Why I hate when I am Asked ‘where are you from’?

The real reasons why people ask that question

‘Accepting the power to change your life means admitting we cannot always change circumstances or the past, but we can change ourselves. It is within our control to change our thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, actions, and reactions. We create our experiences by choosing how we perceive circumstances and events around us.’ — Melissa Heisler, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It

The Beginning

I grew up in Lithuania. Lithuania is a small country 3,5 mln people. Most people are white. I grew up seeing white people around me. Never once anyone had referred to me as ‘white’ nor did I refer to anyone as ‘white’.

When I went to the UK. I was referred to as ‘white. I thought it’s racist. Then, people would ask me what did. At first, I thought maybe they want to know me. Then they’d follow up with the question of something like ‘where do you come from?’ or ‘Your accent is from where?

I am naive. I didn’t think much of it. However, when I’d answer the questions no one would be interested in talking to me. When I’d say Lithuania… They say oh it’s Russia, right? It would make me laugh because that’s not true. When I answered I was studying the English language they’d think it’s a code word for prostitute.

How do Russia and studying equal prostitution…?! However, for some, it was as clear as a sunny day. Only years later I’ve realised what was going on.

The Learning

England loves the class system. By asking the questions of what I do and where I am from it should put me in a class system that they know. However, it never worked with me! I went to a boarding school.

However, Lithuania doesn’t have private or state schools. Now might be different. When I was growing up there was no such thing. I am from ‘somewhere else’ so I could never fit in into their box of a class system.

I was classed as a foreigner. Obviously a lower class citizen. Not as refined, not as well educated, and obviously with a shitty job. None of which was true.

I chuckle as I write this. All the English people had gone crazy trying to fit me in a category. I wouldn’t fit ‘into a box’ of their well defined classed system. I loved it though. On a serious note, I always felt a foreigner. An English person would make sure I knew it.

It’s funny now looking back because I never really wanted to be English. It was funny how they always liked to define me and put a label on me. The only one that stuck was — a foreigner.

‘The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.’ — Bob Marley

I’d like to disagree with Bob Marley! Only if you let people hurt you, you’ll be hurt.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Life in Spain

When I moved to Spain barely anyone asked me the question of what I do or where I am from. It was so refreshing. Because the Spanish didn’t ask me those questions it made me realise what the English were doing by asking those questions.

Spanish don’t care where I am from or what I do. Because they are busy enjoying their life rather than placing people in categories. They’re more interested in how tanned you are and how much time have you spent on a beach…

Although I do know someone from Argentina who had a terrible time in Spain. Spanish people don’t necessarily like people from other Spanish speaking countries. Please don’t take my word for it. I haven’t experienced it myself so I cannot tell you exactly. I’ve just heard.

I get it, sometimes I do want to know what people do and where they are from, however, I don’t ask those questions to put people in a box and put a label on them.

I ask because of their world view I find fascinating. I ask a question because someone is inspiring. I want to know more. I ask questions because I’d like them to be my friend.

‘Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.’ — Mohammed Ali

Next time people ask questions, I hope, they are asked for the right reasons rather than putting a person down or into a box of weird class systems. I’d love a world to be without judgements and class systems where everyone was who they are. Everyone could be allowed to be whomever they wished and kind.

Love and Light.

I am a writer who learned to code! I write about personal experiences within a humanist and global context. Find me on Twitter & Instagram @erikachaudhary

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