By Paniz Hosseini
I moved to the UK at the age of three all the way from what I sometimes call my home town, Rasht, Iran. See, that’s the funny thing, I only sometimes call it my hometown, because I never really know where home is anymore. Sure, I have been living in the UK for over twenty years and now in London, specifically for over half of this duration. I have my family, friends, loved ones, and a physical house here. I have memories of school, university, and work environments. I’ve been to places all around the world, and when it’s time to come back home after a long day, my home is here.
But you must understand, it’s hard for me to call the UK my home when it’s hard to feel welcomed by some who don’t see you as “British”. It’s hard to believe that the UK is your home when people ask you where you’re from, but when you tell them you’re from London, they reply, “oh no, I mean, where are you originally from?”. It’s hard because, throughout my entire childhood, I lived in a small city in an area where my family and I were the only people from a different ethnic background. I could see the way people acted around my parents; I could feel the judgment from my fellow peers at school, where I was the only “foreign kid”. I felt like an outsider, like someone who shouldn’t be with these people, even though it’s hard to feel this way at the age of nine. It got to a point where I avoided telling people where I was “from”, told my parents to stop speaking Farsi with me when around my classmates, and just generally did everything a kid could do to hide their identity, their culture.
It was no easier in Iran, where you get treated differently, like royalty, for being from the UK. Some think you are better than them, while others just make fun of the British accent laced in your Farsi. You sometimes really want to look them in the eye and tell them it wasn’t easy to learn a different language, or that you are just another human being like them and want to be treated as normal, to belong somewhere just like them. Even though I go back “home” to Iran every summer to visit my family, it’s hard to call it my home when I look around me and don’t recognise all the roads, houses, and people. I’m grateful to have my family there, who I have countless memories with, but I have no friends, no school, university, or work memories. I don’t know what it would be like to be a young adult there, or what it would have been like to be a teenager or a kid, and sometimes I really wish I could know. It’s funny because even when I’m there, I always must again return “home” to London.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that people like me have trouble calling anywhere our home because we have bits and pieces of life missing from all these places we come from, live, and move around in. We have had stages in life where we didn’t know where we belonged, if we belonged and how long our isolated identities would roam around for. I am twenty-three years old and still don’t know where exactly “home” is, but I can tell you that home needn’t be just a city or a country. Home can be where happiness, love, and euphoria are, where the people we feel most alive with are and where our favourite restaurants, beaches, nature, and moments are. For that reason, home is not one fixed location, but a feeling that may change and adapt with you over many years across all areas of the world.
I am happy to say that throughout the past years, I have been in touch with my identity and my culture, both the Persian and British. I no longer need to hide my culture, my identity, language, or anything in between, but rather try to wear it like a heart on my sleeve, exposing myself to the world for who I was, who I am, and who I am becoming every-day. To the people like me, who don’t know where to call home, or to those of you who have tried to hide all the wonderful parts of your identity, know that your uniqueness, history, and experiences have shaped the person you are today, and that is nothing to hide. Rather, it is time to embrace it and express it in the world around you.
Homes change, people change, but your identity will always remain with you. How you choose to embrace it is up to you and only you. Do not fall into the stereotyping, judging, and belittling of those who know little of your identity. Speak up on all the dynamic elements that have shaped you into the person you have become, whether your home is one place or a thousand and one.
This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Identity International.