“Home is where Fami is.” – Years ago, a Vietnamese beverage brand used this slogan in their TV commercials, creating such a huge sensation that swirled among Vietnamese audiences, especially us the teenagers. This had been our to-go joke as middle-schoolers and at one point, it was so ingrained into my life to the extent that even now, hearing the word “home” is already enough for my mind to automatically flicker to images of the sweetened soybean milk. But, jokes aside, “home” is such a lovely, yet fused and vague concept that after the said image of a milk carton vanishing away, I am always left with a pang of indescribable emotions. Lying on my bed alone in a 15m2 room in Kralingen, I found myself going back and forth mentally between Rotterdam and my home back in Vietnam, and the question of: “What is home to me?” still lingered.
What makes a house feel homey to you? The media would associate it with warmth, coziness, relaxing ambience and most importantly, family or loved ones. This connotation of a word indeed makes sense and growing up in a culture in which collectivism and family have always been viewed as top priorities, home is where my loved ones are. But clinging onto that idea apparently led to me having a hard time accepting my new place here, in a whole new country, my “home”.
Was it because I was not comfortable living my life? Or was it because I did not have control over how my life was supposed to look and feel like?
It can be, but it lies mostly on the fact that I was alone, the absence of a close-to-heart human-being stirred up a guilty feeling whenever I called a new place home. It did feel like I abandoned all the true values of such a concept and desperately came to terms with something so average, so “not homey”, a makeshift “home” just to seek comfort from.
The doubting phase finally came to an end when I was basking under the blazing summer sun in the central of Vietnam, I found my mind drifting off to a city 9.434km away, with people walking way faster than me, with bikes overrunning mine all the time, with buildings a little bit too modern and the wind a little bit too strong. I was missing something. I did not miss the room I spent nine months holed up in nor the view of the building’s elevator from the window, but I missed the new place I moved in two days prior to my flight back. I missed the comfort of the neighbourhood extending far away, places I did not get the chance to let myself wander in. It came back, the question “What is home to me?” came back. When I finally allowed myself to feel, home was an idea, a feeling, and an emotion.
Home was just an attachment of one’s self to something, someone, some places, intertwining and fitting in, just like holding hands. I am attached to Rotterdam in a different way; the part I left there is different, it is not a childhood dream, not 7am classes with noodles as breakfast, nor family’s laughter and sisters banter. It is every morning with chocolate muesli and homemade chicken lemongrass, independence and so-called adult autonomy.
Home is still a vague concept, isn’t it? But you know what is really nice? You can have multiple homes at once, and the love for them can still be kept intact. So please don’t be afraid to love, because after all, home is “gezellig”!
Author: Bao Thu Nguyen
Editor: Gwendolyne Cheung
Illustrator: Hanh Tran