I can’t quite remember how many years into my cross-cultural life I realised I no longer knew where I belonged. The first 19 years of my life were spent in one city (Hamburg, Germany) but since then, I have moved around quite a bit: UK, France, back to Germany, Russia and then 15 years in the UK. Somewhere in there I realised the word home had lost its meaning. Or maybe it had gained additional meaning. There was “home” in the sense of a place that had shaped me and that held childhood memories. But “home” as a place where my deepest relationships were, where I understood the cultural cues, and knew how to relate – that was a different place. There was definitely pain involved in realising I had lost something many people take for granted. At the same time, there was SO MUCH I had gained by living cross-culturally, that there was no way I would want to change anything. The price was real, but it was definitely worth paying!
If nothing else (and there are lots of other things!), it has helped me gain a much deeper understanding of some of my favourite verses in the Bible (from Hebrews 11):
“They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country.”
A year ago, I moved to Berlin and am discovering that re-entry adds a whole other angle to the idea of “home”! But that is a story for another day…