Living as a migrant in The Netherlands I often get this question “Where are you from?”. My reaction is always asking back to specify this question. Does the person want to know where I live in The Netherlands or my origin, where I come from? I am able to provide the answer.
Last week my daughter G told me her experience answering this question. One answer mentioning where she lives is not sufficient. My daughter feels she needs to explain where her parents are from because what she looks like, dark hair, Asian face features.
And I am sure she is not the only one. There are many children of interracial marriages, descendants of migrants and third culture kids (kids of expats and diplomats) who are always confronted with this question. Some see this as tricky even offensive.
Curiosity is one of human’s basic traits. So people will never stop asking this question. I wonder though. The world is getting smaller and smaller. Migration caused by interracial marriages, wars, economy and politic situations mix the races more and more. In the near future, let’s say 50 years from now, people from mix races still have to answer this simple question “Where are you from?” with longer and variable answers such as the following:
During vacation in foreign countries (not in The Netherlands) my family always gets this question. People are curious because all three of us are Asian looking with Italian family name and we speak Dutch to each other. I don’t find this question offensive though. It shows that people are interested and want to know.
How sincere they want to know it is none of my business. I just provide the answer.