Short travel reflection: The dreaded question
April 7, 2014
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When meeting someone new on the road, a commonly asked question is “Where are you from?”. Innocent enough, and quite reasonable. I’ve had my fair share of this question thrown at me since studying in Europe, and while most people wouldn’t need much time to answer this question, I thought it was rather…tricky. I often found myself contemplating in my head how I would answer the question perfectly if/when asked. From? What do you mean by “from”? Do you mean…where I was born (China), or umm…where I grew up, where I came to Europe FROM (Canada)?
To make matters even more complicated, I’d have to add an extra dimension when faced with this question in Belgium, as I came “from” France to Belgium in a collaboration program. And if I was at a conference or travelling somewhere during a session in Belgium…then all hell breaks loose. I didn’t want to have to explain my whole life situation to every person that asks, so most of the time I just gave a succint answer. Usually I simply say “Canada” and if I felt like I should have been more specific at the given time, I would say, “I was born in China, but grew up in Canada.” Rarely would I say I was “from” France, unless (1) I was explaining my co-tutelle mobility to people in Belgium, (2) I was asked “Where are you coming from?” at airport customs, and (3) during conferences where the country I represented was France.
I gotta say though, in Strasbourg, when a waiter asked me “D’où venez-vous?” (“Where did you come from?”) I gave the shortest elaborate answer that I was satisfied with: “Je suis née en Chine, j’habite au Canada, et j’étudie à Bordeaux” (“I was born in China, I live in Canada, and I study in Bordeaux.”) Can’t say I wasn’t anticipating finally being able to give out that answer. I would have needed to add the “exchange to Belgium” part but thankfully I wasn’t stationed in Belgium at that time… 😛
Colmar, France, June 2013