It’s a question that every expatriate has to answer for him- or herself. It’s also a question to which we may answer in different ways at different periods of our lives. And today I would like to reflect on that question, and to share with you what my answer to that question is. To be honest, answering this question this in public is going to be difficult to me. We all know one of the biggest problems of being an expatriate: your family stays behind. Naturally, from the perspective of my family, I am German. I have their blood, after all. And, of course, they want me to be in Germany. From their perspective, it has no benefits for them if I am far away. It’s just difficult. And I understand that. What makes it even worse is that when I visited Germany last winter, it was rough for them to see that I couldn’t even understand German comedy anymore. I understood the words, but I didn’t understand the context. That’s how out of touch I have become with my country of origin. Does it come to a big surprise though? Well, not for me. I have spent my whole adult life abroad, after all.
The answer to that question depends on your individual circumstances
You have to understand my plans for the future, to understand my answer to that question. My plan is that every four to five years, I move on to another country. I want to learn as much about the world as possible, and I want to be able to see the world from as many perspectives as I possibly can. Ultimately, the idea is to integrate as many cultures inty my own identity as possible. To become a real ‘cultural hybrid’, so to speak. With that, I would like to help bring people from different cultural backgrounds together, and to make them work together in harmony. That is my dream.
Now, my parents do not really know of this dream. And so I believe it is time to let them know. I know it will be hard for them to digest, but sooner or later it has to be done. What is important to note here is that I am not doing this because I want to ‘run away’ from Germany, or from anyone in Germany. No. I am just following my dreams, and my dreams lie outside Germany. I simply can’t do what I want to do in Germany. And so, in my case, I see my family and my ‘nation’ as seperate, although under normal circumstances they are intrinsically linked. So what is my answer to the question?
Home is, whereever I am right now.
Right now, home is in Australia. Next year it may be in Iran, or China. I really don’t know where I’m going to be. But either way, that is the answer. It solves a big problem that every expatriat is facing, because it makes it possible for me to feel at home, to feel like I belong, whereever I go. And, like I pointed out in my previous article, a sense of belonging is very, very important. If you don’t feel like you belong, it is only a matter of time until you withdraw, feel sad, and ultimately look for another group you can belong to. The result, for most expatriates, is that they stay within the ‘international’ community, or within the safe heaven of their own ‘diaspora’.
That is why it’s so important for governments to create an environment which allows foreigners to belong, and the same goes for companies which employ expatriates. Make sure that they don’t feel like outsiders!
At the same time, my family will always be home
While I may not feel at home at the place, my family will always be home. And I will always come back to Germany to visit them. Ultimately, I believe, it is important to find ways to regularly go back and visit. Of course that costs money, and time. But it’s important. And, guys, if you take away only one thing from this article, I want it to be this: if you adapt to the local culture of the country you move to, it doesn’t mean that you are loosing your roots. It doesn’t mean that you are not true to who you are. When I say that I want to ‘become Australian’, I am not saying that I cease to be German. I will be a mix of both (hopefully taking the good qualities of each). And now, I want you to think about this question. Where is home for you? Write it in the comments!