Where are you from?

As in Asian, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is “Where are you from?”  It’s not that I get offended.  I just get confused.

College was the most confusing time to ask me “Where are you from?”  Because it could really mean “What dorm are you from?”  “What town?”  “What school are you from?”  “What department of your major?”  When I make a wild guess and answer one of those questions, they may ask again, “No…. where are you from?”  Many of the times when they repeat the question, they actually mean to ask what my ethnicity is… but just to make sure I answer it correctly, I ask, “What do you mean ‘Where are you from?'”  When there is a blank stare, there is an awkward silence because they wonder why I don’t understand them, if there is a language barrier, or if they have offended me.

To think about it, I don’t think I have ever asked anyone, “Where are you from?”  It is a pretty vague question.  Maybe more confusing to me than others.  I think “What [fill in the blank] are you from?” would be clearer..   Think about the last time someone asked you that question.  What does it mean?  When they do mean country, I used to answer my nationality, but technically, that is  unintentionally misrepresenting or giving a false impression, because that’s not where I was born– that’s where my parents are born.  So now when people ask me what country I am from or where was I born, I just answer “United States.”  Usually people’s response is “Really?” or “Your English is really good.”  Yes, really.  In fact, so far I’ve never been out of the country, I don’t have an accent, and I’m fluent in English.

So, no, I don’t get offended; I just get confused to what the question “Where are you from?” means.  If you want to know what ethnicity I am, you can ask me, “What’s your ethnicity?” and I’ll know right away what you’re asking. 🙂

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