Where’s Home - and what is Heimat?

A few weeks ago, as I took off in the plane looking down upon the city of Hong Kong, I think it was for the first time that I truly felt like I’m leaving home.

When you’ve been an expat for a while, living in different countries, the question ‘where’s home’ often comes up in conversations. 


For me, home, is where my husband is and our flat and belongings which are meaningful to me – the four walls in which I feel comfortable, cosy and safe.


It is also a place where I’ve got close friends. Whereas the former is relatively easy to accomplish – the later takes time.

When moving to a new place, we often start from scratch when it comes to relationships – so for me, it’s hard to feel at home right away.


We build relationships and with time these relationships grow closer and deeper.

With that comes trust, trust to ask for support and also to be of support to others – a network to fall back up on.

I’ve come to know, appreciate and love so many new people over the last 2.5 years in Hong Kong – and that’s why today, it feels like a real home to me.


But these relationships didn’t just grow on trees, one has to actively invest in them. 


I also got married in Hong Kong, out in nature by the beach – like I always wanted but something I would have never dreamed possible in a city like Hong Kong. I believe for my husband and I to make the decision to seal the knot here right at our footsteps added further to a feeling of being at home. 


And then there is Women’s Temple, a community of women that I built for myself and other women from all sorts of nationalities to come home to ourselves – our body, our longings, our passion and joys – because if we can come home to ourselves, we can live in a new place for a while without feeling at home right away. 

So in some ways I feel like home for me is something I actively create and build one day at a time.

But what about Heimat?

Now if you’re an English speaker you won’t be familiar with the word Heimat.


It’s a German word and I have tried to explain it many times to Non-German speakers. 


Heimat is the place where I step out of the airport, smelling the air – smell of thunderstorm, smell of snow or smell of cow-shit – and I immediately connect to the place. 


Heimat is where I walk in the local forest, hike in the mountains or swim in the lakes and the place just speaks to me.


Heimat is where my childhood home is and where I feel instantly welcomed.

Heimat is where simple meals such as Cervelate on the barbecue and home-made French-salad Dressing Swiss-Style makes me happy.

Heimat is where my parents, brothers, nephews, aunties, uncles and cousins are, where my close long-time friends are and where they speak Swiss-German.

Home and Heimat are equally important to me – but they are different.

Heimat is not something one needs to build – except for the relationships – it’s kind of just there, available to me whenever I step back into it, providing me with a sweet feeling that I’m simply grateful for.


Hong Kong is home, Switzerland is Heimat.


To think that this would fall upon two such different places surprises me – but then, life is full of surprises, isn’t it.


Where’s home for you? What makes home, home? And can you relate to Heimat?


From my Journey to yours


All rights reserved by Corinne Konrad Calder • 2014