“I get you’re from London, but where are you from originally?”

Meeting new people comes with the job description of being an expat, and I love how I am exposed to people of so many walks of life. I have an awesome diverse group of friends I am grateful for. Building a network takes time and care, it’s important to choose the right friends. Since I was a child I was always blessed with great family and friends so I guess that’s reflected in the large network of friendships we have forged which spreads all the way from Brazil to Vietnam. For this, I would like to say thank you.

The majority of the people who ask this question would not lay claim to racism, nor do they mean to be annoying.. Where are you from? London. No but where are you from originally? WHOA hold up, we just met, is it really relevant where my ancestors are from? This isn’t one tribe leader to another in ancient times it’s just two people having a conversation that are from different places. I’m prepared to put your origins to one side, how about you put mine to one side too, and we talk about something way more interesting like, beer or cooking, or what ever else. In fact if you took the angle of food I would probably open up about my culture immediately. Don’t ask me where I’m from originally, just be a bit tactful and ask if I’m a curry fan. Hahahaha!

If I had white Irish parents and I was born and grew up in London I would not have to tackle this gauntlet of questioning 5 or 6 times a night. The majority of people only ask because they see my skin colour. OK maybe they find it exotic, or even attractive. I’m flattered, I really am. As they build a perception of me based on my appearance, I’m building a perception on them based on their ability to hold a decent conversation and demonstrate some emotional intelligence. Clearly I get asked this all the time right? Also, it’s always more interesting when the topic of conversation is not me or them but something we can both talk about and reflect on like sandwiches or the magnitude of the universe, or a line from Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Good conversation is an art, my countless attempts of speaking to women for the first time would demonstrate that I am no master, however I am still striving towards perfection every time. It’s a learning curb, I get it. I know it’s not easy to be totally conscious of ones actions all the time. I forgive you because quite frankly, you don’t know it’s annoying and in essence it’s just about making a connection. I’m just so tired of all the race based news and everything being so divided it is such a joy to forget about race and just straight up shoot the shit. I’m dignified enough to wait until you want to tell me where you are from, so please allow me to tell you when I’m ready.

 

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Think i may make a counter or additive post to this !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amit Shah says:

      That’s great I’d love to hear your response!

      Like

  2. Val Socorro says:

    Interesting response to this typical conversational topic. Normally, I expect the question and have an automated response of, ” I grew up in New Orleans but my family is from Venezuela.” I don’t take it as offensive or as an indicator of lack of conversational IQ, rather, the other person is intrigued to get to know what “exotic” land & influence gave me this beautiful color of skin and charming personality ;).

    Like

  3. Val Socorro says:

    Oh and normally this question then leads to a conversation about travel (“oh you’re from xxx exotic land, I wish I could visit. I haven’t been to South America but I would like to go this year.” etc etc. ) which is a o.k. for a more engaging session of “small talk”.

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  4. Amit Shah says:

    Thanks so much everyone for all your comments and perspective. I am really pleased to have sparked up so much conversation and it’s a great way to broaden my own perspectives. I would love to share my culture with anyone of you!

    I think there is a difference between someone who is interested in culture and someone who just notices skin colour and doesn’t have the etiquette to consider the fact that I get asked that question daily. As mentioned in my blog I choose my friends carefully, and not everyone has that sense of consideration. Many things are not so black and white and I am not trying to be an executioner here. I want to share my culture but it’s not easy when my skin colour is immediately stigmatised by people with a false stereotype of my background. Also as mentioned, while they build a perspective of me based on my appearance I am building a perspective of them based on their conversation choices – even then I try to take the higher ground and be a bit forgiving.

    I cherish my British Indian background and I love learning about the other cultures, just not immediately and not when it feels forced. For me It’s an interesting conversation topic about myself and the other person not a free gift on the front cover of a magazine. I like to treat it with the grace and respect it deserves, I love that sense of mystery and I prefer to have the dignity to allow the other person to tell me when they are ready. I have to say it’s so much fun when you have no idea but you just click. Just two homo sapiens on a journey through life having a laugh.

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  5. Marianne says:

    Sometimes I see someone who is so interesting looking or gorgeous and I wonder what mixed influenced (not necessarily nationality) they come from. Or something cognitively disonent, like an Irish accent with a clearly Sikh dress. But I don’t because I am a privileged white American woman . No one ever asks me that, though sometimes two white people discuss their ancestry, but it never ever is something like race when they ask, not something that I have need to protect myself about, whereas you do. I suppose people always want to categorize and always will, and their isn’t anything wrong with that, though there maybe something very wrong about what they attribute to the category. But it is absolutely correct and fair that people not ask you where you are “from” until they know you better. Thank you for reminding me of that. I’ll be careful when I’m trying to understand what factors have influenced someone’s life.

    Like

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