in Germany. I spent 14 years in Germany. It was tough to adapt to a new environment, since I already became very attached to Norway. With time, I developed many great friendships, who I still consider my best friends. It was in Germany, where I experienced my awkward teenager years. Here, I met my first boyfriend, argued with my parents- like many teenagers do :), stayed out later than my curfew and etc.
At 17 years old, we left Europe for good. We moved to Canada, which sort of presented a new start for us. I never considered myself Canadian. I felt like I didn’t fit into the Canadian mentality, but now I believe that this was just an excuse. An excuse for not trying to give this country a chance. It was difficult to conform to new attitudes, norms and culture again. I missed my friends, my old environment, my old life. I spent my young adult years in Canada and during that particular time I was still figuring out who I am.
Where are you from?
Yet, the simplest and at the same time most complex question to answer is “where are you from”? Do I based my answer on my citizenship, heritage, work, education, ancestry, or etc.? In my case, I was born in Norway, grew up in Germany, went for my undergraduate and had my first job in Canada and now I live in Switzerland. For some, this answer may not be enough, because they are expecting me to say Vietnam. My origins is Vietnamese, but I never lived one day in Vietnam.
“And home, in the end, is of course not just the place where you sleep. It’s the place where you stand.” – Pico Iyer
Pico Iyer, who is an accomplished writer, struggled with the exact same question. According to him, more and more people worldwide are living in countries that are not considered their own. He himself as three or four origins. Here, the question of “what is home” is not as easy as it sounds. Home is basically a place where you can stand still and go back to. All in all, it has a fundamental and sentimental value to it. To me, this term is very subjective.
As of right now, I live in Switzerland with my partner. When I finally left Canada, I can honestly admit now that “yes, I’m a proud Canadian”- because deep down Canada was and is still my home. I miss my family everyday. Nonetheless, I made a decision to come back to Europe and treat this new place as my “home”. And, I do miss Switzerland once I’m out of the country. It’s weird and confusing at times. So, yes home to me means different places- but in the end it’s a place where I can stand still.