When from the south I pass through Chiasso customs or from the north I come out of the Gotthard tunnel, I have that afterthought that says ‘ohh good, I’m finally back’. I consider this a good indicator that, yes, I feel at home here, in Ticino. This is my home, the place I have come to know and love over the years. I have another place that I consider home, which is where I was born and raised, Legnago in Veneto. Then I have yet another place that I consider my third home, which is Taipei, Taiwan. But neither of these equals the sense of home I have here.
Feeling at home is a very elusive and most subjective concept. I feel at home when, perhaps after a trip, I hear an accent that is familiar and I take pleasure in it. When I walk around and feel protected by the places I see. When I absorb the little idiosyncrasies and mannerisms of the people around me. When I say “back home” when talking to a person who does not live where I do. To feel at home is also to criticise, even harshly, the place where you live but to feel real irritation if a person who does not live here makes the same criticism as you.
Now that I will have Swiss citizenship at the end of this year or beginning of next, I’m asking myself questions about the meaning of home. Do I need a piece of paper to feel at home? No. Is it better to have a piece of paper to make sure I don’t have bureaucratic problems here at my home? Yes. I’m not one of those people who craves a strong sense of belonging to a group but I’m still a human being, and therefore a social being who by nature relates to other human beings and who seeks confirmation of his place in the world. So, I don’t need a piece of paper to feel at home but a piece of paper that legitimises my being at home is always welcome.