Difficult questions: Where are you from?

Originality has always been something people are extremely passionate about. It seems like knowing a birthplace of a person ensures people certain knowledge about that person’s behavior, or provide them with a  sense of familiarity when social awkwardness attacks.

International, national, and/or regional identity is something we seem to be struggling with as a society at large. And this is not limited to Western countries with cosmopolitan areas, it is extremely prominent even here in Asia where the province/city you come from could have a strong impact on your chances of getting a job, making friends and getting along with your neighbors.

When I used to live in the U.S I am always puzzled with the “Wait, how come you have no accent, where are you from?”

Those four little words are enough to send me into a spiral of self-doubt. I don’t think they’d be interested in spending hours hearing my upbringing, moving, settling down and moving again. But a simple “From Minnesota” would never suffice the curious well-meaning folks.

It is as though “Where are you from?” is special code for, You don’t quite fit any sort of nationality in terms of physical looks, nor how you dress, act and behave.

First, I consider my first home to be the beautiful Prague of the Czech Republic. And as much as I am Vienamese from inside out, I cannot find a better word rather than “home” to call that magical place. The strolls along the Vltava River, the magnificent goulash I ordered everyday for lunch as me and my dad waited for mom to finish work, the particular smell of that city that couldn’t be missed. If that’s not home I don’t know what is.

“So, where are you from?” which is special code for, You don’t quite fit any sort of nationality in terms of physical looks, nor how you dress (I have a strong Roman nose and am usually found in Pavement t-shirts), and I’m confused. In other words, what they actually want to know is: where are your parents from?

– See more at: http://vagendamagazine.com/2013/06/but-where-are-you-from-from/#sthash.QnfLSomI.dpuf

“So, where are you from?” which is special code for, You don’t quite fit any sort of nationality in terms of physical looks, nor how you dress (I have a strong Roman nose and am usually found in Pavement t-shirts), and I’m confused. In other words, what they actually want to know is: where are your parents from?

– See more at: http://vagendamagazine.com/2013/06/but-where-are-you-from-from/#sthash.QnfLSomI.dpuf

And then, I spent my teenage years in the States, bearing the freezing cold of the Midwest, enjoying summer days lazying out the family boat, sipping my dad’s favorite but awful Blue Ribbon beer while suntanning. And those long commutes to school (4 hours daily, mind you), sharing a cigarette with my best buddy at the bus stops to keep ourselves warm, interlocking hands with my first love while walking downtown. Wouldn’t that qualify as home, too?

And even now that I have learned to get accustomed to Hanoi, Vietnam with all its glories as well as filth. The night vendor’s voices that could be heard from my window, the street food, the traffic jams, the Bentleys riding alongside scooters is where I am originally from.

I think we have moved past the part where each individual is molded by and limited to where they are from, what color their skin is nor the accent they speak with. We have become truly the citizens of this earth where I myself find home simply where I choose to make it.

Which brings me to my favorite of all Tedx talks. I wish I could have been more eloquent and express it so beautifully as Pico Iyer in this clip.

My favorite transcript:

Where do you come from? It’s such a simple question, but these days, of course, simple questions bring ever more complicated answers

 And I’ve always felt that the beauty of being surrounded by the foreign is that it slaps you awake. You can’t take anything for granted. Travel, for me, is a little bit like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are at the setting marked “on.” Suddenly you’re alert to the secret patterns of the world. The real voyage of discovery, as Marcel Proust famously said, consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes. And of course, once you have new eyes, even the old sights, even your home become something different.

 Where you come from now is much less important than where you’re going. More and more of us are rooted in the future or the present tense as much as in the past.

 Movement is a fantastic privilege, and it allows us to do so much that our grandparents could never have dreamed of doing. But movement, ultimately, only has a meaning if you have a home to go back to. And home, in the end, is of course not just the place where you sleep. It’s the place where you stand.


And I instantly understood I could never belong to a place so I stopped trying. – See more at: http://blog.women-on-the-road.com/where-are-you-from/#sthash.DAIDcfEz.dpuf
nternational, national, and/or regional identity is something we seem to be struggling with as a society at large; the uncomfortable connotations that come with positively identifying as English or British are hard to balance with a well-placed sense of patriotism. – See more at: http://vagendamagazine.com/2013/06/but-where-are-you-from-from/#sthash.QnfLSomI.dpuf
nternational, national, and/or regional identity is something we seem to be struggling with as a society at large; the uncomfortable connotations that come with positively identifying as English or British are hard to balance with a well-placed sense of patriotism. – See more at: http://vagendamagazine.com/2013/06/but-where-are-you-from-from/#sthash.QnfLSomI.dpuf

(801)

2 thoughts on “Difficult questions: Where are you from?”

  1. Lee says:

    It is truly beautiful writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *