Sunday, June 22, 2014


This morning my daughter woke up telling me: “I had a dream... I dreamed that I was in Italy with my Chinese class and I told to my friend: this is my real home.”
I have looked at her, thoughtful. She is almost 6 years old, she is living in China since two years. But, for her, “real home” is still Italy.

What makes a place your place? Grandparents and relatives? The first memories of your life? The house which your parents have built with sweat and blood (okay, maybe not blood but the word makes the idea), or what?

And how about my son, who was 2 ½ years old when we come to China? His first friends, he has made here. He learned speaking here (and, actually, he speaks better English than Italian). Is he also going to consider Italy his “real home”?
This is what they call “Third Culture Kids”. I read about it, but to find myself facing the issue, is different!
In a book I read some very important words: children needs strong roots, in order to grow a large foliage that rises to the sky.

In expat life, everything is changing and inconstant. Friends and teachers are coming and going and sometimes I wonder how can my children bear this situation and be always happy and smiling... but they also feel that our “real” life is elsewhere. Maybe we won't go back for a long time (and, actually, our real life is now in China!), but in their heart our home is an idealized and mythological place where nothing changes: Grandma will always welcome you with her fragrant home-made cookies, Uncle and Auntie will take you in their vegetable patch, showing you seedlings and buds, friends will tell you about the small school they are attending.
One of the best friend of my daughter will go back soon to France for good. She asked me: when will we go back for good in Italy? And I felt like a stab in the hearth.

A foreigner could live decades in China, and still continue to be foreigner. You look as foreigner, no way to blend into the background! Everybody can guess you are not from here!
But, in any case, expat life changes you, and you start feeling like if you life is now double: two countries, two houses, different friends, atmosphere, foods. And you start wondering which world do you belong.
And this is true for children, also. My daughter uses to say “Our planet” instead of “our country”, and “this planet” instead of China... funny, isn't it? Incredible how deeply they can think, inside that little blond head!

They know they are Italian. And it's my duty to let them know about their country history and culture. And it's my duty also let them love the country which is giving to us hospitality.


  1. I think the statement about kids needing roots is complete and utter nonsense, and to me it feels like an insult too. I grew up an expat child, and call many places home. I think it made my life richer, and I still enjoy traveling and moving regularly. It made me understand and value different cultures better, and gave me friends all over the world. Your identify can be determined by more than one location. Just like I love all my three kids equally, I have space in my heart for many countries, thats how hearts work.

    1. For me China was our first experience abroad and raising expat children a completely new experience! Thanks for your interesting point of view!