I get it. I am Not From Around Here™. Maybe you’re curious as to where I’ve lived before, or why I look a certain way, or why I talk about a certain country when I am clearly not from there. If you want to know that, for the love of god ASK ME THAT INSTEAD.
The whole mentality behind that loaded question is that I only have one (1) true place that I’m ‘from’. And, worse, the true place I’m ‘from’ isn’t the place that influenced me the most, or the place that I feel most at home at, it’s the place I look like I’m from. If I say I’m from America, even though I only lived there when I was little, people smile and nod. If I say I was born in Australia, people look a little confused (I don’t have the accent) but accept it because, hey, the kid’s got a citizenship.
If I, with my nigh-undetectable half-Chinese side, say that I feel like I’m from Taiwan, people actually stop talking and stare at me. Because, jesus, I look like a white girl with an American accent who can’t speak Mandarin. I would side-eye myself.
Or even WORSE, if you say you’re from a few different places. No one aside from a TCK can possibly understand the peculiar ache you get in your chest when you think of two different countries. People who don’t have that experience don’t realize this. They look at you and try to be polite but you can see they think you’re spouting bullshit, and they delicately inquire where you’re actually from.
But that’s the problem. When people ask you where you’re from they are already guessing. If they guess right, good for them! If they don’t, they need an explanation. Because anything outside of the norm is obviously a special case, something really really weird that they have to actually think about.
And is it even necessary? To ask a question like that means you recognize that I am foreign. It means the asker is trying to categorize me into a neat stereotype. If I don’t look or speak or act enough like everyone else, that puts ‘em on edge. It’s hard to distance yourself from a culture you grew up in, I’m not blaming them for that. But it isn’t that hard.
I think the main problem with this question is that people hate being wrong. If someone already makes a judgement about where they think I originate, I have to shatter it. It gets exhausting because I have to get people to realize that a) I am not what I seem, b) They were wrong, and c) They have to overcome whatever prejudice they’d assigned. And humans get mad when any one of the above is shoved in their faces. I have to make them do all three at once. In polite society.
So don’t ask me where I’m from. It won’t be fun for either of us.
If you plan to go there, don’t forget to try!