Posted: 14th September 2011 by admin in Uncategorized

              All of us write about the dreaded question asked of us so many times. I am going to term it “WAYF?” (Where Are You From?) You know that every time you go to some event, some new group, some new job that WAYF? will inevitably come into question. I ask to myself “Would there ever be a chance that question does not get asked?” I only wish. It would be easy to say one place, and make it the one place that everyone else is from so as to not be of any notice. Yet I feel that I cheat myself of the possibility of being accepted as I am….no criticism, no strange awe towards me. Yet I feel that if I were to explain where I am from in the long version, which always entails in questions afterwards I get more attention and “awe” than the others. By that happening, I feel that I have cheapened the rest of the groups experience because no one seemed interested in where they were from as it was a “normal, common” place that most of the others were from or that many knew of. So it’s the debate between explaining where I am from and get the attention from everyone and “bask” in the attention unasked for. Or say as little as possible and get no attention but yet have cheated myself out of seeing if this group would be different. Am I the only one that feels this way?

              It is not that I am opposed to answering that question. But I always feel such a conflict of emotion within me. My mind starts spinning as to how to word everything and yet try to make it as uninteresting as possible, in hope that they will move on to the next person without asking me extra questions and giving me “special” attention. I wonder what it feels like to not experience the confusion when asked that question.

              It also does not mean that I am not proud of my background. I am very glad of where I come from, where I have lived and travelled and what I have experienced. I find that my experiences have made many a layer of my life. It is complex. Every person, whether they come from one place and have lived there their whole life or have lived in more then one country, or whatever their story is, are complex. Everyone has a fascinating story to tell. They might not think so, but I always want to know others stories. I want to ask those that have lived in one place all their lives how it is to live in that environment. Curious, because I do not know how that feels to a certain extent. I want to know their town`s history, the daily routine, the funny stories. What are the roots of the place. What did they like about their town and what did they not like in their town. Not once did one of my questions involve “Do you speak the language?”.

              Let me explain. I have found that when I answer the question WAYF?, what seems to be the next sequence in events is the question asked “Do you speak the language?” It may only be me and that I am taking it the wrong way, but I have experienced this time and time again, that when I am asked the language question, it seems that the language defines and determines that I am from somewhere or not. That is what it seems to me. That they are only interested in that fact and that language is the only cool thing that can come from the culture you grew up in that was not your own. Whether I do speak the language, speak it a little or not at all should not be the only basis and only interesting fact. There is a lot more to a country, and the culture that you incorporated into your life than just language.

I wish they would ask me more questions. What happens is they ask that one question, get their answer and very few times have I seen continuing interest. In the world of many variables of communication, we have lost the art of communication. It`s ironic. I feel we have lost the art of asking questions. Inquiring after each other more then just “How was your day, how was work, etc.” A lot of people do not expect you to go into an explanation more then “I am fine, I am okay, etc.” I could go on about this but I suppose that is another whole blog in itself.

I do not know if any of this makes sense but it would be great to hear from others what they think about what I wrote or am I alone in this thinking. Does the language bit I wrote about make any sense? Does it bother others too when that seems the only question they want to know about the countries that have been a part of you at some point in time? It does not always happen that that is the only thing they ask or seem to want to know, but I have noticed and experienced a lot of it, to find it generally true. And it does not mean they are not interested in more but I perceive it as such, and wish we all would know how to communicate more in depth and show others that we care about their story and vise versa.

  1. Anonymous says:

    I feel for you!  It felt so awkward to get a long-term contract mobile in South Korea…

  2. Anonymous says:

    That is very surprising that working in International Development that you still have colleagues that say that. When I was working in a group on the campus at my university called Diversity Council, we had a diverse group of people but most of them were monocultural, even if they are from another country and this is their first time outside of their country. I and a few others were TCKs and we always felt that our suggestions and ideas were not really taken into account. I felt that no one listened to us and really cared for the diverse contribution we could add to the group. We may have been diverse but their views had not been as broadened as ours, and yet our voice seemed to be not significant. Even at one point when I tried to get into the main council of that group they did not accept me and had two others come in that were from America and loved to travel, but hadn`t lived outside of America yet. Someday people will understand that we have an interesting take on life that should be heard.