What it takes

I never thought of
Vienna as home. There was a home aspect to it – “my people,” family and
friends – but it was not home in a complete sense. Vienna was not the place
I missed when I was away. When I returned to Vienna from a trip, I do not
remember having that warm feeling – the one you get when you come home. Whether
it was the environment or my own stubbornness (or, most likely, a mix of the
two), I was always the foreigner there. I never felt fully integrated.
Then, a few weeks ago, on the
last day of our vacation in Greece, as we were getting ready to fly to Zurich and
start our new life, I had this flash. I pictured myself in Vienna, in some of
my familiar places – the park where our children played, the market around the
corner, the café where I met my girlfriends – and I had “that”
feeling, the feeling of home. For the first time in eleven years our home
destination was not Vienna. I felt a little pang of regret, knowing that I was going
to miss all that – not only the people, but the places, the feel of the city, even
our non-“homey” apartment.
Maybe I was idealising what I no longer had; or maybe Vienna did represent
home after all. And if it took me nine years to accept Vienna (albeit
reluctantly), what are the prospects for Zurich? What does it take for me to
feel at home and how much of that can I find here? First, the people factor. I feel very fortunate, because,
even though I miss my “Viennese” friends every single day, I have close friends
here who are like family and that makes a huge difference. Also, some of the people I have met during my first
few weeks here have been enormously kind and welcoming. Even in my daily interactions – on the street, in shops, at school – while I instantly stand out as the foreigner (thanks to my non-existent
Swiss-German or my car’s foreign license plates), I have not yet been treated
like one. On the contrary, I have encountered extreme politeness, if not
Then, there is the home
environment. I continue to like our new place a lot. In my mind, it is much more
“open” than the previous one; it is fun to have guests here. And it feels much cosier.
Our kids are happy here. I can be happy here.
Last, but not least, with
all that beauty surrounding me, how can I not like living here? As I am writing
this, I look out my window to the lake and, even though it is overcast, there is
one ray of sunlight that has managed to break through the clouds and turn that
patch of water below it a bright, shimmering shade of orange. It is as if it is
on fire.
Is all this enough to feel
at home? I don’t know. It is too soon to draw conclusions. But I will keep you posted.
What do you need to feel
at home?

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