Expats the world over establish themselves in new places, but do they call the new place home or is it where they originally came from? This Expats Nest article asks this question by sharing the story of Greek-born expat now ensconced in London.
Here, we are sharing the story of Alkmini. She describes what home is to her, how the meaning of ‘home’ has changed for her over time and how she developed the resiliency to cope with the conflicting emotions and confusion around home and identity. At Expat Nest, we often speak to clients who are facing this dilemma. We wanted to share Alkmini’s story because she so beautifully expresses her journey to a place of peace and a sense of home.
Where is home?
“I’m writing this while at home. Having been an expat for almost six years, finding ‘home’ has been a real adventure, and this is my story (which is maybe similar to yours).
I was born and grew up in Athens, Greece, and have lived in London for the past six years. When I first came to London, I thought of myself as a traveller on a long trip – I was discovering a new place and then I would go home, back to where I came from, where my family and friends lived. After the first year, I decided I was extending the stay – my trip was not over yet – so I could further explore this new world and then I’d go home.
My London stay, however, turned out not to be a vacation, but the beginning of a new life with rather long-term career plans. It took me years, though, to realise that London was not a travel destination to me anymore; Athens was. When I finally understood this, there was one question left in my mind: ‘So, where is home?’ Despite how much I loved Athens, I sometimes felt a foreigner in my hometown, I did not have a regular phone number on my return trips, and my wi-fi did not automatically connect.
It probably took me about 3 years to realise that home was no longer where I thought it to be
Home – that is, Athens – has always defined my existence and when I found out that I needed to rediscover my sense of home, I was deeply shocked. Looking back, it probably took me about 3 years to realise that home was no longer where I thought it to be, and another 2 years to overcome the shock of this realisation and discover the new home. The process that brought me to where I am today was painful, but also valuable.
I feel at home now in London – and this is mainly because I live with people I love: my partner, Nikolas, and some very good friends. I also live in an area I love, where I can find all the (simple) things that make me happy (like small balconies, smiling neighbours, pistachio ice cream and yoga classes). Finally, I work in a place I always wanted to, with people I admire and deeply respect.
Julia, a friend from London, once told me that I need to ‘come to terms’ with where I am. I achieved that only when I realised there were so many people (like her!) and things that I loved right where I was, that I did not even need to come to terms with my new life! This was not a compromise, but the very moment when I got out of the waiting room and into real life.
All in all, I am the same person but I’ve found out that, unlike trees, I am remote. Realising that I can be myself and find myself in different places, I have finally found home, and in case I leave again, I will take this insight with me.
It would be a lie to say that I do not want to go back to Athens at some point in my life – because I do – but until then, I will stay at home.”
This was not a compromise, but the very moment when I got out of the waiting room and into real life
Where is home to you? How did you get to that point – or are you still on your journey of discovery? Share your comments below.
First published on Expat Nest.
See this related expatsHaarlem article: In Search of Home
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