The least favorite question I get when I meet someone new is
“Where are you from?”
Personally I avoid this seemingly innocent one to ask or answer. I usually begin my response with an awkward pause. I always try to assess what the person really wants. For me this question is way more complicated and doesn’t fit within the limited scope of small talk. And I am not alone with this “silly” dilemma. People are more mobile nowadays and move during their life across their country or around the world.
“Where were you born? Raised? Educated? Where do you live now? Where do you pay your taxes? Where have you spent the most years of your life? Where do you consider home?” could be very different. Do you want my full location history? I don’t think so, so please take it as a polite one-line response:
“I’m from planet Earth”.
“But where are you really from?” … “Where are your parents from?”
The majority of people who ask me this question as if it’s the most normal thing in the world, are strangers. It is kind of a “microagression”. Sometimes the answer recognized as an important information about the others cultural identity and character, but in my opinion it is the worst case scenario. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable. For people who were born in a country which is unfortunately known for not great achievements can recall cultural and racial stereotypes onto them - definitely not a great icebreaker. The truth is the most people want to put others immediately in a box and make assumptions or judge. I know this is also the easiest way to start a polite conversation, but I wish we could just get rid of it entirely. Nobody wants to feel stereotyped on nationality, especially if they doesn’t feel patriotic. Nobody wants to feel like a group representative especially if you are not actually part of this group. It’s exhausting, but anyway, asking a stranger’s race or ethnicity is not a fair game. It is a complex personal question that could be reserved for more intimate interactions.
However being asked more specific questions without insinuating others could lead to productive conversations.
Where is your home?
Home is where you park it.
Home is where you make it.
Home is where you heart is.
Home is where you are comfortable.
Home is where you are protected.
Home is where you feel safe.
Home is where you are tolerated.
Home is where you feel free.
Home is where you are accepted.
Home gives you the feeling of belonging.
Home is a feeling.
Home is where you feel the most loved.
Without love is just walls.
Where would you live?
Home is kind of a part of self-definition. It’s human nature to have a place to belong, where you return after a day to recharge. A sanctuary. For many South Asian communities home is who you are.
I feel attached in my heart to each country I’ve lived in some way, making my identity a complex one. According to these, I consider myself as a citizen of the world. Home isn’t just about a fixed location where I grew up or just one country. I constantly change, adopt new cultural values, beliefs and lifestyle practices. Sometimes I feel too more connected to one place than the other, but I move to a third one and have homesick for another one.
I am more than just a stereotype and I am also more than just my background. I and many of us don’t need you to try to connect with me based on them.
Nara Park is home of hundreds of freely roaming deers. Considered in Shinto to be messengers of the gods, Nara's nearly 1200 deer have become a symbol of the city and have even been designated as a natural treasure.
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