Heimat is a German word that has no simple English translation. It is often expressed with terms such as home or homeland, but these English counterparts fail to encapsulate centuries of German consciousness and the thousands of connections this quintessential aspect of German identity carries with it.
The meaning of Heimat
Heimat is a specifically German concept to which people are bound by their birth, their childhood, their language and their earliest experiences. For instance, swiss citizens have their "Heimatort" (geographical origin where the citizen or his ancestors became citizens) on their identification. Heimat found strength in an increasingly alienating world as Germany's, Austria's and Switzerland's population made a massive exodus from rural areas into more urbanised communities around the countries' major cities. Heimat was a reaction to the onset of modernity, loss of individuality and intimate community.
Heimat began as an integral aspect of German, Austrian and Swiss identity that was patriotic without being nationalistic. Regional identity (along with regional dialect) is an important foundation for a person's Heimat.