Where is Home Today?
Written by Regina Reinhardt, edited by Robyn Penney
Often, when meeting a new person, the second or third question to come up is: ‘Where are you from?’ Given my particular history – a Swiss national raised in Greece, now living between both countries - I find myself stuck before the conversation has even started. What to answer? Where to start? How much to share?
People like to use categories to better understand others. Gender, age, place of origin, professional role, religion, skin color, family status – categories are opportunities to try to grasp another’s ‘background’. So far so good. But what if, due to political or economical immigration, expatriation or repatriation, they don’t have a distinct answer to give?
The numbers of people who find themselves in those circumstances are climbing by the day. It’s been estimated that there are 66 million expats and 240 million migrants throughout the world, for a global total of 300 million – roughly the population of the USA!
Not included in the above numbers are Third Culture or Cross-Culture Kids, children starting a new life in a new country, city or continent. Even at a young age, these children struggle to simply answer the question ‘Where are you from?’ Meanwhile, adults who change country of workplace every couple of years (half of them adult Third Culture Kids) are constantly adapting their perception of ‘Where is home?’
For those who change location frequently, a birth or passport country has completely different importance than for those who have lived their entire life in the same city or country.
We can even go further to say that those who have made many moves don’t identify with a single ethnic group, country or passport any longer. They are global citizens.
And where is home for those well-travelled souls? It’s where family and friends are, unrelated to geographical location. Actually, this group plans the other way around – a location becomes attractive based on who they know there!
Let’s keep in mind that more and more of the people we meet consider themselves global citizens. Instead of asking ‘Where are you from?’, we may want to try ‘Where are you heading?’ or “Where is home right now?’ Today’s new normal is global!