When I was little, my parents let me watch lots of TV in German just so I wouldn’t forget this language. So, I watched pretty much everything that was appropriate for children. Among these programmes, there was “Sesame Street”. A very memorable episode was the one where two monsters were exploring the concepts of “here” and “there”.
You see, just like “you” and “me” change according to the person speaking, “here” and “there” change according to where you are. Another thing about “there” is that once you get “there”, it becomes “here”. You can’t really be “there” because you are always “here”. Therefore it is a very hard concept to learn for children. The show tackled it perfectly.
This particular episode stuck with me for reasons I didn’t understand at that time, but now I think I do. While I never wanted to leave Poland for good, I’ve always had the need and the desire to explore other places. The Germans call it “Fernweh”- the very opposite of being homesick. “Fernweh” refers to missing a place you’ve never been, you’ve never seen. It’s one of these untranslatable words in German, together with “Schadenfreude” and “Weltschmerz”. Oh the things the Germans gave us.
Anyway, “Fernweh” can be best explained with the “Sesame Street” episode mentioned above. It is, put very simply, the desire to be “there”, somewhere where you are not at the moment.
Why am I mentioning it here? Simply because among the many reasons someone may decide to be an expat, Fernweh may be a very powerful one. It has inspired me to go to Germany, where actually “there” really became “home”, because I met my husband.
The funny thing is that even now, away from my home country, I can still feel “Heimweh”- homesick, and “Fernweh”- the desire to be “there”. I want to travel, I want to explore, I want to see new places. There are so many places I’ve haven’t visited yet.
Now, of course, with three children, going “there”, or going anywhere, really, can become increasingly difficult, but I guess there are ways to do this without losing all your savings and your sanity in the process. I just have to explore these options.
Another thing that connects “Fernweh” and “Heimweh” is the “weh”. It means “pain”. We all know how bad being homesick is, and the words themselves reflect this- it is equalled with being sick, or being in pain. It is no wonder then, that you can find the “weh” in “Fernweh”.
Because wanting to be “there” can be just as bad as missing home.
Did you feel “Fernweh” at some point? Did you want to be “there”? Where did you want to be?
Oh, here's the episode for your enjoyment!