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Defining ‘Home’ in A Foreign Country

Almost two years ago, I left Indonesia, my home country, to work abroad. The foreign country a chose was not a far, faraway place on the other side of the world, but just a neighboring country with a two-hour flight away. Still, it was a new place for me since I never visited this country before. I remember having mixed feelings about this. Excited, mostly, but also a little worried because I was going to leave my home. A place where I spent most of my time growing up. I had always wanted to go abroad and live on my own. Leaving my nest to see the world and pursue my dream. When I finally got the chance, I didn’t think twice and packed my bag immediately. And just like that, I started a new chapter of my life living in Malaysia.

Ways to prepare your attitude that help defining home in a new country

To my surprise, I didn’t have a hard time adapting to this new place. It was partly because we have many things in common. The language, the culture, the food. In no time, I felt like a local already. “Is this normal?” I said to myself. Honestly, this was not what I expected. I was ready to feel homesick as soon as I arrived there and struggled to adjust to my new life. I was prepared to be welcomed with a terrifying feeling of being an ‘outsider’. But the transition was too smooth. I still missed my family and friends back in Indonesia, but apart from that, nothing bothered me.

I guess a foreign country can feel welcoming too. So welcoming that you don’t feel like a stranger. It’s rare, but it’s possible.

There are probably many factors that make me feel this way. Some of them are what I have mentioned above. Apart from those reasons, I believe I prepared myself and my attitude, which was crucial to adapt quickly. This is how to prepare mentally and have the right attitude when changing countries:

  • Promise yourself you will practice tolerance. You need to be tolerant toward other people and yourself. No harsh and quick judgments. This helps to have positive experiences and feelings.
  • Choose to be curious. Curiosity can be evoked. I believe it chases away fear, brings joy and fun. This attitude can help you learn, discover, and connect with the new place and people.
  • Don’t leave loneliness unattended. If you notice you start feeling lonely, do something about it. Reach out to your friends and family back home. A nice video chat can turn things around in a minute. Also, think of ways to meet new people. Enroll a class, find a local community center.
Practice gratitude, it will make you feel at home in a foreign country

I feel so lucky to be able to feel this way. Not everyone has the same feeling. Some of my friends who are also expats shared how hard it was for them to fit in. And it took them a long time to finally feel ‘welcomed’. I think that it has something to do with what motivated me when I decided to move overseas. Like I said, this had always been my dream to live in a different country. So I had been waiting for this moment to come, and I embraced it.

Additionally, one of the reasons why I was dying to move out of my own country was because I was looking for something better. A better job and pay, a better environment, a better place to live, the list could go on. And somehow, those desires were fulfilled here. This country is not perfect, but it is better than where I came from.

I found myself feeling grateful for the littlest things, like being able to take a long walk in the afternoon after work. Because they have proper sidewalks and the air is fresher compared to Jakarta. I like how convenient it is to go places because the public transportation is reliable. These are very basic things, and yet they are the reason why this foreign country has a special place in my heart. Gratitude.

Home is a feeling you can feel in a foreign country

This experience has made me realize that ‘home’ is such a weird concept to me now. Whenever someone asks me where I’m from, I’ll automatically say ‘Indonesia’, thinking that it’s supposed to be my ‘home’. A place that I will go back to again one day. However, I can’t deny the fact that it doesn’t feel like home anymore. Meanwhile, Malaysia hasn’t replaced it, either. It’s just a place that I’m currently living that feels so comfortable.

Some people say that home is where your heart belongs. It’s a feeling. You don’t have to define it in a literal way hence it doesn’t have to be a place. This is probably why I can’t assign a specific location to be my home. Maybe not yet. Someone also told me that it could be a person, so wherever you are in this world, as long as you’re with that person, anywhere feels like home. He might be right. I have yet to figure out where my home is, but for now, I’ll just leave it like that.

About the Author

Ade is a Virtual Assistant specializing in customer support and currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She was born in Aceh and grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia. For some reason, she believes that she’s actually a very old lady trapped in a 20 something body.  Connect with this Author: Facebook: facebook.com/ade.meuthia0409

Ades’s words on multiculturalism: “We can be different and still create great things together. Embrace diversity as it will give us eye-opening perspectives.”

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