Day 51: Back Home to a Foreign Country
I feel like I’ve come back home, but where I am isn’t the same country that my passport says I’m from.
I’m not from here. I didn’t grow up here. The language isn’t my mother tongue. My mother isn’t even from here. In fact, my only “blood” relation to this place is that my wife is from here and that’s not even blood.
My kids are from here, well, at least half. Although they don’t think of it that way as they’ve lived 94% of their lives not here. For them, it’s a place that we have been to many times and now we live there. But it’s not home.
What makes a place home?
How can that be? I’ve spent 4 years (now going on 5) in The Netherlands. Two of those I spent with 120 other expats from 80 countries at an international business school. Not exactly immersing myself with the locals. I didn’t even speak Dutch. Then I worked for a Dutch company for two years and I was the fist and only foreigner. I still didn’t really speak Dutch. But I learned. Quickly. Made friends, met Dutch people, especially liked one of them. Moved away from Holland with that one. Visited during the summers over the past 15 years. Now we’re back to live.
Wikipedia says, An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing, as an immigrant, in a country other than that of their citizenship. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).
For me, the expat was the guy who worked for the international bank for 8 years and lived in corporate housing, didn’t learn the language and ate dinner at places that reminded him of home. Where does the guy fit in who speaks the language fluently, loves most things about his host country and really only misses fresh corn tortillas? What’s that guy called?
I openly admit that I’d rather be on a bus than on a couch and part of me doesn’t want that bus trip to end ever. So how does one define home? Does it have to be as official as what it says on the line in my passport after Nationality? Is it where my parents come from? Where I grew up? Where I spent the most number of years along the way? Or is it, as the saying goes, where the heart is? If so, then maybe I’m home.