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Question: Where Are You From? By: Teresa Arboleda

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

Where are you from? A question that seems so simple when you first ask it, but so difficult when you are needing to answer it. What do I say? The United States, because I have an American passport? I’ve grown up in China, so, China? My mom is Mexican-Hawaiian, so should I say that? Or maybe I should go with Puerto Rican or Cuban? My great-great grandparents are from Spain and Africa… so I never really know what to say. Should I tell people the long or the shortened version? The struggle is real.

Often times I answer with, “oh I’m very mixed." Or I answer “the world is my home.” And in reality, that is probably not the answer most people are looking for. Even if it is true. So what should we say when we are faced with the question? I have settled with answering, “I’m pretty mixed, but I was born in the United States.” That way, if people are interested they have the opportunity to inquire more, if not, we can move on to another subject.

I find that answering in a simple, but thought provoking way is the best route to take. This relieves the person from needing to hear your life story, and how you consider yourself to be a Global Citizen because of all the places you’re from, and all the places you’ve established roots and community. This topic, especially for those of us who have travelled often or have a deep mixed heritage, can be very intriguing. Leading us into spiral conversations that not everyone is into.

Although we may be confused as to how we answer, ultimately the safest bet is to stay simple. A simple answer can lead to a deeper conversation, if posed correctly. Having a global identity can be difficult to define in a single word or phrase, so we have to take careful consideration when thinking of how we tell people where we are from. Associating ourselves with only one culture, answering “Oh, I’m American,” for some, can be difficult because it leaves out all our other facets, therefore answering “where are you from?” in a way that can lead to a more detailed explanation, is rather important.

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