I have been in Sydney for 10 days or so now and I have just realised that nobody has asked me the dreaded question:
‘Where are you from?’
Or, even worse, after they hear my strong French accent. ‘Are you from France?’
Do you know what? It’s refreshing. I am glad not to have to justify myself for once. In London, I am always ‘the French one’, and I keep being asked where I am from all the time. I am used to it by now. Sometimes I answer ‘Oh, I come from around the corner’, and then I get something like ‘No, no, where are you REALLY from?’. I promise, I am really from around the corner.
Seriously? Don’t you think it’s a tad offensive to ask someone where they are from?
Over here, in Sydney, nobody cares where I am from. It’s an accepted fact that the society is multi-cultural and yes, come to think of it I find Australians more welcoming.
Maybe one day I’ll be from Sydney
In London, when I am asked where I am from, it makes me feel like I don’t belong there. Yes, despite my British passport. Not to mention that when I start ‘admitting’ that yes, I happen to be French-born (which is none of anybody’s business by the way), it often leads to more and more unhelpful comments, such as ‘Oh, I did French for GCSE’ (good for you), or ‘I have spent such nice holidays in Provence!’ or ‘Don’t you miss the food?’. I am pretty sure that such questions are asked without any malice, but I struggle with the fact that I feel like I am being put in a box with a lovely ‘French’ label on it. Because let’s face it, being French is only a small part of what I am. So why is it so important to them? Am I not entitled to be, well, just me, warts, accent and all?
The problem with the question ‘Where are you from?’ is also that it implies that you are not from here. It means that you don’t fit the usual ‘cliches’, you are not the way you are supposed to be. It feels a bit as if my authenticity is questioned.In short, it makes me feel like I don’t belong here.
Obviously a lot depends on how it is asked, what the context is, and why your interlocutor wants to know. But believe me, if you were in my shoes and constantly asked about where you are from, you would get annoyed after a while.
Because at the end of the day, what does it matter where I am from? If we are together, in the here and now, it shouldn’t have any importance whatsoever, right? What do you think?