London is the ultimate place for the ‘where are you from’ question. The city is populated with every nationality in the world, and not only nationalities, but all the possible mixes you can encounter. It’s probably one of the best things about this place – it’s truly globalized and the opportunity to have friends from every single nationality is possible here (only if you are friendly enough!). You have to have a clear mind, removing all prejudice and ideas of other nationalities and put yourself out here, and you will meet the most amazing people – it’s that easy.
So, where are you from?
Being a 3rd culture kid myself, I get asked the question all the time. A lot of people get confused by the American accent, others don’t understand why I call Europe my home and then there’s my Asian appearance. So as much as I love answering the question, what I have noticed is that some nationalities are ashamed to admit their origin. Probably because your nationality and your country of origin have now come to become 2 completely different things. Sometimes it’s easier to just say the country you were born in – sometimes it’s important to explain why you don’t look like the nationality you are saying you are…
If I left it the answer at where I was born, people would give me confused looks as clearly, that’s not why the ‘where are you from question’ was asked. It’s mostly asked because they can’t understand why you look different… which is completely fine – it’s not for judgement purposes. And that’s exactly the reason why the question of ‘where are you from’ has become ‘where are you from originally’.
I am Pakistani.
I am definitely not ashamed of being from Pakistan, and neither should anyone else be. Your country of origin is something you can never shed off, and this is why you shouldn’t even try to. It makes you the person you are, whether you like it or not.
Since moving to London, I’ve noticed that a lot of British Asians tend to not be proud of their original identity, answering the question with replies like ‘Manchester’ or ‘East London’.
Interestingly, never would a European person answer like that. As far as nationalities go, Europeans are super proud of where they are from. They don’t care if they have an accent and they don’t apologize for it. And why should they? If you’re French, you will have a French accent – what’s there to be embarrassed about?
The same doesn’t apply for Pakistanis – unfortunately. Speaking from experience, no British Asian that I met so far would happily speak in the native language because they are somewhat embarrassed to speak it. How sad is that? I think the whole being Pakistani thing has taken a hit in the past 10 years, but we shouldn’t be ashamed of it because it isn’t going to get better that way.