Definition of "Home"

So it is around Christmas now, where many people go home. But what really is “home”? How do you define home?

Many say that it is where their family lives or where they grew up. Some say “Home is not where you were born but where you want to die”.

I have been wondering about what home really means for me and by being abroad some international aspects came into the picture.

Definition of "Home"
The Sea

There are different definitions in different coutries for a concept called “home”. In German zu Hause and Heimat are two different things. One is more the concept of a place. You can be at home in several places, like both your parents’ houses or the place you currently live at. Heimat is the region you identify with usually because you come from there. I would describe it as zu Hause is where I live, Heimat is where my soul lives (in my case Hamburg right now :)).

If you have different distinctions in your language please also pitch in here! 🙂
About wanting something: In Portuguese there is also the word “Saudades”, which in German mostly equals “Sehnsucht” – for which I do not have an fitting word in English. Longing for something you miss or emotional desire might be getting close but still don’t really capture the emotional intensity. Do you know a better one?


The more I was abroad the more I found the definition of home for me because I could differenciate it more from other situations and places. I would go as far as to say that if people have not really been in a completely different situation (preferrably abroad) they do not have an as strong concept of home (Heimat in this case). The place you want to get back to.

I have also seen the other extreme. People who have been abroad in constantly shifting  environments, like embassadors and their siblings, which have to shift countries the earliest every 3, the maximum every 5 years – with the children being constantly torn out of their habitats, their brothers or sisters being the only constant friends they have. When the embassadors retire they know people all around the world but often barely have any friends around their local place anymore. Those kids often do not have a place that they call their home but rather the people they live with. Or none at all!

Which is why I do not want to live that way eventually, but always have a base that I can get back to. Too many people constantly travel abroad and only “check up” on their home country every once in a while but do not really feel they can settle down or relax here or anywhere anymore for that matter – those who are homeless.

Being abroad more often for longer times myself I found that you make friends in several places and friends are the ones that stay. But people to talk with on a daily basis that you can talk to about everything and they need no introduction to the topic on what happened so far are also important. Imagine having your friends spread all over the world but no comfort in a place you just came to. One that you first have to make “at home” (zu Hause).


Home for me

Over time I found that being by the North Sea for me is home. Breathing the salty strong wind, closing my eyes, hearing the waves, feeling the dunes under my feet, seeing the landscape. That I did not get anywhere else in the world – neither in the US, in Brazil, in Togo or Malaysia, none of the other places could give me that feeling. One time I got a glimpse of it but that was when climbing the highest mountain in Togo and when reaching the top a strong wind blew straight from the sea that was 100km away – about the same distance that Hamburg is from the sea. 🙂 But at the North Sea — even if it already rains there the magic is partially gone. But it is the place where I just close my eyes and want to be. Maybe another factor for loving Hamburg that is so close by the sea. 😉

So being home for christmas means way more for me than just visiting family or celebrating traditions. It means a fix point in the year that you can order stuff around at. A point to reflect. Feeling the known comfort of your childhood again. I must say that christmas with us is rather a time of pleasant family reunion and not much of the stress that other people often have when they get home with the family. Because we cherish these times together and know how it might be otherwise. Because it is important to us.

So Merry Christmas, a happy New Year and enjoy the time with the family at home. Be at home. Be at the place you want to be.

Any thoughts or inputs? Leave them in the comments 🙂

Picture Sources: 1 (own picture), 2 (Flickr)

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