Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Welcome home, twice over

A message to a young friend starting out on an expat journey

Expats and immigrants are constantly faced with the challenge of having a home in more than one country.
 In this amazing age of technology there are so many easy ways to keep in touch with loved ones.
 Of course there is nothing like  physical contact, you can't hug a computer, but being able to speak regularly on Skype or send photos on What's app or Facebook does make people feel closer. Even so when the big moment comes that you can actually go and visit your family and friends the joy is immense.

The word home is arguably up in the top ten of the most evocative words in the English language. The French have chez moi, Italians have casa which means house, but the English home seems to be by far the most significant.

At Primary school we used to call the end of the school day Home Time. A warm safe feeling would come over you at the thought of going home, a place where there is someone who loves you and is pleased to see you and where you belong and no-one will treat you like a stranger. That's how it should be.
As you grow up this feeling widens to embrace the town and then the country where you were born and have a right to be.
If you are an expat then every time you return to your country of origin you are going home.
As you pack your suitcase and choose presents to take to your family and friends your heart will swell with love and beat faster at the excitement of going home. You might be met at the airport by your family who will run to you with their arms outstretched and enormous grins. You will be hustled along in a bear hug to their waiting car chattering and fill of joy planning the days ahead when you will be together at last.
When it's time to leave, your suitcase might be full of mementoes from your homeland to ease your homesickness and to tide you over until your next visit. You are not going home now, you are going back. Your heart might feel heavy and although you try to be cheerful and positive and keep your spirits up tears might be shed along with the hugs and promises to keep in touch.
As the years go by in your expat life some of the people who really care for you might no longer be there when you go home, so you carry them around with you in your heart but you realize you can no longer count on arms outstretched in welcome and it's different.
 Friends and family in your adoptive country might be telling you that they'll miss you when go away and you'll be on the lookout for treats to take back to them. You don't know whether you're going home or going back.

At my wedding many years ago my brother said he thought to himself, 'oh poor you now you'll never feel at home, you'll always be wishing you were somewhere else.', but that's not what's happened. I have two homes and the world seems a friendlier place. You are lucky if you can feel at home in more than one place.

To my young friend I say look for the best in both homes, spread your love between them and be a bridge between the two cultures, and as young people say ,Yay!! make it awesome!!
Bentornati Italian style

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