Where is HOME for immigrants/EXPATS?

black home area rug
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Home is a word that means a lot for many people. The dictionary says that home is “the house or flat you live in, especially with your family.”

In other words, we live in a shelter with or without a family.

When we are immigrants, I see this word associated with the country of origin, even if it does not fit the definition. This is because immigrants or expats, whatever they choose to call themselves, do not live in the country they grew up in anymore. They do not have a shelter there, except if they are guests in other people’s houses. When I say other people’s houses, they can be family members, friends, rented houses, or hotels because they are visiting. They do not live there anymore.
At the same time, when we are immigrants, we are asked whether we are traveling home or not at least three times a year: Easter, summer holiday, and Christmas.

It may be a natural question to ask, at the same time, I find it to be tiring, especially after you’ve been living in another country for quite many years (nearly 20 in my case), and this question still pops up. I travel home every day, as far as I know. And I can choose to travel to my country of birth to visit family and friends at certain times of the year. I do this primarily for myself because I need to contact the old me who used to live there and see how I’ve changed since I left. Seeing my family and friends, it’s a bonus. If they also have the need to see me and see how we all changed in the years we’ve been apart, they are welcome to visit.

Recently, David Nikel has interviewed me for his Life in Norway Podcast. He asked if people could have two homes. One in the country they have left behind and one in the new country of residence. The episode is out, and you can listen to it on this link.

My thought would be that it is possible to have many homes. But, at the same time, the feeling of being home is very personal. Each individual perceives “home” in a particular way, and it has to do with people’s values.

From the pyramid of Maslow, we know that vital needs are on the first level: air, water, food, and shelter. Here would also be the definition from the dictionary for home: “a house you live in”. Yet, having a house to live in does not necessarily mean home for people who are higher on the pyramids’ levels.
For them, home can mean the place where they have family and/or friends and/or a job that gives them status and social recognition.

For other people, none of those means home. Home means a place where they can feel that they can contribute and feel they are helpful. Contribution is the top of the pyramid, and it is a need Maslow has discovered towards the end of his career. Therefore, it is not as known as all the other needs.

And there is another category of people for which home is a particular context they choose: organized seminars, events, or retreats where they meet like-minded people interested in the same things and have the same values.
Those environments are closer to their hearts. Therefore they can say they have “come home”, not because of the material shelter where everything is happening, but because of the atmosphere and the subjects discussed.

Home is where each person feels a connection to the place and/or to the people around. We can have air, water, food, and shelter, yet that doesn’t necessarily feel like home. Therefore I would say that home is more of a feeling than a place.

As you see, home can mean many things for many people. What does it mean to you, who lives in another country than your own?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below, or let me know in confidence by signing up on this link.

Best to you from

2 thoughts on “Where is HOME for immigrants/EXPATS?

  1. I have never felt home in the country where I was born, and my fellow compatriots made me very clear that im not belong to them. (as my dad was immigrant) since my childhood. So i left that place as soon as I could.

  2. Hi! I understand that. I see it and hear it a lot when I speak with second generation immigrants. It seems that the children are caring the same feelings of “not belonging” as the parents did when they moved to a different country. I hope you feel better in the country you are now.

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