Due to my job as supervisor for English, German and naturalization tests I’m working a lot with people from other countries. That’s why I’ve lately been thinking a lot about what “home” or “being at home” really means. The German translation would be “Heimat” and if you look in a dictionary it will give you an explanation like this:

A homeland (rel. country of origin and native land) is the concept of the place (cultural geography) to which an ethnic group or person holds a long history and a deep cultural association with —the country in which a particular national identity began. As a common noun, it simply connotes the country of one’s origin. When used as a proper noun, the word often has ethnic nationalist connotations: Fatherland, Motherland, Mother country, each having some distinct interpretation according to nationality or historical usage. (Wikipedia, adapted)

But in my opinion this only describes a part of what “home” really can mean. First of all, it’s the place where you come from, the country you were born in, of course, but for me it is more. I’d say that the people you are surrounded by, your family especially, but also your friends are part of the home concept. So that second part could imply that you can feel like at home even if you’re far away from the place you were born, doesnt it? Could it even be possible to feel more at home somewhere else, even if it’s a country where you don’t speak your mother tongue? I’d say yes.

Perhaps, this whole home concept could be used as a base, like a homebase in the military sense. A place that you know very well, that makes you feel secure, because you know where you’re from and who you are. It could be your Identity Card in some way. This might be the reason why many persons who were adopted at a very young age (either in the country they were born in or in another country) often feel the need to search for relatives or visit their birth country. Because they are missing a part of their identity – their base.

But does homeland have to mean that you will only feel at home at one place in the whole world? Couldn’t it be possible to have more than one home? E.g. people who emigrate voluntarily to another country, let’s say a German couple who moves to the US. Won’t they always be feeling a bit German, because that’s where they are from, but at the same time be completely settled and at home in the US – or any other country they decide to move to?

Could a change in what we regard as homeland have any impact on how we treat each other? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if homeland wouldn’t signify something like a piece of soil that we have to defend, but a part of the earth that we were born into including the people we love. A part of our identity that gives us strength and also the ability to be open-minded and feel at home everywhere.


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