Where do you call home?

An interesting twist to the restrictions on travel and movement that have been put in place asa result of SARS-CoV-2 is to make many people spend a lot of time at home or wherever they were when the emergency measures went into effect.

This situation has clearly been very more comfortable for some people and has also put others into extremely difficult and even desperate situations. On a personal level, I feel blessed that I have enough space, food, and wifi to get through the crisis without any hardship but it does make one think about where home is or where should it be?

The importance of place, is often underestimated. The english philosopher, Roger Scruton, discusses the idea of love of home, or what he calls “oikophilia”, to talk about people’s attachment to a specific place. While living and working far from home can bring much satisfaction and growth, there are also enormous advantages in living close to family in a place where you feels you belong.

My eldest daughter lives in New York City which is more or less where my family comes from. Not long ago we were getting out of a taxi and as I paid the driver and got out of the car, she told me that I “fit in” in the city.  Thinking about what she said it hit me that I really never “belonged” in Barcelona in the sense while I speak one of the languages in the city (Spanish) I barely speak the local language (Catalan) and have a strong American accent in any case. Nobody really understands my sense of humor and my daughters have grown up accepting the fact that their dad is an expat who does not really get it.

Many of our full time MBA students left Barcelona when we took our classes on line and went back home – typically to their parents houses and I know many men and women in their twenties who chose to ride out the restrictions at home. A friend in the U.S. had his two sons and their girlfriends move in for the duration and there is something about a crisis which brings us together and tugs at our own sense of oikophilia.

Probably one of the most likely impacts of the current emergency is to increase the number of people who work from home or at least work some of the time from home. This tendency then may add to the issue of where is home and where should it be? Will more companies begin to operate like Automated, the publisher of WordPress, the software I am using to write this blog? Automated has their head office in San Francisco but has been working virtually for many years.

Another layer to this issue is the overall structure of civil society and the strength of the institutions in a given place. In the United States, there are huge differences between state governments in terms of their approach to taxes, basic social services, and regulations. Similar differences exist at the local level between different cities and towns even in the same region.

Between the U.S. and Western Europe and Canada, perhaps the most glaring difference is the lack of a centralized, publicly owned and operated health care system. This difference has become tragically apparent during the actual crisis.

The idea behind the Forum section of turbulenttimes.org was to get people talking about different places they may want to live, work and call home. If an increase in virtual work loosens the bounds we have to a particular place, then it becomes even more important to spend some time thinking about where we want to be.

I encourage you to go to the forum and start up a thread about where you call home.

Published by Mike R

I am a professor at IESE Business School and lecture on strategy, sustainability and geo-politics.

2 thoughts on “Where do you call home?

  1. I have always had the internal debate about where home is. Where am I from? As I grew up we moved every few years so it was not clear where I come from. The last place I lived in England, as a child, was northern Derbyshire so that feels a bit like where I am from, but not totally as I left when I was 11. Then we moved the Mexico DF so that also feels a bit like where I am from but I am not Mexican and I do not go back often. Since then I have lived in so many places/countries (USA, England, Scotland, France, Spain, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sweden, Switzerland) that home was still not clear. When I married I settled in a village in England, but spent every school vacation in Scotland as my wife was Scottish, and I have lived here for 23 years, had kids here, watched my wife die here, etc. So this village might be home, but I am still not certain as Scotland feels a bit like home too, as does Madrid, Mexico DF and northern Derbyshire. Colorado also feels a bit like home as my parents an siblings lived there for years, but before that my parents lived outside Barcelona for 18 years, so Col.lbato is home too.

    People ask me where I am from and the answer I give is “I do not know”. I might be British, but do not feel English. A lot of my ancestors came from Scotland and settled in Oxford (my mum thought of herself as an ‘Oxford Scot’). I am not Mexican, American or Spanish but have very strong links with all three counties. If France still allowed Huguenot descendants a passport I could get one. So you tell me!

    My children think of themselves as English, but support Scotland when the rugby is on. They have both had a settled childhood in England except for every school holiday in Scotland. That said, one is at university in Glasgow (Scotland) and the other about to go to Aberystwyth (Wales). They will both be eligible for Scottish passports once Scotland leaves the UK.

    In the modern age as we all move and it is not clear where home is as it links your personal history with where you and your children live. My personal history is so complex that nothing is clear. That said this house in England feels a lot like home.

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