If you’ve lived overseas for any length of time, this is possibly the most common question you’ll be asked. For some, the answer is simple. For others, especially the so-called third culture kids, it can be more complicated. TONY HALL shares his thoughts.
It’s definitely complicated for our family. I’m Australian and my wife is a New Zealander. Our daughter was born in New Zealand but has lived nine of her 10 years in Singapore while our son was born in Singapore and has lived his whole life here. Is there such a thing as “fourth culture kids”?
As we prepare to move our family from Singapore to Melbourne after 10 years on the little red dot, I’ve been thinking about the idea of “home” quite a lot. In my wife’s mind, by moving to Melbourne I am going “home”. From my point of view, it isn’t that clear cut. I left Australia in 1999 and have lived in Japan, Thailand, New Zealand and Singapore. I grew up in several small country towns in Victoria and New South Wales. And I went to university in a rural city in central Victoria. By moving to Melbourne, am I really going home?
This idea of “home” prompted a disagreement with an uncle several years ago. We were at my parents’ place for my dad’s 70th birthday. The topic of when we were heading back to Singapore came up. In response to a question, my reply was along the lines of “We’re going home on Sunday”. To which my uncle replied, “You’re already home.” I disagreed, as I didn’t live (and hadn’t ever lived) in this particular house of my parents. Mum and Dad sold the house I “grew up in” after I left for Japan. While I know unequivocally I am always welcome at their current place, it’s not my home. It was, and is, Mum and Dad’s home. Ultimately, my uncle and I agreed to disagree.
For our daughter, the answer to the question often depended on when we had last been in New Zealand or Australia. After a visit to Grandma and Grandad’s, she was from New Zealand. Returning from Nana and Pa’s, she was from Australia. Did I mention it was complicated? That said, for our son, the answer was always simple: “I’m from Singapore.”
Having lived away from Australia for 20-odd years, the answer for myself is simple yet complicated. Obviously, Australia is in some sense “home”. Having a teacher for a father meant that we moved around quite a lot. By the time I was 12, we had lived in four different towns. That house I “grew up in”? I only lived there for ten years before I went to uni, and from there I went to Japan. And from there, well, you kind of know that story. For me, I guess I see home as where I live – and this year that will be Melbourne.
So, where’s home for you?
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This article first appeared in the February 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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