Where are you from? No…where are you from?

When we travel as a family, we tend to attract a lot of attention. Maybe it’s my wild hair, or the fact that Josh is a bald guy with two gold hoop earrings, or the usually-intruiging-and-often-commentable blend of ethnicities going on between the four of us. I dunno.

josh and me

Whatever it is, it brings out the chatty/curious in people. One of the things we hear most often is, “Where are you from?” This is not the question you think it is. If we answer, “San Francisco,” the person asking the question will shake his head and try again. “No. Where are you from?”

Ah, yes. I’ve been mistaken for Moroccan, Egyptian, Spanish, Polynesian, Mexican, Indian, Turkish, Puerto Rican, and more. Lots more. I’m normally not the kind of person who gets into lengthy conversations with cab drivers or shopkeepers, but when I’m traveling outside of the states, it just happens. I can’t help it.

People wanna know.

Puerto Vallarta friend

I love that these conversations often turn quickly deep and personal. I love that people share cool stories with us, and show us a little slice of a place that we normally wouldn’t have seen. And I love that my kids get to share and participate in these interactions. It leads us a little closer to the road less traveled, which is one of my favorite places.

So now I’m wondering: how do other people connect when traveling? How do you interact, what do you share? For me, my hair and my skin color are my entree into local culture…what are yours?

Comments

  1. I’m Asian-American, and whenever I travel internationally, I get the “where are you from question”, to which I answer “the United States”. Their follow-up is always, “no, but where are you FROM?” Haha.

  2. We are both pale skinned but my husband has an English accent which women “just love to hear him talk” and make all sort of excuses to talk to him….. But our looks are conventional and now that we are middle aged, we are often invisible. So enjoy it while it lasts Kendra!

    • Points Pixie says:

      LauraPDX – Being invisible would definitely be a change. Maybe I would become one of those people who tries to be visible. I could dye my hair pink!

      Seriously, an interesting thought. Being invisible would be very different than what I am used to.

      • Points Pixie says:

        LauraPDX – AND…I think you will never be invisible because of your incredible, outgoing personality. You’ve got charisma and charm. Hard to blend into the background with those 🙂

  3. You didn’t answer the questions… where are you from?

    • Points Pixie says:

      Grant – Guess!

      No, really – I’m from Oakland, and I’m White, African-American, and Native American.

  4. Jerod Bishop says:

    I don’t have to travel outside of America to see this happen. I travel around the block in any given city in America and far to many people get this BS happening to them…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWynJkN5HbQ

    Yeah, funny but nobody goes around asking me what part of Germany I’m from, so people need to cut that crap out.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Jerod – I LOVE that video. Love it, love it. The reason I love it so much is that this DOES happen to me in America, ALL THE TIME!!!!

      Thanks for sending it. Now I have an inspired response to people who ask with that confused squint.

  5. I find the “Where are you from?” question quite frustrating sometimes since I’ll answer California, but what they really want to know is where are my parents from. Even though I am born and raised here and culturally basically an American, they’ll ask “Where are you really from?” I can share where my parents were from, but as for me I have almost no idea of what that place was like so it feels strange to be commenting.

  6. I totally know what you mean. I’m Eurasian -half Asian, half Caucasian. I’ve been mistaken for all sorts, even had people (in the US) come up and start talking another language to me. Asked about race – I’m human. Asked about nationality, American. When growing up, I eventually started to make things up about my ethnicity, out of boredom, to vary it since it was such a common question. I now live in Hawaii, and one of the things I enjoy is that I “fit in” from an appearance viewpoint. Growing up in a family of several kids, adopted, with varying ethnicities, there is an unfamiliar sense of comfort with ” fitting in”.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Rebecca – Your response (“I’m human”) reminds me of what my brother used to do. On standardized tests in elementary school, there was never a box to check for “mixed ethnicity,” so he decided to check every single box.

  7. I’m opposite; I’m Puerto Rican but I have NEVER been asked where I’m from! I’m all white girl. In fact, I’m so white, when we were in Europe, a lot of people assumed I was from there and when I said I was American, they were surprised, which also had a lot to do with the fact that I’m not fat! Seriously, one guy said to me in a tone of total surprise, “You’re american? But you’re not fat!” Thanks, dude!

    I LOVE connecting with people! I have yet to not make friends on a flight and usually end up with a few new Facebook friends after every trip! I think we can learn something from everyone, and I love to learn, so I talk to and am very open with whomever I meet!

  8. Hi,
    Our family attracts a lot of attention not because of ethnic diversity but because I’m in a wheelchair and love adventures! Many people have preconceived ideas that handicap people all feel sorry for ourselves and stay home apparently. As a happily married wheelchair user with three children, we get lots of stares especially when I put on my snorkel gear and my husband tosses me overboard. LOL. I have found that with a good sense of humor and a big smile, barriers fall away!

    • Points Pixie says:

      Michelle – AWESOME. Love your story and your sense of humor. I agree that it’s an essential ingredient for barrier removal.

  9. We stopped in a Health food shop in Baltimore. This did not seem to be too great an area and we were driving another 400 miles so I told my wife”Let’s Go” in Hebrew. I was waiting outside when my wife exited and she had some story. It seems that when my wife reached the cashier, a 6’4 African American he asked her where she was from, like Really from. My wife did not know what to expect but told him she was born in Jerusalem. He replied, in perfect Hebrew “tell your husband he needs more patience”. it seems he was raised in Israel in an African American movement and he lamented he never heard Hebrew in the US.

  10. Cameroongurl says:

    I only get the “where are you from” question when I am speaking with my family (as we all speak French along with many other languages). People automatically assume I’m from France. But natively I am from Cameroon.

    BTW: It is soooooooo cool that you traveled to Cameroon. I rarely meet people who have heard of Cameroon let alone traveled there.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Cameroongurl – We’re planning a trip back to Cameroon next summer! We want to visit my brother and his family. I can hardly wait to go back!

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