Many expats or travellers find themselves spending months or even years in a new city. But at what point does this new place start to feel like home? When you find that perfect coffee shop? When you have a local bank account and a lease? Or when you have made long-lasting friends?
Roxana, a Sydney based traveller
My husband was always fond of Murakami and repeatedly refers to his “I move; therefore, I am” quote. However, I couldn’t quite relate to it. Even though I enjoy traveling and exploring new places, I have never been so fond of moving and adapting to an entirely new and unfamiliar location. That’s exactly why I was so insecure when I first moved to Sydney – I thought I would never be able to relax and enjoy all the perks of this place.
Fortunately, there’s a simple recipe for making a new city feel like home. I stuck to three things that I absolutely have to have with me all the time: my family photo album, grandmother’s diamond ring, and my Natural Necessity surfboard that I cannot hit the waves without. Once I discovered the perfect beach, I grabbed that board and went on to fight the waves. Finally, when the sun started setting behind the horizon, I decided it was time to relax.
I stumbled upon a small and secluded coffee shop where I had the most amazing cup of hot latte. Wherever I go, I need to have a favourite coffee shop. And that was it – finding that one place where you can have coffee and a light meal in peace is what will make a new city feel like home. For me that’s Single Origin Roasters in Surry Hills. It’s been years since I’ve first moved here and me and my husband wouldn’t change Sydney for the world!
Follow Roxana on Twitter.
Irene from Piggy Traveller
Despite being an expat for over 6 years and having lived abroad on and off for another 3 years, I only started calling a city ‘home’ a few months ago.
Before that, ‘home’ was Spain, where I am originally from and where all my family and lots of friends still live. ‘Home’ was my parents’ house and the bedroom where I keep all the stuff from my teenage years. Not anymore.
In August last year I received the keys of my very own house and now it feels just weird to call ‘home’ my parents’ house, really. So now Oxford is ‘home’. Not only because I own a house here, but it’s more the fact that I don’t plan to move again anytime soon. This is the main difference with all the previous destinations I lived in before. A move within 1 or 2 years was always in my mind.
Odoardo from Queidue.it
As a long-term expat, I have called many countries and cities “home”. I considered Malta my home when I rented my first flat, London when I found a job, Tel Aviv when I started making friends. But there is one thing in common with every experience: I knew how to move into the city on foot.
When you visit a city as a tourist or when you have just moved there, the easiest way of going around is using public transport as you don’t know exactly distances and times to get from a place to the other. In London you might take the metro from Leicester Square station to Piccadilly Circus, not knowing that you can do the same trip in a three-minutes-walk.
Conversely when you live for a long time in a certain place you know all the shortcuts and the easiest ways to go everywhere while enjoying your walk. This is how you can really discover and understand the city where you live. This is when you can call it Home.
Molly from Molly on the Road
A city feels like home after you leave with haste, only to miss it desperately when you’re back on the other side of the world. I lived in Buenos Aires for 4 months, and after the initial shock and awe wore off, I detested it—the crowded streets and rude city folk, the traffic, and the heartbreaking lack of diverse food options despite it being a very cosmopolitan city.
After a few months when I had found my coffee shop and mastered the public transportation system, I began to let my hair down a little more and act with the perfectly blasé Argentine attitude. I sipped maté in the park with friends, hung out at bars in the gritty, colorful San Telmo neighborhood, and I mastered the art of the Rio de la Plata Spanish dialect.
The the negative first impressions I’d had initially overshadowed these incredible experiences and left a bitter taste in my mouth until it was time to leave—but going back to the US, it was like I had my mouth rinsed out with soap for chastising Buenos Aires so much, because I’ve erased all the bad from my memory. Now the city feels like one of my old friends, and one of my new homes.
Kathrin from The Ambitious Bee
I moved to England about four months ago to do my Master’s degree. For me, it was not always easy to settle down here, it didn’t really feel like home for the first time. Frankly, I’m still not a 100% “at home”. But it feels better from day to day! That’s why I wouldn’t say that there is one big, specific event that makes me say “I’m at home here now.”
For me, it is all the small things: Finally, you have the feeling that your apartment is fully furnished. You can find the way to the doctor (and back). You’ve discovered this sweet little coffee shop (I’m still looking for that one). And then, slowly, you have a bunch of good friends around you. I think that is still one of the most important parts to make a place feel like home – the people who you meet.
Paul from Boracay Compass
To me a place feeling like home is all about the people that live there. I’ve been living in Boracay Island, Philippines since 2011 and it has slowly become my new home, as I got acquainted with the culture. I sometimes compare the island to a city on the beach.
I love that the locals don’t take anything too serious there. They have a great sense of humor that matches my own style of humor much better then the style of humor from the people in my home country.
Apart from the local people in Boracay, I also love that it’s an international hub. As in people from all over the world visit the island. So when you live there you get to meet people from many different cultures and backgrounds, which is interesting to me, and it broadens your horizon.
To conclude, feeling like home was not a sudden thing for me, but rather something that happened gradually. And the main reason is because of the people. There are of course more reasons why I like living there, which you can read all about in my article titled “10 Reasons To Make Boracay Island Your Next Vacation Destination” from my website BoracayCompass.
Tracey from Exploration Addict
For me a place feels like home when I feel like a personal or emotional connection, which I usually find through my connections with people.
The first time I realized I had found this was when I studied abroad in Hyogo Japan and I got lucky with an amazing host family. Since then I have also made strong friendships with people in Tokyo as well, so going to Japan almost feels like going to my second home. I’m shy but I like to meet new people, as everyone has their own unique stories.
When I travel I continue to try to chat with locals, even though it’s something I still struggle to get comfortable with, but so far I feel even the small conversations have been some of my more memorable interactions.
Tom and Sheila from Romancing the Globe
For us, the country that feels deep down like “home” away from home is Scotland. With gracious people, spectacular scenery, fascinating history and comfort food, Scotland feels like a giant bearhug. But, lodging has been a huge part of that “homey” feeling. We love exchanging homes as a way to immerse ourselves in a new area.
When your lodging is a local’s home with all the amenities (kitchen, laundry, bedrooms, gardens, TV, music, art, etc.), it’s easy to settle in very quickly. Plus, the owner usually shares a list of their favorite restaurants, bakeries, golf courses, and local sites. We’ve laughed at ourselves for how comfy we get! We’ve even dined, or played golf or card games with their friends. Neighbors have stopped by to greet us. We love having extra bedrooms to invite friends to visit.
We’ve even exchanged cars which made it easier when the owner asked us to check in on his 80+ year old mother who kept us laughing til the wee hours while she served up whisky shots.
Crystal from Castaway with Crystal
I have felt like home in many places around the world. Usually it has to do with how long I’ve stayed there, but every now and then there are a few special places that feel like home the minute I step off the bus (train, taxi, boat…). And these places always have something in common; the local people welcoming me in with open arms and inviting me to festivals, parties and family events.
In the Himalayas I met a young, hippy Indian man who took me under his wing and we became best friends. We saw each other every day and even had a birthday party at our hostel for him. On an Island in Mexico I started playing volleyball on the beach everyday with the locals. I quickly became friends with all of them; going to secret local hangouts and parties.
In Cambodia I became friends with a lady who couldn’t speak any English (and my Khmer was a 0/10) in a taxi when we traded drinks and food during the ride. She was heading to an engagement party and insisted I come along with her. These sorts of experiences are what make me feel at home, and also to remember what an amazing place the world really is.
Ibtisaam – Freelance Writer – Atlantis The Palm Dubai
It’s hard to move away from the place you consider to be home. And, no matter when you move to, it takes a lot of time to settle in. Here are three ways Dubai started feel more like home to me:
Firstly, It’s difficult to get to know a new city, its street names and different areas, but it felt great when I could get around by myself and was confident enough to give tourists directions to the restaurants they were looking for.
Secondly, getting into a routine was a way I conquered being ‘homesick’. By going to work and meeting new people I was making friends which made me feel more settled.
And finally, moving into an empty apartment is not a comforting feeling, especially when I didn’t even have a couch to sit on. But as soon as my furniture started arriving my apartment started to feel a lot more like a home.
When does a city feel like home to you?
To save this article, pin this image to Pinterest.