Home in “Quotes”

20130108-074643.jpgA blog post I read a while ago once again highlighted the “home” dilemma for Third Culture Kids. ExpatAlien wrote about going “home”. Significant to me were the quotes that framed the word.

She didn’t say “I’m going home she said “I’m going ‘home’“.

The reality is that home is often in quotes–it’s the way we can emphasize the ambiguity we have when it comes to calling places home. We can’t put it in quotes when we speak, but when we write? When we write the word we can use quotes to silently communicate a million thoughts and feelings.

It’s a fascinating and effective tool. It speaks what we can’t say; it emphasizes what we feel deeply, but can’t always articulate.

It is home in quotes.

Much has been written about “home” for the TCK; this is a central theme of both our journey and longing. In July I wrote a post called “Where the Story Begins” and opened it up to people to share stories of ‘home’. Outasiteoutamind shared that she wrote an essay years ago called “Home is Where I Feed My Cat”. Robynn said “Home is where the story ends” bringing attention to the end goal and recognizing that she is simply a sojourner on earth, here for a short time.

Perhaps it’s because I’m frustrated with my neighbors, perhaps it’s my government issued grey cubicle, but as the New Year begins home in quotes is coming up again. I am facing the restlessness that is so familiar, the longing that leads me to an airplane and suitcase (or at least to a travel website).

I don’t want to contemplate, analyze or philosophize. I want to open it up to you – what is home to you?

Whether you are a third culture kid or someone who has stayed in the same place most of your life, you have a concept, a definition of home. What is “home”? Do you put home in quotation marks? Use your own definition or borrow from another, but share it in the comments section. Definitions have a way of providing clarity, and clarity can heal.

What, then, is “Home”? 

26 thoughts on “Home in “Quotes”

  1. Thanks Marilyn for this open question, I’ve just found your blog after writing a short story on the pain and shock of going back in my supposed country of Birth, which gives a point of view on this. Of course your reflexion hits home (no pun intended), since I’m another Third Culture kid… you can read this story (it’s free) on http://bit.ly/IvJnqY if you wish.


  2. Related to the question of “home,” one of the questions I often find difficult to answer is, “where are you from?”

    Do you answer with your two-culture origins, with an identity that didn’t necessarily come from living in that country, but a pride that grew from your parents exposing you to it? Do you respond with a physical birth place, a place you no longer live and probably never will again? Do you expose your history of living in one place for some years and then another for a few more, every one of which has felt like “home” at some points, especially within memories? Or do you try to blanket it with an answer like “the Americas,” trying to cover it all but still coming up short? Answers like “the universe,” “the human race” or “from this earth” are trite. Thus, my answer changes everytime, and people look at me strangely when I hesitate to answer what should be a simple question.

    I know where I’m from, just not a way to answer it in a word or two. My problem is I don’t know where I am going. I have been looking for a place to root, to finally call “home” without the quotations, for 18 years now. Travelling and living like a nomad has become tiring. I want to put up my suitcase, sit by a fire, and close the door to my HOME.

    But then we come right back to the question you’ve asked. What, exactly, is that home?


  3. “Home” is also where I’m surrounded by people who accept me the way I am, who value my experiences. People I can come to rest with, who don’t need me to define “home” and other complicated things ;-) People who understand me.
    I also find great comfort in my faith. There is a verse in the Psalms, that I love in German (the English translations are a little different), because it goes something like this:” … but you can say that you’re protected by God. Yes, with God, the Lord God Almighty, you have found a home”.


  4. Just recently, an incident reminded me of the many different places the word “home” can refer to. At the end of a tiring and somewhat frustrating meeting, I said something along the lines of: “Please can I just go home!”. To which my friend replied:”Do you mean home as in your apartment, where you live just now? Or home as in where your parents are [I was leaving a few days later to go there for the Christmas break]? Or home as in England [where I lived for many years and where I probably still have the deepest roots]?” I hadn’t realised I had confused other people as much as my heart is often confused! :-) It seems as I go through life and as I move around, I just add more and more layers of meaning to the word “home”!


  5. On an international flight… where nobody can understand each other’s funny accents, but where everybody understands it doesn’t matter for the next 17 hours, where nobody is from the same place, but everybody knows it doesn’t define you, where I can finally, in the last place I expected, feel at home…


  6. If someone asks where “back home” is for me, I have to say that there is no such place. Home is where I live with my wife. If and when we move, home moves.

    Strangely, though, although I had not lived in Japan for 50 years and physically everything had changed, when we went there to visit her parents, I felt a home-like sense of warmth and comfort.


    1. That’s how I felt in Pakistan after being away for 23 years….all so familiar, warm, and comfortable. – Characteristics of home. I was driving on a highway in the greater Boston area recently and realized yet again that there is no visceral connection with much of the landscape – yet the minute I get off the plane in Pakistan or Egypt I have that visceral response. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.


  7. As a TCK, I have lived in places where I never felt at “home,” and I’ve visited places that definitely felt like “home.” For me, part of it is being around like-minded people. Part of it is the attitude I might bring to a place, to discoveries I make, and to the friendships I develop. Saying that, I am a home-body, I wherever I currently reside, I like to make it a comfortable retreat from the pressures of the world at large.


    1. As much as I love travel – I too am a home body – I LOVE home. I love knowing as I walk the winter streets that I’m going home. Even in my travels, I try to find a place that’s an apartment, not a hotel. That way I can feel part of the fabric of the place I’m staying. It may be an illusion but I still do it. Thanks Jenni. Again a reminder we are living parallel lives!


  8. Home is where I am living at the present moment. When I return for a visit to South Jersey, where we lived as a family for 32 years or any place in Pittsurgh PA where I was born and raised…I call neither home. Living in South Florida for 3 1/2 years…is my “home.”


      1. Absolutely! My cat is my creature comfort. :-)

        I was just thinking about how many times my accent or something betrays that I’m not ‘home’–and then get questioned as to where I’m from. I’ve lived in Chicago 12 years now. That’s longer than I’ve ever lived ANYWHERE. But is that where I’m ‘from’? Hardly.

        Maybe home is where no one cares where I’m from; or alternately, people actually DO care where I’m from. :-)


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