Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Heimweh

Friday was my last day of classes for the year and I am now officially on winter break, which seems like as good of a time as any for introspection. I know I’ve been slacking in the blogging department but I have been, among other things, caught up in the tempo and monotony of everyday life. A while ago I blogged about culture shock, the initial honeymoon phase, and the beginning of regularity in everyday life, but now here I am, two months later, and a lot has changed.

Okay, so in the big scheme of things two months is chump change, not a very long time. But two months or two days, the time I spend her and all of the experiences I have here will stay with me for the rest of my life, good or bad…

Which brings us to the next phase of culture shock, because what goes up must come down and after the good and the mundane comes the bad: homesickness. It’s something a lot of people struggle with and even deny or choose to ignore it, yet with every prolonged travel experience or international study, it is all but inevitable.

I feel it’s important to call attention to the difference between a house and a home. Though the two can belong to the same location, they in no way have to be, and quite often aren’t. This is topic that has particular relevance to me since I have changed my place of residence, my “house,” seven times in the past three years. Though these were (mostly) completely done by my choice, it still makes you aware of the differences between a house and a home.

Home, at least to me, is where you grew up, where you have emotional investment in a location, where your family and loved ones are, and where you can just let your guard down and feel “at home.” Being where you feel most comfortable and safe, where you can just relax, where you’re with the people who mean the most to you, that’s what is important, not the actual location.

Being homesick is being out of your comfort zone, away from where you feel comfortable and safe, and the experience of wanting that feeling back again, at least that’s what it means to me. That also explains how different people react to different situations with varying degrees of homesickness depending on their ability to adapt and feel “at home.” There’s nothing wrong with being homesick, because like the other aspects of culture shock, this is just another step within the larger process. It helps us gain further appreciation for home and what it means because if you never get at least a little homesick, it’s not really much of a home then now is it?

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