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The meaning of home when you live abroad

What does home mean?

From a place we feel comfortable, surrounded by family and friends, memories and familiar places, home is often linked to where you grew up. More than this, home is often how we describe our country of origin. Intrinsically tied into our culture, language, religion and history, home is the conceptual centre by which we identify ourselves.

So how does this change when we move internationally?

There are two ways which ‘home’ can change after an international move. For some, the change is based on the fact that their new home country becomes the place they feel at home. Many find that by adopting the local customs, throwing themselves into the culture, learning the language and creating a full life in their new country, this new country becomes home. This is especially true for those who stay in their new country for a long time, have children whilst abroad, or buy a home. For those expats, their adopted country becomes home.

And for others they find that they feel like they associate home as both the place and culture they are from, and the country and culture in which they currently reside. This can be met with a sense of joy, or conflict. Either you feel grateful to have multiple homes which occupy different roles in your life, or it’s a bone of contention causing a feeling of confusion.

For some, ‘home’ doesn’t change. However for those people, the fact that their nostalgic sense of home is not the same when they go back to visit or move back to can be confusing.

Having two cultures

Expats often report the positive impacts of having intimate knowledge of two or more countries. By living in a new country, you gain an insight into another culture in a way tourists and visitors will never understand. These experiences and new routines will have an impact on your behaviour as you learn to fit in and live within your new culture.

This can make your country of origin feel ‘odd’ on your return, as once familiar customs conflict or differ from the lifestyle you have been living in your adopted home abroad. No longer a product of just one culture, expats find themselves multi-cultured individuals.

Adopting new traditions

From getting into the routine of different holidays, working hours, or even eating habits, your new home will change your day to day behaviours. These new traditions and behaviours may be similar to those you’re used to, or wildly different. Either way, as your behaviour changes your sense of home and what home feels like will change. Some expats report feeling distanced from their original home as they assimilate new traditions, however these differences leave others longing for the traditions of their original home country.

Shifts in language

From speaking primarily in a new language to changes to your accent, living in a new country can really impact your vocal identity. For many of us, our accent and first language are an intrinsic representation of our home country. But if you live abroad or move internationally for a long time, you may find yourself changing in line with your new country’s language. From sounding less like your home country’s accent, to thinking and speaking in your other language more than your first language, these changes can challenge your sense of home. It can also change how people from your home country identify with you.

Feeling distance from your original home

While these changes can leave some feeling distant from their home country or confused about their identity, there are so many benefits to your new situation.

The great thing about moving home country and the changing definition of home is that you feel integrated in more parts of the world. Being a citizen of the world has excellent benefits: from improving work prospects, to having friends across the globe. In fact, it’s this experience of having multiple homes that often leads expats to move to third and fourth international countries.


Did you know that Santa Fe Relocation have been moving people for over 120 years? We’re international relocation experts, offering personalised relocation services to help make your move easy. We do everything we can to help your new destination country feel like home.

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