Where Am I From? Its Complicated.

River Liffey & Jeanie Johnston (replica Famine Ship) taken from Seán O'Casey Bridge
Its true, I don't like to be asked personal questions by total strangers.  Scratch that.  I don't mind if total strangers ask me personal questions nicely.  What annoys me and what I've come to detest is when strangers or acquaintances demand to know the personal details of my life that are none of their business.

There are particular times when people are much more interested in our lives than they should be.  When you have a small baby and people approach you to offer unsolicited advice (no, I don't need to dress my baby in pink just because she's a girl).  When you get married and people start asking when are you going to have kids (you're that interested in the workings of my uterus?).  Being an immigrant is one of those life situations in which people presume they can ask you (inappropriate!) personal questions.

"Why do you want to live here?" I dunno, why do you want to live in your house?

"Don't you miss home?" Um...this is my home.

"Are you going home for Christmas?" I am home!

"How often do you get back home?" Ugh.  I despair.

"It was a man that brought you here, right?!" Erm, no.

And the worst..."Where are you from?" I've always had a hard time answering this question.  When I was 8 years old we moved from Texas back to Washington State.  But I hadn't always lived in Texas.  I was born in Colorado Springs, CO but only lived there for six weeks (my dad was in the US Army).  So when kids asked me "Where are you from?" I didn't know what to say.  I'd come from Texas but I wasn't Texan.  My dad had grown up in NY/NJ.  My mom's family moved around every two years (including Tokyo, Japan from 1958-1960) as her dad was in the US Navy.  I remember feeling really awkward because I knew I couldn't give them the answer they wanted.  I didn't even know how to answer.

Thirty-four years later this question still follows me.  I first moved to Dublin in 1995 but moved back to Seattle twice to work, 1997-2000 & 2002-2006.  I have now lived in Dublin for over twelve years and over eight years consecutively.  This is my home.  This is where my (non traditional) family is.  And yet I don't sound like I grew up here.  So multiple times throughout the day I can be asked, "Where are you from?"

I have various answers to this.  Sometimes I say "I'm originally from Seattle but I've been here for years." Sometimes I say, "From here." People don't like it when you answer that way.  I've been told, "No you're not! WHERE ARE YOU FROM?", "That's not a Dublin accent!" Because really what's behind this question is the implication that you don't belong.  That 'if you don't look like me or talk like me' then you can't be from here.  You're not one of us.

Some of you are now thinking, "But I'm only genuinely interested in someone who appears different!" Really? If that's the case you will ask, "Where are you from, originally?" the addition of that one word might seem small but it packs a punch.  It lets me know that you understand I belong here, too.  And that speaks volumes.

Sunrise in my neighbourhood, last winter


Comments

  1. I'm so glad I found your blog. I'm really enjoying reading your insights. We (my husband and I) are trying in out living in Seattle and Ireland and maybe other places at the moment. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Mairéad!
      You are very welcome. I hope you are enjoying Seattle, if I can be of any help at all, please let me know. Best, Kath

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