Heimat – What is that?

The German word “Heimat” is one of those terms that takes a few sentences to grasp instead of having a single word translation. There is no directly corresponding English term. If there would be, it would start with home and then needed a rather exhaustive second part. For “Heimat” is the sum total of the place and the people who you grew up with; who you are familiar with and who make you feel welcome, no matter what.

Obviously “Heimat” means different things for different people. For some it has strictly geographical connotations. “This is the place where I grew up and spent my youth. This is the place I know and where I made my memories.”
For others it entails things like the comfort food their mother used to make, a certain piece of music, or an iconic piece of clothing.

“Heimat” is the place where you feel secure and where you belong.

For some people this sense of belonging is so strong, that they do not travel often, are happy whenever they return and do not even think of ever moving anywhere else than the place they’re used to. Their comfort levels are highest when they are in their familiar place, with familiar people, doing thing they’re used to.

People with this inclination are usually the pillars of the community, because they have a vested interest in keeping everything running smoothly, so that their familiar place does not change too much.

Other people are not nearly as bound to their place of origin. They have no trouble traveling or moving away, because their attachments to their childhood place has never been that strong to begin with. Their memories were not all good. They did not have the luxury of feeling secure and happy. They can leave the place alone, because they don’t feel like they really belonged there in the first place. For them, change means a chance of something better.

They have learned, that you can take the parts of your “Heimat” along with you, that you liked. They have also learned that you can make a new “Heimat” wherever you go, as long as you are determined to make new, good memories. They’re not afraid of new places, because they know how to make them familiar.

No matter which group you belong to: The concept of “Heimat” will stir your heart.

About scratchingcat

Writer, mother, friend.
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