On home

What exactly is home?

Maybe for most people the question seems easy. For me, it’s an incredibly difficult question which only get harder over time. It makes me wonder if it really is such an easy question for everybody.

I’m from Edinburgh and have considered Scotland to be home for a long time. Yet, I spent most of my time in the south-east of England near Cambridge up until I was nearly 20. Already I seem divided between two places – where I come from and love, or where I was brought up.

Then there is that age-old saying of ‘home is where the heart is’, and I’ve always taken that to mean home is where your family and loved ones are. What do you do then, when the majority of your family live far away in other countries? My parents live in different towns. Other than them and my brother, my family is far away in the Netherlands or New Zealand, in places too far to reach often enough. Is the UK home, because my parents and brother are here? Is New Zealand home, because my parents are from there and much of my family are there? Is the Netherlands home, as my dad’s family are mainly living there?

I actually saw some of my Dutch family just a few days ago for Christmas. It was the first time in over 15 years that I’d visited them in the Netherlands. Given that i’m 21, that’s a fair proportion of my life without having the opportunity to know my family. Naturally it was lovely to be there, and I really had a nice time. But I realised just how little I know about my own family. It felt as if I had missed a whole part of my life in a way. My uncle took us on a cycling tour round Den Haag, pointing out where family members had lived in the past. There was, and still is, so little that I knew about my Dutch heritage. I was however comfortable there. Despite not seeing my family in the Netherlands for most of my life, it was almost as if I’d seen them all a few weeks ago – almost like a home.

As for my family in New Zealand, all the way on the other side of the world, I haven’t seen them for over a decade too. I was 7 when I last visited the land of the long white cloud. As I said above however, It’s where my parents come from. Their childhood stories are all from there, filled with people I’ve never had the chance to know, and some I never will. I’ve heard wonderful things about wonderful places across the country, but I don’t know it. Yet it has some sort of magnetic pull: a place of roots; a place with a home.

So there are 4 apparent ‘homes’. Is my home England? Scotland? New Zealand? The Netherlands?

But now, I’ve lived in China for a year. I have my family of friends there, my little Chinese desert town, my former flat, my former workplace. In many ways it was my first clearly defined home; No split between time with each parent, no time divided between Edinburgh and Cambridgeshire, no worrying about family feuding. I was far away, in charge of everything in my own world. Was that more a home than the everlasting crevasse between the two places in the UK deemed as home?

Working out what home is has however been a hard question for me always. I spent most of my time near Cambridge, yet I never felt more at home than in Edinburgh. As i got older, Cambridgeshire positively Didn’t feel like home. I still talk about Cambridgeshire being the most dull part of the UK, despite the fact that it probably isn’t – it just doesn’t suit me in the slightest. The point here, is that for me, the place that would conventionally be labelled as my home, is really rather un-homely. Yes, I have some family there. Yes, most of my friends are there. But there is no feeling of home. No Heritage like the Netherlands. No pull like new Zealand. No love for the area like in Edinburgh. No sense of being like in China.

And yet, I don’t live in any of these places currently. I study in Leeds, so the place I’m usually at is the middle of the UK in Yorkshire. I feel relatively strongly that Leeds isn’t home. I can’t explain why, but it simply isn’t.

Home appears to me not to be where you live.Leeds is not my home. It doesn’t seem to be as simple as where you were born – I know my dad for example doesn’t feel that New Zealand is fully his home anymore, and I’m conflicted over whether Edinburgh can be called my home (despite the fact I always do say it is). Home can’t just be where the family is. The family is everywhere…

And so I don’t really know what home is. One day I might know. I plan to keep an eye out for home.

Do any readers have an opinion of what home is? I’d love a comment below with your ideas.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.

Kuitun - is this home, or the UK? or is Europe? Or NZ?

Kuitun – is this home, or the UK? or is Europe? Or NZ?

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7 thoughts on “On home

  1. Why does society say that we should just have one home? Like you, I’ve also lived in different cities and countries and each place I’ve lived in for longer than a three month period has felt like ‘home’ to me. Home is not just a house with memories and your photos on the wall, it’s more about living in a place where you notice when the local shop owner has changed their hairstyle, or you chat to the little old lady whilst waiting at a bus stop and tell her about your week as you don’t see her as a stranger. Home is knowing how much a pint of milk costs or a taxi fare from the bar to your home. It’s reading the national news, seeing an article about something which happened in your town (whether good or bad) and getting a tingling feeling of fame as people all over the country are reading about your home town. For me, I have had four homes, only two are current as the other two in Chile and China are not ones which I can go back to for a weekend trip, neither do I have a drawer of socks and t-shirt in those countries anymore. Just my thoughts!

    • Thanks for the Comment! I think what you say about it being the small things that make somewhere home has something really important to it. Yes, it is knowing the everyday goings-on of wherever you are that add to a feeling of home.I still feel that it’s a tricky question though. I’m starting to think that home has a lot to do with a ‘feeling’ of home, but that unfortunately just makes it harder to define.

      Glad to see a fellow former China ex-pat on my blog too! I wish it were possible to go back on a weekend trip. I have so many people to see back there – which in turn highlights it further as a ‘home’…

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