Giuliettaexpat shares her feelings about what “makes home” for her.
Changing country, friends, schools and habits is difficult, very difficult … but it is nothing compared to moving to another house!! Changing homes is a real revolution in our lives, obviously a chosen, considered one, but still a revolution…
The first thing I want and need to do when I change a house is to recreate as quickly as possible my world, our world, the one in which everyone quickly finds those points of reference that in the first difficult months of transition from one country to another make you feel at home …
The feeling of “what makes home” is very subjective, related to our personal history and the steady things we have become familiar with over the years and that we do not want to change even if the spaces are organized differently.
Personally I’m lucky to have always been able to bring with me anything I wanted; a choice but also a privilege that some people don’t have because companies often put limits on removals, (so that you can only take with you little things, little weight, maximum 4 trunks and so on ….).
It’s easier if you can take things with you rather than find them again in the new destination – and you don’t have the problem of deciding what is important to take each time you relocate.
Be as it may, there are things that help to make you feel at home in a new place sooner, silly things sometimes, but important to help you feel good where one chooses to put down the suitcases …
We all wondered what for us these things are and how and where it is important to have them.
To me what makes home are the pictures on the refrigerator, those pictures that are always the same over the years and that I religiously put in a tin box to send to a new destination. When I pull them out and put them back in their place I can say “here we are, we’re home”; among them the picture of my dad that for the last eight years has been smiling at me happily from the refrigerator door; keeping him close and traveling with me to all these new places where he can no longer visit me …. There are photos and objects that I absolutely have to bring with me and that once arranged, make me feel the warmth of the new place.
Amongst them some pieces of furniture, “my two or three Pakistani cupboards, small, red, burgundy, with swirls that are typical of the Indian continent: once they have found their place, sometimes in the living-room, sometimes in our bedroom, they are what makes home!” (Silviaexpat).
There are books I never give up, recipe books bought here and there on each trip in a new country, and many novels often related to the literature of the country in which I traveled, as well as lived; I like to read about a country before I visit it, through its authors, and I feel even more at home when I know that all these books are properly arranged on the shelves … “For me also books are our home, or better said, home is making the shelves where we’ll arrange them” says Silviaexpat.
Home is also made by my daughters’ things scattered everywhere, that make me realize they already have made the new space theirs, and here goes Silviaexpat again, who feels the same: “Home is seeing Emily’s books and notebooks slammed on the kitchen table: it means that at least she already feels at home, that she has already made the spaces her own. And I also like to see where our cat will make herself comfortable ”.
It is not easy to leave home, but it is easy to make the transition smoother, making us able more quickly to feel right at home. When I arrived in Tokyo for the first time with my children after 12 hours of flight 7 of time zone difference, I felt immediately at home after opening the door and finding our usual duvets on the beds and the Playmobil castle mounted in Camilla’s room, just as it was two months before in her room in Normandy!
You feel right at home even in a new space with familiar photos and paintings on the wall, and finding new places for all that we are accustomed to see …. it feels good!
For many of us the kitchen is important, it is the room where you recreate a bit of that sense of ‘nest’; kitchens are often very different, but the items we carry, or that we put in them when we arrive, help us rebuild the kitchen that we like: “What matters is that the kitchen is practical, Matthias gets upset otherwise… All his packages of corn and mixed fibres (and the ants qu’y vont avec…), his stacks of wheat flour, raisins, etc., it takes a whole cupboard just for him!, but once they find their place on the shelves, they just recreate the right environment … (Silviaexpat).
Toys, objects, books, clothes thrown on the ground all help me quickly feel at home in a new place, and with children and teenagers, it is easy to recreate that daily chaos that makes you almost forget 1000, 5000, 10000 km of relocation.
However, to really feel the home as our own and have the feeling of belonging to it, we have to live in it a little… for me the feeling of home has always arrived after the first return from a trip, it is the desire to be with my things that makes me say I’m home, wherever it is … and in Japan it made me laugh when we landed in Narita (Tokyo’s International Airport) and said “how nice to be home”, when anyone looking at us would immediately realize that we were not locals and when it only took a look around to know that we would always be a little foreign even in our house!
Surely, often it is just a small thing that makes us feel good and comfortable in a new environment: an object, a picture, grandmother’s old furniture. The most important thing to actually feel at home is to really want to do well in the new place, wanting to live the new adventure from the start without complaining too much about how we miss house number 1, 2, or 3 that we left behind!
Giulietta Cerruti Sacconey (Giuliettaexpat)
Saint Germain en Laye, France