Fernweh or homesickness?

This month marks the two year anniversary of my decision to move to Germany. It was not an easy decision at the time, having job offers from both Hamburg and Kuwait. Right after gradution I did not think that I would end up in the luxurious position of having to choose between jobs, but there I was: faced with the choice between the head and the heart. I picked the head over the heart, thinking that my time in Germany would be brief, and that surely within a year I would still be moving back to Kuwait. Two years on however, I am still in Germany.

There are days that I am quite satisfied with my decision to move to Hamburg. When the sun is out, when I am making fun plans with all the lovely people I met since I came here, when I am socializing with my colleagues during and after work, or when I am abroad and can help other lost tourists in their native German, because next to English I am now confident enough to speak a second language that is not my own. There are however also days that my longing for Kuwait takes over. Some days it literally hurts to be so far away from the place that I consider my second home. When I see pictures of my friends at the beach without me I wish I was there, when I see them celebrating successes without me I was I was there, and when I see them mourning the loss of loved ones without me being able to offer much in support other than a virtual shoulder to cry on, I wish I was there.

There are few things here that make me happier than a visit from one of my friends from Kuwait – and as people there like to travel I have been lucky enough to see most of them at least once since my departure three years ago. Last week my dear friend E. was here, and it felt so good to talk about Kuwait again with somebody who knows and who understands that crazy little country much better than I do. He might not understand my love for the place, but he does understand what I am talking about when I say I miss evenings at Layeli al-Hilmeya, shopping at the Avenues or dinner at the Mubarakkiya. People here mainly think me a madwoman for loving Kuwait as much as I do.

When I first arrived in Hamburg, I disliked the place and I could not wait to get out again. In the two years since, I have learned to appreciate Hamburg, and I am absolutely sure that if and when I leave, I will do it with a heavy heart. Even thinking about leaving already makes me sad. I still cannot really say that I love Hamburg, but we leaves pieces of our heart in all places we live in, and Hamburg definitely has a piece of my heart as well now. Unfortunately it is physically not possible to divide ourselves in parts and live in different places at the same time. Part of me wants to stay in Hamburg and Germany, as life is good here – when you do not take into consideration the chronic lack of sunshine. Another part of me keeps longing for more exotic grounds. And there is yet a third voice that says maybe I should consider going home at some point.

My last visit home was at lightening speed, and it was so tough to get on that plane again after just a few days. I simply wanted to stay and eat Dutch food prepared by my mom for the rest of my life. But that is not possible, not even when I decide to move back to the Netherlands and look for a job near that tiny village I originally come from. Yet as soon as I arrived at Hamburg Airport I also experienced a sense of familiarity, homecoming  and even a bit of happiness. As if my own mind is playing tricks on me, not knowing anymore where I want to be.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each and every place, and the heart and the mind are still in everlasting discussion on how to proceed from here. And whether proceeding is necessary at all, as I have grown quite content here. On some days these thoughts nearly drive me crazy. Some people say I think too much. They are probably right, even though I object to the possibility of thinking too much – unless we are talking postmodernism, that is definitely thinking too much! But the truth is, I have absolutely no idea what I want anymore. And so I just keep on doing what I have been doing for the past 1.5 years now. I get up at 8 in the morning, get dressed, take the bus to work, and start making statistics.

Photo credits: Markus Jaschke (CC BY-NC 2.0)


4 thoughts on “Fernweh or homesickness?

  1. Happy 2 years anniversary Brigitte ! I escaped Hamburg before reaching this point ahah… Nice article though, I could find myself in it sometimes 😉 “We leave pieces of our heart in every place we live in” : YES, definitely. We get used to our temporary home, and one of the hardest thing about being all over the place is that you make new friends from all around the world and never get to see them enough…


  2. It’s great that you are feeling better about where you live now 😉 It’s sooo important to be able to point out at least a couple of things we like about our location (even if there are loads we hate!). Fingers crossed you keep reconnecting with your friends in Kuwait and continue finding more and more good stuff about Hamburg!


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