Being expat

My home are my languages

For my first post I took some inspiration from other blogs I’ve followed. A particular one caught my interest, which felt like having written it myself. – It was a post from Annabelle wondering what her daughter would consider to be her home and language when asked “Where are you from?”.

It seems easy to answer, but it is more difficult for a Third Culture Kid like me (or Adult Third Culture Kid…), because I don’t define myself by my country of origin. When asked this question I wouldn’t list all the places I’ve lived in or I own a passport from, because I don’t feel attached to only one place in particular. When I mention accordingly more than one place, I’m usually asked to pinpoint a single country. People apparently need to pigeonhole you. Well, it doesn’t work with me.

As an expat since birth, I grew up in Italy, studied and worked in Switzerland, Italy and France, and came then to the Netherlands. My family originates from Germany, but I never lived there or felt a particular connection to this country. Nonetheless I feel German, as well as Italian and Swiss and I love the French and Dutch way of life and I feel a deep connection to Britain too. – I’ve always travelled a lot and I often went to same places or regions more than once, when I felt some connection to them. I believe that I belong to all these places I’ve lived in and that I’ve visited on a regular basis, and all these places belong somehow to me. – They are my emotional and cultural package I carry around with me every day.

When I struggle finding one place to name “mine”, people often try to help me by pointing out my favourite language. But this doesn’t really help. I feel comfortable, I feel home when I can talk all my languages. When I switch from one to the other I feel that I can express a wider range of emotions and thoughts. This is where I thrive: when talking, sharing my different perspectives through my different languages.


I talk 4-5 languages on a daily basis. This is mainly German and English with my family, Italian with friends and part of the extended family (living abroad), Dutch with friends and neighbours here in the Netherlands and French with friends.


“Home” is therfore not a place for me, it’s a feeling. It is the sense of belonging you have when you are part of a group, a family. To be part of any group you need to communicate in the right language.


Therefore: “my home are my languages”.


Breughel: Tower of Babel

Breughel: Tower of Babel (Photo credit: Gruenemann)


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20 replies »

  1. In the old days, I would get annoyed at that usual question “Where are you from” and I would sarcastically reply “Japan, can’t you see?”
    Now I usually reply: “I am a citizen of the world”


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