“Where do you call home?” — a question that should elicit an immediate and simple response. You expect to hear a one-worded reply: the name of a country, city, town or village and yet, the number of individuals who struggle to answer this seemingly simple question is rapidly growing.
For some, the answer to this question is lengthy and can almost take the form of a biographical account. I have experienced this firsthand as my own response to this question usually goes something like this:
Well, I was born in Bulgaria but I moved to Abu Dhabi when I was 6 years old and I lived there for 12 years. Then, I moved to study in a university in England for three years — although I do visit Abu Dhabi in the holidays, apart from the summer holidays of course, when I go back to Bulgaria.
In other words, I provide a long-winded and tediously detailed report of my life — while being aware that nobody asked for my whole life’s story — and still fail to provide a simple, concrete answer.
Such a response has falsely led some to believe that this way of life is exciting or interesting because they tend to overlook the difficulties which come with having to fly in and out around five times a year.
The inability to define home and subsequently, the inability to ever feel at home are things that are overlooked. The fact that you always board a plane in tears because you do not know when you will next see the ones you love is also often overlooked. The idea that you cannot fully belong to either place is, of course, also generally overlooked.
For example, while I may be Bulgarian, I cannot identify as one because of my inability to identify with the experiences of those who grew up there. And while I may have spent the majority of my life in the UAE, I do not speak the language, have the passport or share the dominant religion.
It is vital for us to understand the complexity of this seemingly straightforward question as with the steady rise in global migrants, refugees and expatriates, the answers are inevitably bound to become only more and more complicated.