How to Answer “Where Are You From?”
Where are you from? That is one of the questions that is asked the most frequently in the United States, and providing an answer can be challenging if you were born in another country or have only recently moved here. Whether you grew up in the US or immigrated here, this question can feel like an invasive one that leads to awkward silences and even more personal questions down the line.
Even though there are ways to respond to this question that are polite and can endear you to the citizens you are speaking with in the United States. We’ve put together five answers to where are you from? That will help smooth over some of these awkward moments.
Growing numbers of Americans find the question “Where are you from?” to be loaded. It may appear harmless; why wouldn’t someone be curious about your story?
To those of us who have grown up in America and have every credential except for how our eyes look or how we say “r,” this question implies that we do not belong.
This question is posed to us more frequently than once every blue moon. It is one of the very few strangers we converse with. It is continuous.
When attorney Aaron Schlossberg threw a tantrum in front of restaurant employees in Manhattan, his anger appeared to stem from the belief that those who spoke Spanish did not belong in the United States.
If you’re of Asian descent, you could have had a different experience: Multiple times a year, regardless of your ancestry, you hear the phrase “Go back to China!”
Even though these examples are extreme, “Where are you from?” appears to be a polite person’s way of making the same point: to be American, one must look and speak a certain way, and you do not.
A story like Example:
For those who hear this question frequently, there is no simple response. Some have subtle techniques for exposing implicit bias for what it is. In contrast, others have found a way to transform an awkward moment into an opportunity for connection.
Regardless, numerous strategies will help you maintain your zen until, hopefully, the question loses its bite.
“My favorite strategy is to explain it simply: ‘Are you asking where I grew up or where my ancestors came from?’ It forces them to pause and realize how absurd it sounds, even though that is precisely what they request.
If a Caucasian person asks me about my ancestors, a rare occurrence, I will respond, “I’ll tell you, but you go first.” It enables me to respond in the same objectively reverent manner as white people when discussing their ancestry. It creates a level playing field, but it is absurd.
The question of where are you from? It is asked frequently, and there are a few traditional ways to answer it. For example, you could name the city, state, or country you are from.
Alternatively, you could describe your heritage or tell a story about your family’s history. You could also list them if you have lived in multiple countries for an extended period.
If someone asks where you are from? What would be your response?
As an example, answer like that:
- Tell them where you’re from!
- I’m from NYC
- I’m from Barcelona
- I’m from Toronto
- I’m from Australia
- I’m from America
- I’m from France
Addressing the question directly
No matter how you answer the question, Where are you from? You’re likely to get follow-up questions. And that’s OK! It’s an opportunity for you to share a little bit about yourself and your background.
Please don’t be shy; it could lead to some great conversations. What are your origins? Why did you move here? What do you miss most about home when you’re away? What was the process like when moving here (language/currency)? What were your impressions of this country on arrival/when first arriving here?
When asked where they are from, many people offer a more indirect response, such as I’m Canadian. In doing so, they avoid having to disclose where they live or work.
For Example: I’m Canadian, but I’ve been living in Asia for 8 years. That way, they can provide more information if someone asks them directly without feeling pressured by someone else who might not understand their situation.
Maybe you moved because your partner got a job abroad and now have to spend time apart. Maybe you have kids at school back home but found better opportunities in a new country.
If pressed for details about why you left, say something like I’ll tell you all about it over coffee sometime.
Addressing it indirectly
Where are you from? Is a loaded question. It can be asked with curiosity, but it can also be asked with the intention of othering someone.
If you’re uncomfortable answering the question, there are a few ways to deflect or redirect it.
- The most direct answer is to say I’m from__.
But if that feels too much like giving away too much personal information.
Then try one of these:
- The person could say where they live now, as I’m in (insert city).
They could add something about their hometown before saying where they currently live:
- I’m originally from (insert city), but I live in (insert city) now.
- I was born and raised in (insert city), but now I live in (insert city).
The place I grew up might be different from where I am now, so here’s my story:
- My family moved around when I was little, and we eventually settled outside of __.
- We moved back to our hometown when my dad got his new job.
I am a nomad since we have been on the road for months and have no plans to settle down anytime soon!
We call ourselves The Wackadas because our whole family has an eclectic mix of backgrounds and cultures.
If you’re looking for a way to make someone’s day, compliment them! It’s a small act of kindness that can brighten someone’s mood and make them feel appreciated.
Here are five ways to give compliments:
- Compliment their outfit or appearance.
- Compliment their work or performance.
- Compliment their personality or character.
- Compliment their possessions or accomplishments.
- Compliment their behavior or actions.
- Compliment their responses or reactions to situations.
- Give a simple answer with no embellishments. For example, I’m from Toronto.
- Add a little bit of information about what you love about your hometown. For example, I’m from a small town in Ontario called Brampton. I love it because it’s so close to the city but still has that slight town feel.
- Talk about where your family is from. For example, I’m from all over. My mom is from Halifax, and my dad is from Calgary. I was born in Vancouver, though.
- You can talk about that if you’ve moved around a lot. For example, I’m originally from Winnipeg, but I’ve lived in a few different places.
In simple words, Embrace your heritage. Be proud of where you come from. Educate others about your culture. Show that you’re more than just where you’re from.
Be confident in who you are. It doesn’t matter what nationality or background you have; there is nothing wrong with being proud of it.