Where Are You From?

Not too long ago, I heard that it was rude to ask a strange looking person, “Where are you from?”

The reason, so they said, was that that question implies an “us and them” situation. And this makes “them” feel uncomfortable.

Okay, I thought. I can adjust a bit. But, I won’t totally avoid the question and here’s why. If I ask, “Where are you from?” to someone who looks or sounds different than whatever norm I’m used to, I probably am right that they’re from somewhere exotic to our current location. They already know this fact. It is not a surprise to them that they didn’t grow up on Seinfeld and Sunday School.

And language is not math. So some burden of the conversation can be placed on their shoulders too. As in, if they are “Asian”, and yet were born in Houston, they surely could reply, “My parents are a mix of x, y, z but I grew up in Houston. How about you?”

In other words, the strange looking potential-respondent can understand the “you” to mean “whoever made you look strange to me” instead of trying to suggest they’re right as the mail.

It’s called effort. Try it.



  1. Stuart Danker

    I find it hard to find offence in ‘Where are you from’. If people do feel slighted by it, it’s because of their own insecurities, not you.

    Also, I find it interesting that I grew up on Seinfeld and Sunday school, despite probably living halfway across the world from you (Malaysia). Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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