When does your new country become your new home?

“If I had a minute to spare” wrote a great post about his second home in Korea ;http://ifihadaminutetospare.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/my-second-home-in-korea-jumunjin-gangwon-do/

This got me wondering; When can you actually call your new country “home”?

First, I guess it depends on what your definition of “home” is. In my opinion, it’s somewhere you can be yourself.  A friend of mine however, proposes that a home is somewhere you make memories, adventures and friends. Either way we both agree that it’s not always somewhere your family are.   

Everyone has a different theory about when your new country becomes your new home, as I found out, discussing the topic with my friends.  For some it’s all about the amount of time you stay in a new country.  For others it’s about having a routine, doing the same thing day in day out.  Some say that getting bills in the post means that your home! 

For me, it’s all about finding your niche, the one thing that you’re really good at. A new country means you’ll always be part of the expat community but making a home is something that gets you involved in a community within that community.   The thing that gets you out and helps you become part of your new country, as a group, not an individual.  The thing that people know you for.  

Since I came here in 2009, life has been great.  I’ll never deny that.  But while I was always happy, there was something missing, something not quite right.  While I was part of the expat community in Paju, I didn’t really have a role, I was “just another English teacher”.  So for the longest time, while Korea was my base, it never really felt like a home to me. Korea has lots of activities for expats to get involved in.  I envied my friends who took up hobbies like rock climbing, hiking or baseball and became increasingly satisfied with life and in turn renewed contracts and looked to stay on the long-term. I saw the Facebook accounts and the plans they made with their new communities and it occurred to me that they had found their niche.  That’s what they were good at.  It made them comfortable, they enjoyed it and excelled at it. 

My niche didn’t find me until September 2010, when I happened by an Irish Association of Korea Hooley in Seoul. And that was it.  I started volunteering a little with them, got to know loads of new people and got involved in Irish music and dancing.  Playing music with musicians from Korea, Ireland and all over I realise that I’ve found, not only my niche but now I consider Korea hom my home.  It’s such a simple thing really but getting involved, sitting, talking, making new friends and new memories, playing a few tunes and doing a few dances has, for me, changed how I see Korea.  It has gone from somewhere I work and live to somewhere I enjoy living.

Of course it can be argued that, because I’ve been playing music my whole life, doing it in Korea is just a comfort.  In my case, that’s true, but I have friends who have taken up hobbies and activities for the first time since coming to Korea and because of that call Korea home.  So for everyone it’s different.   

I don’t think my sister will mind me sharing her story.  She’s been living in Spain for the last 6 years. She lives with her boyfriend (so she’s pretty settled) and I don’t see any signs of her going anywhere else any time soon. She’s also not very outgoing and in those 6 years has never gotten involved in any activity or organisation of any kind.    Last night, on skype, I asked her if she considers Spain home.  She said no.  Then I put my niche theory to her and she agreed that because she lacks a niche in Spain, she’s not really involved in any community, hence, the fact that she doesn’t call Spain home. (Of course that makes me sad, but I hold out hope that she’ll find her niche soon.)

So there you have it, my thoughts on a new country becoming your new home.  In essence it’s all about getting involved meeting new people, having adventures and making the most of what your new country has to offer.

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8 thoughts on “When does your new country become your new home?

  1. Very nicely put Shauna (and thanks for the promo!). I had a similar experience that tied me to Korea when I first came here. I kind of had very little going for me when I first left Ireland in 05, but when I arrived in Korea I met a lot of cool people and we just hit it off, while feeding off our own energy. This is when I first started writing and I look back on that time as one of my fondest life experiences – of course I have had many more in Korea since, but without this time I wouldn’t be the same gobshite I am now.

  2. I do believe, however, the further you live away from your place of birth the more events your current living country will have for you to do.

    • Can’t say I agree with this. In this age of internet and sites like meetup and local sites there’s more than enough events no matter where you live…………

  3. Your article made me think . . . I have been in Korea 10 months now. I have renewed my contract and signed an agreement for a new bigger apartment. I have been looking on ARK to adopt a cat. I guess it is starting to become home.

    • Hi Dawn, glad to hear things are going well for you here. I always think once you get over the first few months of not having a clue and settle down Korea does become like a home. It certainly is for me anyway and right now I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather live.

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